Fresh ingredients on four wheels

By HermineBloom

“It wasn’t overly difficult,” 32-year-old Simple Sandwich owner and operator David Wojtonik said without hesitation.

Finding the right truck, making sure the vehicle was compliant with the city and working with reputable vendors were among the main hurdles Wojtonik faced when he decided to pursue his own food truck business, which hit the streets Sept. 8.

Based on the principle that fast food doesn’t have to be doused in mayonnaise or overly embellished to taste great, Wojtonik’s sandwiches contain a small number of ingredients, all of which are fresh, grown locally and mostly organic.

An on-the-go gourmet lunch option, Simple Sandwich is one of the first few food trucks to gain legal approval in Chicago after the buzz created this summer by local chefs Phillip Foss and Matt Maroni. The duo drafted legislation to change mobile food facility laws and formed Chicago Food Trucks, a group dedicated to gathering support for an ordinance to change the laws.

“With a mobile food truck, I can go to areas that are under-serviced, that have high foot traffic or that have a high concentration of young, artistic people who appreciate a more sophisticated sandwich,” Wojtonik said. “I can service multiple locations while only having one true location. It’s more flexible and allows me to be more dynamic.”

Still, mobile food distribution in Chicago is limited until the City Council and, specifically, Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), decides otherwise. Namely, on-site cooking and preparing isn’t allowed—neither is serving past 10 p.m. or stopping anywhere for longer than two hours.

But there’s no hint of frustration in Wojtonik’s voice in regards to the legislative limbo. Complying with the current law by preparing sandwiches in a commercial cooking space called Kitchen Chicago, 324 N. Leavitt St., Simple Sandwich has finally come to fruition almost eight years after the idea was first conceived.

“My vision for [Simple Sandwich] was going to be a brick and mortar store,” Wojtonik said. “I was really excited about it and I wrote the business plan but it just sat on the shelf. With limited resources, I wondered ‘How can I still do this?’ But as I started getting further down the road I realized that other people were working on [food trucks] too.”

Tiffany Kurtz, co-owner of cupcake truck Flirty Cupcakes, and Matt Maroni, who runs a “naan-wich” truck, or the Gaztro-wagon, launched their businesses this summer. Wojtonik received advice over dinner and via e-mail from both Kurtz and Maroni, who had gone through the process of getting licensed themselves.

“The cool part is we’re not in direct competition with each other but we consider ourselves pioneers in this medium,” Wojtonik added.

Instead of braised meat or homemade cupcakes, Simple Sandwich sells sandwiches with sophisticated, healthy ingredients, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and beverages sweetened with cane sugar.

“For my roast beef sandwich, for example, I make balsamic onion marmalade in-house,” Wojtonik said. “I add organic, raw cow milk cheddar cheese, arugula and I dress the greens. Most of my sandwiches have less than five ingredients. They may be fancier but they’re definitely simple in regards to the number of things that are on them and how they’re prepared.”

Price points are on the lower side because he’s accustomed to $2 beef sandwiches from growing up on the South Side. Soda and chips retail for $1 to $1.25, whereas sandwiches, salads and soups—which have yet to be introduced—will retail for $7. Simple Sandwich, which currently accepts cash as its only form of payment, will operate five days a week from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. or until the truck runs out of food, Wojtonik said.

The Northwestern Hospital area, the Board of Trade, Columbia’s campus and Hyde Park are among locations Wojtonik sees himself frequenting throughout

the week.

Before setting the truck into motion, however, Wojtonik hosted a menu preview for Simple Sandwich in the middle of the summer, when he invited friends to taste his food and critique his work.

John Smith, 40, former co-worker of Wojtonik, found the depth and complexity of the food refreshing and the amount of planning that went into the preview impressive.

“The salami sandwich has giardiniera with hand-cut cauliflower and golden raisins,” Smith said. “It’s a spicy giardiniera but it has these unusual components. He puts a tremendous amount of thought into these sandwiches.”

Wojtonik’s longtime friend, Christie Schaap, 27, mirrors Smith’s appreciation for Wojtonik’s dedication. Schaap bakes chocolate chip cookies for the Simple Sandwich truck in Kitchen Chicago a couple days a week.

More so than Wojtonik’s sandwiches, Schaap’s cookies are simple when it comes to both preparation and design. Using “good chocolate, real butter and baking them until they’re just soft and warm enough” is Schaap’s method for her $1 treats.

What she describes as an exciting and smart opportunity to be involved in, the food truck appealed to Schaap on a personal level as well, as she’s enjoyed baking her entire life, though currently works full-time at a technology consulting company.

“David’s really doing this at the right time,” Schaap said. “The food truck movement is gaining a lot of momentum here in Chicago as of late, especially as they’re looking to appeal some of the laws and make it easier for people to have food trucks and prepare food on board.”

To find out where the Simple Sandwich truck is at a moment’s notice, follow