****UPDATE!!! JUKE is currently on hiatus pending approval of their alcohol license & renovations on the new tasting room are completed. Scheduled re-opening is Aug. 29, 2014.
For several years the “MIHO Gastrotruck” has a fixture on the San Diego foodie scene. They were the first “gourmet” food truck to hit the scene back in 2010, & inspiring single handedly inspired the San Diego Food Truck movement. Prior to MIHO rolling around in their artfully designed truck selling delicious hand-crafted farm-to-table street food, about all you’d see on the streets were “roach coaches” that you were better off avoiding. MIHOs arrival changed everything. I remember tracking them down at the Adams Avenue Art Walk, their very first weekend in business, ordering a vegetarian “Bahn Mi” & sang its praises here. Not only was the food awesome, the guys behind the wheel/kitchen/concept were awesome too. MIHO started showing up all over town, & soon you were fighting off long lines & big crowds in the hopes of reaching the counter before the good stuff sold out. The best part…they always offered a few vegetarian/veganizable items on the menu. So imagine my disappointment when I heard the announcement that the truck would be semi-retiring. The truck would still be available for private catering events, but no longer making the weekly rounds. Major sadface.
All was not lost, however, just re-imagined, as Juan & Kevin, the duo behind MIHO, partnered up with Bottlecraft in North Park to open “JUKE”, a small farm-to-table “cafe” counter hidden in the back of the shop. Their culinary concept focuses on a “neo-traditional” menu that highlights internationally inspired street foods. For those of us of the veggie inclined about 1/3 of the menu is vegetarian &/or veganizable. While it’s not a physical restaurant, communal style seating is available outside.
JUKE is a new school of thought on what, how & why we eat. This means a healthy balance of ingredients, an honest way of cooking, & a more conscious approach to the composition of each dish. JUKE’s neo-traditional menu draws inspiration from the beloved flavors of California, Baja, Asia & the Mediterranean. With a bedrock of local farms & sustainable food practices, JUKE features a menu that celebrates vegetables & grains, but is still in many ways an homage to the casual, international street food that MIHO is known for.
Last month, Juan graciously invited me to JUKE to try out their veganizable options & of course I jumped at the chance! I was treated to the “Cauliflower Steak” with roasted cauliflower, curry-apple sauce, herbed couscous, toasted marcona almonds, & greens…
And the “Bibimbap” with roasted tofu, forbidden rice, pickled shiitake, greens, radish & gochujang, made vegan by holding the poached egg.
Both were super fresh, flavorful & delicious. If I have to play favorites, the cauliflower steak it is! As I am a fan of every component of this dish, it was an easy choice. Sweet roasted cauliflower over a mild, yet tangy, green curry, fluffy couscous, tender greens & crunchy marcona almonds? Sounds like my kind light, yet satisfying meal. While I, gracefully, stuffed my face, Juan & I chatted about MIHO, JUKE, & the future:
Vegenista: The MIHO Gastrotruck really helped to shape the San Diego Food Truck scene. How did you get involved in the food business & what led you to launch a food truck?
Juan Miron: Kevin & I have always been super passionate about food, where it comes from, how its prepared & the experience it creates. My wife & I were hosting underground beer supper clubs since 2006 as a creative outlet for both of us. In 2008 I started working at The Linkery, SD’s original farm to table restaurant, that’s where I met Kevin & soon enough he & his fiancé joined Farra & I on the beer dinners. We did that for a couple of years & ultimately, we knew we wanted to strike on our own & pursue a business opportunity. That’s when we caught wind of the food truck scene in other cities & instantly we knew that was our next step.
V: You recently retired the highly successful food truck & launched JUKE inside of Bottlecraft North Park. What inspired you to make the change? How did the concept of a counter & the partnership with Bottlecraft come about?
JM: For us every decision is all about progressing & enhancing the experiences we offer. We left the streets at the beginning of 2013 as we had planned to transition into a full time catering company. The essence of the food truck scene had evolved & was not fulfilling anymore. Catering had been an area of our business that we always enjoyed, creating memorable experiences around food for special events, this just felt right. A year later the opportunity to reconnect with our followers came when Brian from Bottlecraft mentioned that he was planning on putting a kitchen & would love us to do it. We then decided to open up JUKE.
V: Thank you for offering vegetarian & vegan friendly menu items! How would you describe the style of food you are serving at JUKE & how is it different from MIHO?
JM: MIHO is internationally inspired street food., where JUKE is a new style of food, “neo-traditional” as we call it. It’s our take on traditional dishes, with our twist, while maintaining our bedrock of sourcing from local farms & using a sustainable approach to all that we do. It’s a reflection of the styles of food we enjoy eating, baja, mediterranean, asian, with a conscious thought on balancing greens, grains & meats, with a few vegetarian & vegan items too.
V: Do you have any other exciting plans/projects in the works that you would like to share?
JM: Yes, we just launched our cocktail catering company, “Please & Thank You,” & we thrilled to be able to add that on as another service under the “A MIHO Experience” brand. Again this was another project where it just seemed natural for us to offer bar catering for all the events that we do.
A few days later I was back for more, bring my friend Anna along for a Sunday afternoon brunch. I’d had some cocktails the night before, so a strong pour-over coffee & a belly filling meal was calling my name, so naturally, I was drawn to the “Chilaquiles,” – hold the carnitas add tofu – with vegetarian refried beans, tortilla chips, avocado, roasted tofu & gochujang.
While it was tasty enough, it doesn’t quite rival the vegan chilaquiles masterpiece from Gracias Madre, but it was just what the doctor ordered to ease my hangover. Need I say more? Anna went for lighter fare & ordered the “Romesco Salad” with roasted root vegetables, manchego, toasted hazelnut, raisins, greens, & romesco dressing. If you wish this to be vegan, hold simply omit the cheese.
She enjoyed the fresh & flavorful salad, however, as I’ve read in other reviews, it was a bit overdressed causing the greens to get a little soggy. Romesco is a rich dressing, so just a dab will do ya! Maybe order it on the side? As we were finishing up our coffee, another patron sat beside us with the most beautiful bowl of fresh fruit & cashew “yogurt.” We decided that our bellies could expand just a little bit more to make room for that delicious treat…”Cashew Parfait” topped with homemade granola, seasonal fresh fruit & mint.
As expected, it was divine. I could definitely taste the cashews, as I use them for various creams & sauces around here, but never thought to make it a thick, yogurt consistency. It was definitely rich! But the fresh fruit & mint helped to lighten it up a bit. I will most certainly be back for more of that!
So, if you are in the San Diego area & have not made your way over to JUKE, why wait any longer? They’re open Tues-Saturday from 11am-9pm, & from 10am-7pm for Sunday Brunch. Remember, they are located INSIDE Bottlecraft in North Park, between 30th & Ray Street. Keep up with JUKE on their website, Facebook, & Instagram.
A big thank you to Juan, JUKE, & the MIHO family for the hospitality invitation to check out this exciting new establishment! #EATJUKE