Business Spotlight: S.O.S. Diner

Posted by: Cathy Eng in Business Spotlight, Community Involvement

The business of food trucks has taken off in recent years and, thanks to the passionate dedication of food truck owners, people all over Northeast Florida have come to enjoy the delicious convenience of these eateries on wheels. Passion and dedication define the owners of S.O.S. Diner, who are in the process of taking the food truck movement to the next level – from the roads to the water.

Co-owner Jesse Dowling recently found a moment to let us in on the history of S.O.S. Diner, its scrumptious food, and the meaning behind its name.

How did S.O.S. Diner get its start?  The idea came up when I was at Lake George with some friends for Labor Day weekend. There were hundreds of boats and thousands of people hanging out having a good time. Aside from the houseboats, we were the only people grilling. The aroma attracted everyone to our boat and that’s when a food boat called the S.O.S. – Save Our Stomachs – Diner was thought up!

My wife Laura and I finally purchased a food trailer five months ago, and we are working our way towards the dream of one day bringing great food to the good people out there on the water.

So you’re a chef by trade?  I have been in the food service industry for almost 20 years, owned my own restaurant with my dad, and worked as a kitchen manager, executive chef, and banquet chef for various restaurants through the years. I was recognized as the 12th Best Chef of Jacksonville in 2013 at “The Battle of the Last Chef Standing”. I just love to make people happy through great food.

People love food trucks. What made you decide to ‘take that route’?  I wanted to get out of restaurants and do my own thing. I’m married now and the restaurant schedule and hours were opposite of my spouse, so we never got to spend time together. Now, I’m full-time in the food truck and we spend a lot of quality time working together and at home, which is great!

With my recipes and her awesome customer service, it’s the perfect combo! And that’s what it takes for a food truck to make it – because it’s you the owner and the guest that’s dining one-on-one. You really get to know the people and crowd you are serving, and I love that.

Take us through a typical day in the life of your food truck.  A typical day starts around 7 a.m. prepping for the day’s activities – prepping food, getting propane, checking tire pressure. Whether we are working nights or lunch, or catering a wedding, everything starts fresh that day. Cooking is the easy part because I don’t see it as work. Once we’re done, we tear everything down, clean, restock our product for the next day, and head back to the commissary. We do that about five days a week.

I hear your food is amazing. Tell us a bit about your cuisine.  I’d consider it just good comfort food. We do anything from French, Italian, German, Spanish, American barbeque, soups, stews – pretty much anything you can imagine. We like to cater to whatever crowd we are working with, so it’s not a problem to change the menu!

S.O.S. Diner is an active contributor to Davidson Cares. How did you get involved with the organization?  We have been working with Davidson Cares since Peyton Davidson approached us at Mile Marker Brewing, one of our frequent spots. She loved our food and wanted us to work with her charity. We have been hooked ever since. They are a great company, great people, and a good cause for the area schools.

Are you from the St. Augustine area originally?  My wife and I are lifelong residents of St. Johns County. We love living and working here, and giving back to the schools that we attended when we were younger. We love St. Augustine and the people that live here, and we are proud to be a small local business owner here.

Want to know where S.O.S. Diner is parked today? Check them out Facebook or contact Jesse and Laura at (904) 495-3792.


One Response to “Business Spotlight: S.O.S. Diner”

  • Chris says:

    I had the bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich and fries the other night, my wife had the wings, it was all delicious. Good job!

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