It has been almost a year since Joseph Elmhorst, owner of The Steak Stop, began his crusade to promote the food truck businesses of San Benito County. He became the city’s first licensed food truck operating in a fixed location within the city limits, openingt on Oct. 27, 2021, at 255 Apollo Way in Hollister.
His Steak Stop food truck has been a fixture in town ever since, particularly with his participation in the farmers market, the San Benito County Fair, and the Savor San Benito series, which was sponsored by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce. He has now taken up a residency at the Swank Farms Experience, where he will serve his cheese steak sandwiches and other culinary delights through Oct 31.
Elmhorst opened his food truck while COVID was making success in the restaurant business very difficult.
“I was very concerned about opening up a restaurant, seeing that downward trend,” he said. “Initially, there was not any growth, and it was a mundane existence. But as things opened up, food trucks started making more and more sense. Go to the customer instead of them coming to us. And with the limited restaurant space in this area, it is a natural fit for food trucks to come into play.”
Over this first year, Elmhorst has seen his business grow beyond expectations, handling a steady stream of events and catering work.
“We put in a very minimal investment to see how people would respond in Hollister,” he said. “Now the business has taken on its own persona. We like large-scale events, and we are very good at that. We can put out a sandwich in about two-and-a-half minutes so we can handle a crowd. And that is the direction we are headed.”
Elmhorst said that business has been so good that he is now considering expanding his operation in several ways.
“We are thinking about either getting another food truck or a trailer,” he said. “We want something a little bit bigger so we can handle more inventory and something we can travel in. We want to expand our horizons, and we want to try to get into Gilroy, Salinas, and maybe even Monterey. I think we have a very good product, and I want to bring it wherever I can.”
Hollister resident Larissa Gibbs has been a customer of Steak Stop since its first week in business. Her favorite sandwich is the Smokehouse, made with steak, applewood bacon and BBQ sauce. Her daughters favor the Plain Jane, plain meat and cheese, and the Garlic Bomb, which features slow-roasted garlic and pesto.
“Everything about the sandwiches is top-notch,” she said. “Friendly, fast service, quality ingredients and amazing food. You can’t do better than that.” Her son, Mark, put it more simply: “The best food truck ever.”
While realizing financial success was certainly the initial goal, Elmhorst finds other reasons to enjoy cooking and serving food from a truck after years in a restaurant kitchen.
“We wanted to see if Hollister would embrace us,” Elmhorst said. “And they have. One thing I did not know about food trucks before is it gives you a chance to touch the customer. I have had more exposure to customers in the last year than in all my years as a chef. I get to learn their names and what they like, and it is a much friendlier way to do business.”
The Foods of The Steak Stop Food Truck
Street Fries – “We are trying to get into the genre of authentic street food,” he said. “And this is about as authentic as you can get.” Every food truck seems to have a variation of loaded french fries, and this one comes with steak, bacon, peppers, grilled onions, melted cheddar, and parmesan cheese. They are exactly as gooey as you can imagine and absolutely delicious. There is a good amount of coarsely chopped steak and bacon mingled with the fries and hidden under all the cheese, but the secret that brings it all together is Elmhorst’s chipotle aioli which gives the dish a nice kick. Your doctor will no doubt wag a finger at you for ordering this, but it’s an indulgence worth trying.
Grilled Zucchini Fries – “It is a really simple recipe,” said Elmhorst. “It is just grilled local zucchini with seasoning and topped off with a fig glaze and chipotle aioli. I love zucchini, and it is probably my favorite vegetable.” I dislike zucchini and always have. But I would happily order and eat these zucchini fries all day long. The sweetness of the glaze and the heat from the aioli perfectly enhance the crisp zucchini. This one surprised me, and I think it is a must-try.
The Big Bowser – “We experiment with new sandwiches as much as we can,” he said. “This is like a play on chicken parmigiana, with chicken tenders and crisp mozzarella sticks. Then we add grilled onions, smother it with locally-sourced marinara, and sprinkle on some parmigiana cheese.” This is perfect county fair food: a big, sloppy sandwich full of tomato sauce and melted cheesy goodness.
The French Dip – “There is something to this sandwich,” Elmhorst said. “It is a little different from your average French Dip. Instead of using shaved roast beef, which is how you would usually make it, we use tri-tip, which we have marinated and braised. And then we add a garlic aioli, some horseradish cream, and top it with fried onions.” This is a substantial sandwich made with a generous amount of tender tri-tip, and the au jus is particularly hearty, with notes of garlic and pepper. The flavors of the braised meat really come through, and the au jus perfectly compliments it. This is my favorite of the sandwiches: a very satisfying and filling lunch choice.
The Works – The flagship sandwich, and the most popular, the Works is a mixture of tri-tip and ribeye with mushrooms, onions, fire-roasted sweet peppers and provolone cheese. “I like the tender feel of the ribeye, but I love the flavor of the tri-tip,” said Elmhorst. “And when you marry the two together, it gives the sandwich more of a retention and lifespan to keep it moist and not dry out.” Recently, Elmhorst has been stocking hot sauces for those who like their sandwich with a little more heat. “We get people who want things spicier and spicier and spicier,” he said. “And we are trying to answer that in our own way.” Adding anything to this sandwich, I think, other than a little pepper, would be a mistake. The flavor of the tender meat is so rich, it seems a shame to mask it. This sandwich is what Steak Stop is all about: honest ingredients, plentiful portions, and a freshness you can taste.
BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.