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Meat lovers flock to Carnivorous Food Truck

After working in the restaurant industry in nearly every role, including general manager, Mike Mendola thought he was finished with that business line until a sense of boredom brought him back.

Mendola, who runs Nine’s Food Service, a business that feeds area youth through grants and community centers, had July and August off for multiple years. He decided to start a food truck to fill the void for two months a year.

Much to his surprise, Carnivorous Food Truck took off and quickly developed a following that demanded year-round service. Mendola explains why meat lovers flock to his truck at Flying Bison, Niagara Square, Roswell and other locations at across the community.

Question: Most people would enjoy summers off. Why did you choose to start a second business?

Mendola: After years of having the summers off, I wanted to find a way to have work to do and the food truck idea came up. I originally thought it would be for July and August, but then people started calling me and asking me to come out.

Q: How did you come up with the meat truck idea named Carnivorous?

A: I wanted an identity. We knew the nature of what we wanted to do. Many food trucks are single minded. Some are super healthy and vegan – a lot of trucks do that. So we wanted a "meat lovin’, I don’t care what the doctor says I’m going to have that double cheeseburger" [truck]. We have the meat-lover market covered.

Meat lovers hunt Carnivorous down for duck wings according to the owner of the food truck. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News)

Q: How does customer reaction affect your menu?

A: The fish tacos sell out all the time. Pot roast – we thought it would be a cold-weather dish, but even on a hot summer day it sells. Duck wings – people will hunt us down for duck wings.

We’re bringing out wild boar baby back ribs with a pineapple chipotle sauce - it carries a little heat, you have to have a little spice. We think it’s a good recipe and we’ll see if it turns out. If the public likes it, we’ll keep it forever.

Fish tacos are the most popular menu item from Carnivorous. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)

Q: In less than a year running the truck, what surprises you most?

A: I knew Buffalo was a great food town. There are lots of foodies. But we gained popularity very quickly. I thought it would take longer to build the brand. But we are pretty well booked. I thought it would take a long time to get a following.

[RELATED: The Buffalo News' Food Truck Guide for 2017]

Q: How important is social media to the food truck business?

A: Social media is a little important, but I’m a fundamentalist. If you put out a good product and feed people well and treat them properly, you’ll be a success. You have to provide a good value for the money. That’s how you gain notoriety.

Mike Mendola is working on a concept for a second food truck that he hopes customers line up for. (Elizabeth Carey/Special to The News.)

Q: How does the food truck work with Nine’s Food Service?

A: I’m glad you asked about the other company. I opened that company 10 years ago to use federal grants to feed underprivileged people in Erie County. I’m proud of the work my employees have done over the years and I like to make sure they know. We have a great team and a great staff and I couldn’t do it without them.

Q: Now that you have two businesses, what does the future hold?

A: I am planning for another truck with a different concept. I need to build a kitchen and work the plans out.

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