"Let me tell you something… it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but it’s by far the most fun job I’ve ever had.”
That’s what owner Josh Kim had to say when I called him to ask about SPOT Burgers, his food truck located at 33rd and Arch Streets. When he opened up shop there a year ago, it was the only gourmet food truck in the area. Faced with the challenge of selling burgers from $6.50 so close to cheaper, greasier alternatives, Kim knew the only way to succeed was to create a product whose superiority was undeniable. And, as Zagat, USA Today and others have proclaimed, he’s done just that.
Kim’s background helps to explain the uncompromising approach SPOT takes with its burgers, cheesesteaks and pork sandwiches. Just a few years ago, Kim, who holds both an arts and a culinary degree, was making six figures at a security firm. “Sure, it paid the bills, but it just wasn’t gratifying,” he told me. Fleeing the corporate ladder, he sought a job that could provide both money and happiness. The result? A six–foot long food truck.
The Whartonites among us might scoff at such a decision; Kim would scoff back. “There’s no end to what you can do with a burger. It’s ordinary but the possibilities are endless,” he said over the phone. Take a gander at the menu, and you’ll see what he means. Drawing on his artistic creativity, both in and out of the kitchen, Kim dishes up unusual, unstoppable sandwiches like a burger (cooked perfectly medium rare, with 100% sirloin he butchered himself), covered in lettuce, pickled daikon, grilled onion, mushrooms, gochujang and teriyaki, all atop a toasted–golden bun. Or perhaps you’d prefer a pork sandwich, also butchered in–house, covered in slaw and barbecue sauce. Or maybe a cheesesteak, among the best in Philly, according to his cadre of regulars. The best part? Unlike most artists, Kim is perfectly willing to relinquish control and let you build your own burger—with unlimited free toppings. I went for the Butcher Burger, topped with crisp onion, thick tomato slices with surprising flavor for February, Russian dressing and homemade horseradish. Compared to other menu items, the Butcher is tame, but don’t be fooled by its relative simplicity. The spicy onion dovetails with the horseradish and the organic sweetness of the tomato teams up with the creamy Russian dressing. Together, the flavors combine to create a taste that is more than the sum of its parts. Meanwhile, the patty was cooked to perfection: juicy with the flavor of grade–A sirloin.
While he’s not manning the grill at SPOT, Kim serves on the board of directors of the Philly Mobile Food Association, where he fights against bureaucratic and outdated rules preventing others from opening up mobile food establishments. Despite his tour de force of a menu and skyrocketing popularity, he has nothing but encouraging words for other carts, even those stationed at 33rd and Arch. Frankly, it’s a safe position with a menu as compelling and ingredients as gourmet as his. So make the trek to Drexel one weekday and give SPOT a visit. If you’re like me, it won’t be your last.