Joshua Yates, owner of the popular Green Truck Pub on Habersham Street, has the type of problems other restaurants would only dream of having. A wait list, and a line out the door for nearly every shift. Lunch and dinner. “It would have been foolhardy to have planned for the type of business we’ve had. It would’ve been hard to get a loan,” he jokes in a recent conversation with Well Fed Savannah. “I think if you would have said that we’d have a line out the door, nobody would have believed you.” Having to hire more staff, both in the front and the back of the house, all without the typical marketing expenses that can often beleaguer a new restaurant. “I didn’t think we’d need a host every night and lunch,” he admits. “I’m glad it pays off. It’s still a risk. You still don’t know what the response is going to be until you open the doors. I really appreciate all the Savannahians that have really embraced our whole concept.” Green Truck has received validation from the community in spades including national exposure from Travel & Leisure Magazine as a Savannah destination for foodies. On any given day or night, you’re likely to see business professionals, families, students, artists and regulars from the nearby Starland and Ardsley Park communities. And on Saturdays, it’s often the informal gathering place for many of the local purveyors that sell their organic wares at the popular Forsyth Park Farmer’s Market. “I think it’s a lot of word of mouth. “We don’t really advertise a lot,” says Yates, who had scouted other locations, and was first considering more upscale fare. “When this space became available, we sort of tailored the menu to make it more casual. I’m really glad we made the decision [on this place]. I think people are really getting a kick out of this casual setting.” But as the restaurant approaches its one-year anniversary (it opened October 12, 2010), it would be irresponsible to label Green Truck Pub as an overnight success. “It’s been probably an eight- or nine-year journey. I’ve had the business plan in my back pocket for 10 years or so,” says Yates, who graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and has an MBA from Georgia State University, both in Atlanta. After college, he pursued a career in engineering in Atlanta, but the economy, and his circumstances, changed. He had always worked in restaurants, and had an overarching goal to open his own place someday.
“It was a great opportunity to actually figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” he says. “I didn’t really care for the engineering lifestyle.” So when he and his wife (an urban planner) moved to Savannah, it just seemed right. “We came down here and really fell in love with this city, and thought it would be a great place to live,” recalls Yates, who lives in Ardsley Park. “I actually saw it as more of an opportunity to start a restaurant here than in Atlanta because there weren’t a lot of people doing that sort of thing. I felt like my neighborhood was slightly underserved by casual eateries. There are a lot of lunch spots, but not a lot of dinner places.” The engineering background has replaced the business plan that was once in his back pocket, and has continued to serve him well. “Engineering is all about problem-solving, and running a restaurant is all about problem-solving as well,” he says. “It’s being able to have the discipline to be a critical thinker, and solving problems as they present themselves.” The environment at Green Truck is casual and without affect, but has the clever sort of touches and intelligent design that you might expect from an engineer who happens to love food. The sense of style starts with the eatery’s mascot, the eponymous ‘green truck.’ The 1965 Chevrolet step-side truck is ‘permanently’ parked outside the restaurant, and is used as the pub’s logo on the menu and beer list. Yates found the special ride in Atlanta. He restored it, and drives it into work every morning. “I bought it from a guy in a band, [King Size],” he recalls. “I was on their mailing list. When we bought it, it had house paint and polka dots on it.” A 1977 Seeburg STD4 jukebox, a Craigslist find, is filled with a pastiche of classic rock, Motown and ‘80s hits, and completes the restaurant’s casual vibe without feeling contrived. The restaurant’s menu is a two-page ode to freshness, from-scratch preparation and a buy local mentality. Their pickles are house made, as is their ketchup. Filled with comfort food, Southern tinged appetizers (a pimento cheese plate, spiced Georgia nuts), five kitchen-sink salads, six sandwiches... continued next page