SURF CITY — Just north of Topsail Island in Sneads Ferry, the Salty Sistas — Jeanette Lopez and Marcinda Clements — are gearing up to begin serving the Surf City, Topsail Island, Holly Ridge, and Sneads Ferry markets.
After a soft opening this Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m., the two friends and business partners will open with a full menu on Saturday, March 2, featuring a “New England-style fare with a southern twist.”
Both openings will be held at The Crooked Lotus in Snead’s Ferry (1283 N.C. 210).
After last week’s trial run with their pulled pork entrees, Saturday’s soft opening will be an all-lobster affair with lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese sandwiches, and lobster poutine — white queso cheese sauce on fries with curds and lobster.
Focus on quality ingredients and variety
Lopez said the idea for Salty Sistas came about after years of eating at food trucks that, to her, were too specialized.
“There’s a lot of stuff I don’t eat, so sometimes it gets frustrating,” Lopez said. “I want this to appeal to everyone: women, children, people on a diet, people not on a diet, men with big appetites, men with small appetites.”
Lopez first became friends with Clements when she ran the Mama J’s Helping Hand soup kitchen in Snead’s Ferry; Clements, who teaches a culinary class at Coastal Carolina Community College, was on her board at the time.
Clements agreed to a 50-50 partnership, and after a year of researching the food truck industry and holding over a hundred tastings, the two have finalized a menu that Lopez said sticks to quality ingredients, unique entrees, and an evolving mix of “weekly surprises” based on what local fishermen are bringing in.
Such weekly offerings, according to Lopez, may include shrimp cocktails, fish tacos, and an Oysters Rockefeller plate – all depending on “whatever’s running that week.”
Lopez said the two women’s dedication to providing all-quality dishes with a unique twist is illustrated by their lobster rolls with a wine sauce-mustard and lobster poutine that incorporates white queso sauce instead of the traditional brown gravy.
She also said they’ll be serving all-beef hot dogs that she first found during her family’s routine trips to the Butcher’s Market in Cary, near Raleigh, at $10 a pound. (She has since agreed to a cheaper deal with the Cheney Brothers food distributor.)
And according to Lopez, the Salty Sistas have experimented with 30 different variations of their chicken finger plate because they “don’t want to buy something that is just a great cost for us, easy to give out.”
“I want it to taste good, to have good ingredients,” Lopez said.
Local investment and empowerment
Lopez referred to the recent months-long debate in Surf City over whether to allow food trucks to operate in Surf City as inspiration for the two women. Many, she said, argued that food trucks came in from other places like Wilmington and did not invest in the local community.
Her response: they are local, they’ve been local for years, and both have agreed on using a business model that will reserve a portion of profits for giving back to the community.
“It’s not just about us making money — I love people loving our food,” Lopez said. “That’s my affirmation and that’s what’s important to us. It’s going to be quality, it’s going to be good, and we’re going to be able to give back at the same time.”
One idea they have is to pick a local teacher each month and buy needed school supplies for the teacher’s classroom.
Another motivation for the two, according to Lopez, is their desire to contribute more, financially, to their own households.
“Obviously as a woman, we’re trying to empower each other with our dreams … and we want to be the ones bringing it in and contributing to our households while at the same time putting that charity aspect into it,” Lopez said.
Lopez said the two compliment each other well: while she comes up with many of the recipes and has “an ear to the floor in the community to what the people want,” Clements is focused on the books, ensuring they have the necessary licenses and permits, and fixes things like the generator that runs the truck. In other words, Lopez is the free spirit of the business while Clements grounds her, focused on moving the business aspect forward.
After buying the $500 permit to operate in Surf City on Tuesday, getting everything in order for the food inspector, and wrapping up its food tastings, Lopez said she is now confident that the bookings will come.
“We’ll start branching out. Once people start hearing about us and tasting the food, I’m sure we’ll get phone calls to go more towards Hampstead and Wilmington,” Lopez said.
She also aims to avoid a common problem that she sees among local food trucks — not ordering enough. During last week’s soft opening experimenting with pulled pork plates, she said they ran out of pork after forty minutes.
For now, she has bookings at Crooked Lotus in Snead’s Ferry and Hopsail Island tap room and Salty Turtle Beer Company in Surf City. She has also booked for the Bacon Fest at the Humphrey Farm nightclub in Hubert on May 4, followed by an event at ArtExposure in Hampstead on May 11.
You can stay up to date with their upcoming locations on their Facebook page, Lopez said.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com