Bauer Grad’s Eatsie Boys Takes Gourmet Sandwiches and Ice Cream to the Streets;
New Craft Brewery Will Use Hilton College Expertise
They say that entrepreneurship is finding a need and supplying it. While earning his MBA and Master of Science in Hospitality Management at the University of Houston, Ryan Soroka (MBA ’11, MS ‘11) decided what Houston needed was Pork Snuggies and Eggman Sandwiches.
That’s how he cooked up Eatsie Boys, a kitchen on wheels that hawks gourmet sandwiches and recently rolled out a brightly painted truck offering “inspired ice cream & other sweet nothings.” Soroka dreamed up his first business — named after a favorite rap/rock band whose name you can probably guess — in a class through the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the UH Bauer College of Business.
Launched October 2010, first as a caterer and farmers-market vendor, Eatsie Boys quickly acquired the requisite tools of the food-truck trend — a Twitter account and a trailer. Parking its 8-by-14-foot wagon at a regular spot beside Agora coffee shop at Westheimer and Dunlavy, Eatsie Boys blasted its daily offerings via social media, and eventually found a following in Houston’s emerging food-truck market.
“There’s not a whole lot of gourmet food trucks in Houston — just taco trucks,” says the 27-year-old Soroka, who started Eatsie Boys before graduating UH with a joint MBA from Bauer and an MS in Hospitality Management from the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. “We assessed the market and noticed that no one was really doing high-end gourmet sandwiches. And we wanted to make that our niche.”
Eatsie Boys’ sandwich board reads like a song list by — you guessed it — The Beastie Boys. “No Sleep Til Philly” is a rib-eye cheese steak with sautéed onions and homemade cheese whiz. “Sabotage” is roast pork with braised greens and provolone. “Frank the Pretzel” is chicken-poblano sausage on a pretzel bun with whole-grain Chardonnay mustard. “Da Bomb” is a riff on the classic Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich.
Apparently, Houston likes Eatsie Boys’ tastes — and Tweets. At the Houston Press’ first Houston Web Awards on June 30, Eatsie Boys won for Best Use of Twitter by a Food Truck. It was recently nominated for My Table’s 2011 Houston Culinary Awards, in the Favorite Food Truck/Cart category. The My Table awards will be announced Oct. 2 at a gala dinner at the Hilton University of Houston. To vote or purchase tickets, click here.
Meanwhile, Soroka, chef Matt Marcus and business partner Alex Vassilakidis have been churning away on their latest venture. This time it’s chills on wheels — an ice-cream truck with Peter Max-inspired scoops painted on its side. Recently wheeled out, the mobile creamery dispenses dips of Piggy Figgy Ice Cream (that’s prosciutto and fig) and Arnold Palmer Sorbet (lemonade and iced tea), among other funky flavors.
No Beastie Boys batches yet. But Soroka hasn’t ruled it out, either.
Soroka, who has a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Bauer, traces his love of food back to his family’s kitchen and his undergraduate days at Tulane University, where he studied finance and marketing and also learned to make beer. While at Hilton College, he created the concept for his second business, 8th Wonder Brewery, and met brew master Aaron Corsi (MS ’11), who now teaches beverage classes at the college and is getting certified as a master brewer by the International Brewers’ Guild. Aaron is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular and Environmental Plant Science at Texas A&M University.
Once again, Soroka’s market analysis — this time of the city’s suds scene — demonstrated a thirst. “There is only one craft brewery in town, with a few in the planning stages,” Soroka says. “I believe the Houston market can sustain a few.”
8th Wonder has found its home, in a Dallas Street warehouse downtown, and expects its first “Texas-style ales” to hit the market in early 2012. It plans tours and tastings — and perhaps a more formal educational component. “I should be able to tie my teaching in with the brewery,” Corsi says, “letting my students have hands-on experience in an actual brewery setting.”
Soroka adds: “Our intention is to foster a relationship with UH and slowly integrate current beverage classes in with the brewery.”
At the moment, there are no plans for an 8th Wonder pub or an Eatsie Boys restaurant. But Soroka would very much like to see his portable-food models extend to brick and mortar. “We want to open up our own ice-cream parlor. We want to open up our own restaurant or deli maybe. But this is our way of doing this. We saw this as an opportunity to test our products, test our brands and our concepts.”
And that’s just how this young entrepreneur rolls.
By Wendell Brock