Baltimore Food Trucks Adapt to a Changing World

→ Craving Potato Factory

In the beginning of the pandemic, Courtney “C.J.” Jacobs and his wife, Monique “Mo” Jacobs, had six catering gigs canceled, leaving them and their food truck Craving Potato Factory with nowhere to go. But the setback didn’t stall the mobile business, open since 2014, that sells all manner of stuffed potatoes. “We had to create our own events,” Mo says.

Today, the couple—who have three children, ages 17, 13, and 10, who help out on the sleek, black kitchen on wheels—has found a market for their spuds in neighborhoods like Towson and the White Marsh-Middle River area. “It’s been great,” says C.J., who grills aromatic toppings like onions, red peppers, and steak on the truck’s stove.

And while everything is cooked to order, Mo and C.J., who both have full-time jobs with the federal government—she as a management analyst and he as a customer representative—are often up at 4 a.m. to prep foods in Share Kitchen, a communal space in Baltimore. They go through about 250 potatoes a week.

“It took time to perfect the potato,” C.J. says. “We use the best ingredients we can.” Even winter’s cold weather wasn’t a deterrent to their community outreach. “I’m find- ing food trucks can occur in all seasons,” says Mo, who, on a chilly, icy evening, had her children deliver food from the truck to customers snuggled in their warm cars.

The food truck started as a nugget of an idea between C.J. and his brother, Shawn Hill. First, they thought about featuring fried chicken and then empanadas before deciding on gourmet potatoes.

“You have to have a concept, something different that no one else is doing,” C.J. says. Mo was involved in the decision-making, too. When Hill returned to his hometown, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, C.J. and Mo, who are also from the Caribbean territory, forged on together.

They introduced four loaded potatoes: chicken bacon ranch, broccoli and cheese, steak with grilled onions and peppers, and Old Bay lump crab. They now offer a vegan one with tofu and have expanded the menu to include a “dirty bird” potato with two meats.

Picture plate-sized, creamy baked potatoes split open and smothered with melted cheeses and savory additions. You’re guaranteed to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

“We want to give people what they want,” says C.J., whose goal is to eventually open brick-and-mortar restaurants. “We want the whole world to get a taste of our potatoes.”