In a nondescript swath of land on Thomasville Road, wedged between Walgreens and Mattress Firm, there’s a culinary treasure trove.
Two top food trucks have set up their mobile kitchens in this small lot at 3537 Thomasville Rd., where you can take home their flavorful fare or eat it right there at a long wooden picnic table.
One of those food trucks is Mann’s Doghouse, owned by Scott Mann, who moved to this spot in April after leaving his restaurant on Tennessee Street.
The aroma of garlic butter will let you know that the other treat here is Leola’s Crab Shack from Eric McKinnon, who is the owner of Leola’s Crab Shack, open 13 years, at 710 Orange Dr. He set up this site May 1.
Coronavirus has been tough on so many food trucks that rely on business from office buildings, festivals and sporting events. Several have switched gears and found ways to survive. Mann’s and Leola’s are among them.
We stopped by the Thomasville Road site on June 2 to pick up our favorites at both places — who could resist either one? We had a little bit of a wait but there was plenty of room to take a seat and space out from other customers while we waited. You can also call ahead.
All our meals traveled well and we quickly dove into them at home.
Leola’s seafood combo was delicious, fragrant of spices in a buttery sauce. We bought a combo with a cluster of snow crabs, six garlic shrimp, half a baked potato and a container of coleslaw for $20. We cracked open the crabs and pulled out succulent, sweet-briney morsels. We made short work of the garlic shrimp, already deveined. The shells, which seal in juices, easily come off. The half baked potato and coleslaw were both good as well. Other options include blue crabs, pork chops, chicken wings, mullet, tilapia and fried shrimp.
We’ve had crab combos at Leola’s crab shack restaurant in the past and I’d say this meal from the food truck was just as good. We ran into one customer who said she was thrilled to find a Leola’s much closer to her home.
We had a surf-and-turf kind of lunch because of our po’ boy choice at Mann’s Doghouse.
Scott said po’ boys have become so popular in this new location that he’s added a surf-and-turf po’ boy with a split Bradley sausage, topped with chunks of fried red grouper and finished with a remoulade sauce and chopped lettuce and tomato ($18 combo with fries and a soda). The po’ boy was also terrific. Scott said he wants to rotate the surf ‘n turf with the sausage and breaded and fried lobster tail with a lemon cream sauce.
Scott does a great burger, one of the best in Tally, so we couldn’t pass that up. We ordered The Doghouse burger combo ($12) with excellent hand-cut fries and addictive Michigan-style coney sauce — a recipe Scott learned from his grandfather. The burger was fat and juicy, with lots of Applewood smoked bacon and melted American cheese on a tasty brioche bun.
Mann’s Doghouse also serves hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps and other burger and po’ boy options.
The last time we enjoyed Scott’s burgers and hot dogs was at his restaurant on Tennessee Street.
When universities and offices were ordered to shut down in light of the coronavirus, it had a devastating impact on Mann’s Doghouse, a brick-and-mortar business he opened in February 2018.
“We were on the student side of town and literally there was no business,” said Scott. “We spent eight years building our business and it was lost in a matter of two months.”
“As soon as we started feeling the restrictions, we went into Plan B mode,” said Scott, who started out in the food truck business before opening a restaurant.
“We got the truck out of storage, cleaned it up, got it back in condition and leased this land,” he said. He also added umbrellas for the picnic tables and built an overhang “to protect from the sun and elements.”
“It’s a lot easier financially (than the restaurant),” said Scott. “The business is thriving. We’re doing more business here than in the restaurant.”
You can find Mann’s Doghouse, weather permitting, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 850-320-2283.
Leola’s is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday; 850-559-7809.
For more about other food trucks in town and how to find them, please check our food truck directory at tallahasseetable.com/tally-food-truck-directory/ If you are a food truck and would like to be included, please email us at tallahasseetable.com with your location and hours if you have a regular spot or where to find your info.