Steve Marks Sr. and Bruce Kalino are bringing old school local food on wheels to West Hawaii.
The partners, who have known each other since their days at Oahu’s Kailua High School, and Kalino’s wife, Flores, offer the kinds of food their parents cooked, using family recipes, at their food truck — 2 Vet’s Brunch Wagon. The wagon is typically parked at the end of Kamanu Street in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area, but has made special appearances at other West Hawaii locales.
For every standard item of Hawaiian fare, the trio is also offering new twists on old favorites. Their chili features Portuguese sausage, Marks said. And their specials rotate from items such as hamburger and green beans to occasional features including a meat sundae of sorts — roasted pork on top of mashed potatoes, covered with gravy and cheese, with a cherry tomato on top.
Plates come with white or brown rice, mac or tossed salad and the choice of two entrees. The 2 Vet’s Bumbucha plate gives eaters a smorgasbord of food: teri beef, teri pork, shoyu chicken, a teri hot dog, kim chee, two scoops of rice, two scoops of mac salad and the choice of chili or beef stew.
Menu prices range from $4.25 for a teri beef sandwich to $11 for shrimp tempura with teri beef or teri pork. Breakfast offerings include a bento and plate option.
Marks, a Vietnam War veteran, initially was working with another military vet to open the wagon. That man became ill and was unable to continue the partnership. Marks later ran into Kalino, who was looking for new work. They lucked into a half-outfitted food truck and used a family connection with the Kailua-Kona poke restaurant Umeke’s to access a certified kitchen.
“It’s hard work,” Kalino said of the food truck business. “It’s long hours, six days a week.”
But there’s an upside.
“It pays off,” he said.
Marks, a truck driver by trade, had long wanted to open a restaurant. He dreamed of a small cafe or diner-style establishment.
“I couldn’t afford that,” he said.
He brought a background as a Navy cook to the partnership, as well as some of his parents’ recipes.
Kalino, who first moved to the Big Island in the mid-1970s, worked as a warehouse manager for 25 years, among other jobs.
“I was kind of skeptical,” he said. “I went back to Oahu a few years, came back to Kona. I couldn’t find work. I thought it was pretty interesting.”
His wife had a cooking background, and she now runs the truck for the breakfast shift, while her husband and Marks are at their part-time jobs. They take over around midday.
Business has been growing since they opened a few months ago.
“It started with the people around this area,” Kalino said. “Gradually word got out. We even get tourists.”
Some of their regular customers were thrown off a bit a few weeks ago, when the partners moved the truck one day to a credit union parking lot to participate in the farmers market there.
They have a regular rotation of food to serve, but are still experimenting with entrees.
“Every so often, we try to mix it up,” Kalino said. “We come out with different items, see if they like it. It’s all positive. People love it. It’s great.”
The truck is open 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It offers different specials Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Phone orders are accepted; call Marks at 987-2742 or Kalino at 430-3107.