Small, but mighty: That’s how locals describe Skully’s Food Truck. Since early 2017, the mobile concept has delighted Springfield, Missouri, foodies, offering thoughtful, scratch-made Asian fare that goes beyond the slapdash food truck eats of yore. Patrons line up for the truck’s zesty dry-rubbed red curry chicken wings and ramen bowls, the latter of which quickly emerged supreme in Springfield’s fledgling noodle scene. However, shaping the truck’s identity was a journey for owners Joe and Lora Still, who originally launched a mobile concept dubbed Coops Fresh Kitchen in November 2016. “We started off with Coops, and we were making primarily hot chicken sandwiches, but it wasn’t really clicking,” Still says. “We were coming home and making funky Asian noodle dishes and anything we could get from the Asian markets, so we decided to pursue a menu that we were going to be excited about.”
Today, the Stills’ passion for thoughtfully crafted Asian fare is unmistakable. The truck’s small menu centers on locally-sourced ingredients, homemade tonkotsu broth, perfectly-brined pork and tofu that’s smoked for an hour before serving. “Our goal since we started has been to change the culture around food a little bit,” Lora says. “If we run out of something, we want the public to know that it’s because we make it all completely from scratch. We’re not pulling an endless supply out of a freezer.”
Soon, the Stills will have more room to run. According to Lora, Skully’s will move into a brick-and-mortar space in Springfield’s charming Rountree neighborhood, sharing a former art gallery space with another hospitality concept. Currently, parked permanently in the parking lot of its future brick and mortar space in Rountree (corner of Cherry and Pickwick).
“We’re hoping to keep things fairly low-key at first, but we’re definitely excited about potentially adding some fun specials to the menu when we have more space,” she says. “As of now, we have no room to even do prep while we’re cooking, so we’re really excited about being able to try some things out on the public.” No word yet on the brick-and-mortar opening date; in the meantime, Lora is sharpening her focus on scratch-made cooking and topping everything with – lots of sambal.
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why? I’m addicted to sambal [an Indonesian chile paste]. It’s more than a hot sauce; it’s got a vinegary element that is so good. I put it in soup, on top of my burritos, whatever. I put it in spaghetti sauce. I’m a sambal fanatic.
What's your perfect day of eating in Springfield? We live really close to Commercial Street, so I love Big Momma’s. I’d probably go there for breakfast and coffee; their breakfast burrito is one of my favorite breakfast dishes in town. For lunch, I love The Lindberg Baby Burger from Lindberg’s. I love the atmosphere in there. For cocktails, I love [The Golden Girl Rum Club] – I don’t drink too much, so it really affects me if I have more than one cocktail there. [Laughs] For dinner, I would end with Pho Kim – it’s my favorite happy place in all of Springfield. I always get the chicken curry.
What’s your favorite comfort food? If it’s not an Asian dish, it has to be mac 'n' cheese. We also eat a bunch of meatloaf – we’re Midwesterners at heart, so that’s what I grew up on.
If you could tell home cooks one thing, what would it be? Make as much of it from scratch as you can. The more you can be involved in every single part of the dish, the better. For example, chicken broth from a box is never going to be as good as letting your own chicken broth simmer all day with a whole chicken in the pot. Even if it’s just that one piece – even if you then pour canned vegetables into the soup – it’s going to be a million times better.
What inspires your cooking? How do you approach R&D, and what inspires that process? Our tastes inspire it. Neither Joe nor I went to cooking school or had formal training or anything. We’ll come up with an idea first, so we’ll just sit around and talk about what sounds really good, what we would want to eat. Then, we just get in there and start messing around until we’ve made something that the general public would enjoy as well.
What are your plans for the future? We’re still pretty far out on the brick-and-mortar. We don’t know any start dates or finish dates or anything, but we’re lucky to be working with some amazing people who are working on the development in [the Rountree area]. They’ve really given us a golden opportunity that we may not have been able to access on our own. Somehow, we found ourselves over on the corner of Cherry and Pickwick [in Springfield’s Rountree neighborhood], which I could never have even dreamt of. As of now, we’re taking half of the space, and the other half will go to another concept.
Skully’s, Springfield, Missouri, 417.298.2021, skullysfoodtruck.com