While taco trucks dominate the numbers in Tucson’s street food, the duo of meat and rice is making a name for itself.
Earlier this year, Guam food truck Hungry Kepuha developed a loyal following with its generous portions of grilled meats and rice. Sadly, they’re relocating to Las Vegas.
Thankfully, the niche could be filled with a new island-influenced food truck centered around grilled meat and rice that coincidentally opened two months ago: Choy Boy Korean BBQ on a Stick.
The cuisine isn’t purely Korean, however. Siblings Annie Miller and Warren Kearfott started Choy Boy in early September. Looking at the fully-English menu and appearances of the owners might lead you to think there’s an absence of Korean culture, but chat with the two and everything will make sense.
“My mother was born and raised in Hawaii, her parents are from Korea and moved to Hawaii,” Miller said. “My father was U.S. military and met my mother while he was stationed in Japan. She was also stationed there as a civil service worker.”
A Washington native, Miller spent the past few decades painting in Tucson. After over 20 years running her company Annie Miller Faux Painting, she couldn’t climb scaffold anymore and decided to retire from the painting industry and transition into Choy Boy.
“I have absolutely no background in the food industry but I love to cook,” Miller said. “I’ve been helping my mother since I was a child and we decided to bring it to the street.”
After working on the idea for over five years, she took on help from her business-savvy brother Kearfott to develop the business plan. The duo quietly launched Choy Boy with Miller as head chef and Kearfott as the griller.
The truck started off with actual Korean item names on the menu, but people just didn’t get it, Miller said. A majority of the people couldn’t pronounce the Korean words and the line grew longer than desired from people needing explanations on everything. While the friendly duo is happy to take the time to answer questions, they ended up streamlining the menu to make it easier for everyone.
Additionally, customers have been requesting Korean tacos — Choy Boy is working on a recipe to call their own. They’re also incorporating regularly changing specials so that customers are exposed to more types of Korean cuisine.
True to the name, the food truck specializes in Korean barbecue skewers ($7) grilled over an open gas flame. The three skewer options are beef, chicken, and sweet-spicy chicken.
The beef and chicken have a slightly sweet soy sauce flavor profile with notes of scallion, ginger, and sesame. The sweet-spicy chicken has a different marinade with the sweetness of raspberries and honey and the umami depth and spice from gochujang.
While the skewers are convenient for mobile eating, the hearty $10 Choy Meals are what will keep people coming back. Each Choy Meal includes a choice of meat, jasmine rice (bacon fried rice for $1.50 extra), choice of cucumber salad (plain or spicy-soy), grilled fresh pineapple chunks, a pork or turkey wonton, and a bottle of water. A side of dipping sauces changes often, but ginger-lime has been the popular favorite.
“The flavors in the bowl are all meant to go together,” Miller said. “If you were to mix it all up, it would still be phenomenal.”
Keep up with Choy Boy Korean BBQ on a Stick on Facebook.