by Kristina Domitrovich // photos by Lindsay Pace
Local Mobile opened up back in August of 2013, staking its pioneering claim as Tupelo’s first food truck, and the state’s second. Back then, food truck laws were few and far between, and Tupelo had yet to add any to its legislature. The city let Kurt McKellan open a truck anyways, operating under temporary event rules and regulations, and would eventually add ordinances over time.
McKellan said most people thought food trucks were a “fly-by-night kind of operation; here one day, gone the next.” And back then, he said he didn’t know how it would pan out for his food truck. He and his wife moved from Nashville 12 years ago, and he didn’t bother getting a local phone number for the truck.
“I didn’t change the number just because I don’t want to change my personal phone number,” he said. “And I didn’t want to get a whole other line for a food truck that might or might not work, and thankfully it did.”
McKellan planned it all down to a T in just one night with some friends: The truck’s name would be Local Mobile – that plays off Tupelo’s notoriety for being a train town and sounds like locomotive – and the paint, turquoise, is just eye-catching enough without being obnoxious.
The menu hasn’t changed in 7 years; well, one thing was added to the menu – the classic burger – but that’s it. The truck “(serves) as many local ingredients” as it can with its menu, which is largely inspired by time McKellan spent with his grandmother. He grew up in Madison, Mississippi, and his grandparents lived just down the road, but his grandmother was from Louisiana.
“She was a Cajun, and she cooked a lot of Cajun food: lotta gumbos, red beans and rice, chicken and dumplings, and po’boys,” he said. “So I knew the menu I wanted to do just because I like Cajun food.”
Without an oven or a fryer in the truck, what Local Mobile serves has its limits. There’s a crockpot for things like a pork butt, a stove that he can “do my gumbo over a pot of rice and stuff all the time,” and a flattop. He said since the truck’s been rolling, the burger sliders with Hoisin sauce and pickled onions, along with the shrimp po’boy, have been his best sellers.
Though he’s worked in some form of the food industry for basically his whole life – a local restaurant from the time he could work up until college, a food inspector in Nashville and a food distributor after that – he hardly considers himself a chef.
“I’m not a chef, you know, at all, but I’m a good cook,” he said.
For him, a food truck offers the best of both worlds: He still gets to cook, while also interacting with people at the “front of the house” in the truck.