Food Truck Q & A: Pleasant Pops

Photo courtesy of Pleasant Pops

College friends Roger Horowitz and Brian Sykora started planning Pleasant Pops three years ago. But it would be a couple of years later before they officially started their food truck in late 2010. Since then, the duo has been hitting the streets of DC with more than 40 flavors of pops, which are inspired by traditional Mexican ice pops or paletas.

Although there have been some self-admitted misses in their flavor development department, Pleasant Pops offers an assortment of enticing flavor combinations — Thai coconut curry cream, anyone — all inspired by the fresh ingredients that Horowitz and Sykora purchase from local farms in the DC area.

Q: When did your truck first hit the road?
Roger: Our truck, Big Poppa first launched Oct. 7, 2010. We started selling at DC farmers markets on July 3, 2010 out of one of our push carts.

We started talking about starting Pleasant Pops in late 2008, and I finally moved to DC to join Brian and start working on making Pleasant Pops a reality in March of 2009.

Q: Why did you want to start a food truck?
Brian: We actually started with a mobile bike cart concept, but DC would only license us if we had a motor on our mobile vending unit. So, we launched a food truck instead.

Q: What is your most popular flavor?
B: Our flavors change seasonally but our most popular this summer was strawberry ginger lemonade.

R: Strawberry ginger lemonade, cucumber chile and chongos: Mexican sweet cream and cinnamon.

Q: How do you come up with your flavors?
B: It all starts with, of course, farm fresh ingredients. Not just one farm, but multiple farms we partner with around the DC metro region. We use local, seasonal fruits and veggies as inspiration for most of our flavors. Others, like green tea cream, come from hours of test batches in our secret flavor lab.

Q: What’s your favorite flavor?
B: My favorite is peaches and ginger.

R: Pineapple basil and peach hibiscus.

Q: Have you guys ever come up with a flavor that you thought just didn’t work? Or was there a crazy flavor that ended up working?
B: Pineapple chili was an early failed experiment. We tried using chili powder instead of fresh chiles. After choking over the first few bites, we threw that one away.

R: Our most crazy flavor is probably our Thai coconut curry cream. It took forever to perfect this flavor, and we still give people a warning after they order it to make sure they know it is spicy and curry flavored. It is really popular, though.

We also made a no sugar added flavor, heirloom tomato. It is one of my favorites, but is rarely ordered, so it isn't usually part of our regular flavor rotation.

Q: How do you anticipate the crowds each day?
B: The weather is always a good predictor of how many folks will spend time outside. We've realized that meteorologists have all kinds of influence on local economies.

Q: What do you do in the winter? Is there still a demand for pops?an>
B: We have holiday catering gigs, but we're mostly planning for the upcoming year. The seven-day summer workweek doesn't give us much time to plan.

R: During the winter we shut down the truck and farmers market carts and focus on our catering business. We do lots of holiday parties, pops deliveries as holiday presents and have Santa suits to wear to events, too.

Q: Why do you think food trucks have grown in popularity? And what do you think the future is for food trucks?
B: DC food trucks are growing in popularity because there's a low barrier to launch and try a new food concept. Costs for retail in the city continue to grow, so launching a food truck is a low risk venture to try out a new idea.

I think the legislation that DC proposes in the next couple of months will really define the future of DC food trucks.

R: The future of food trucks in DC greatly depends on ongoing legislation that the city council is working on, and I urge everyone to contact their council member and encourage them to support small business and food trucks.

Q: Who's the better driver?
B: Driving is the easy part. I'd like to think that I'm better at parking our little beast, Big Poppa.

R: Brian is definitely the better driver.

Q: If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
R: If we weren't doing Pleasant Pops we'd be at our previous jobs — Brian worked as a project manager in the tech field, and I worked as a preschool teacher.

B: No telling. I think we're both very entrepreneurial.

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Katie Bascuas has lived in D.C. for the past year and a half, and when she isn’t working or traveling, she loves exploring new restaurants, farmers markets and bars in the city. A graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Katie also enjoys writing about food and is excited to be contributing to Metrocurean.