Akron’s Square Scullery, voted one of the top 50 food trucks in America by Mental Floss in 2017, serves up what owner Heather Ulichney refers to as “indie comfort food,” a blend of savory international dishes such as Hong shao rou (Chinese braised pork belly), poutine, and fried Brussels sprouts, all of which are drizzled in scratch-made sauces and festooned with edible flowers.
Each dish is handcrafted by Heather’s husband, executive chef Matt Ulichney. Square Scullery’s “wow” factor is, according to Heather, the $25–$30 entrée unexpectedly sold from a truck for about half the cost. Heather and Matt’s mission of providing a diverse array of high-quality food at reasonable prices will carry over into the team’s newest venture, a ghost restaurant in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood.
Ghost restaurants, which traditionally provide delivery-only service, were invented, according to Heather, “around 2016 in much larger (metropolitan) areas, where affordable prime real estate was becoming harder and harder to find.” Ghosts are an exceptional means for beginning restaurateurs to make a mark on their communities without amassing astronomical debt in the process. For many new chefs, Heather explains, the “passion and love [are there], but the finances aren’t.” A ghost restaurant is also a fantastic way for a food truck purveyor to continue generating revenue outside of the standard warmer-weather-is-better model that essentially makes November through March food sales next to impossible in Northeast Ohio.
Installed in the back of the American Legion Post 19 on Akron’s main thoroughfare, West Market Street, Square Scullery’s ghost kitchen will enable Heather and Matt to maintain their meticulous focus on the quality of their cuisine without the constant expense of front-of-house upkeep, while meeting customers on their home turf. Though the food truck will continue to operate, the ghost restaurant will provide local diners with a means of sampling new “ghost-only” dishes, such as build-your-own ramen, delivered by third-party vendors. In an effort to further connect with their neighbors, Heather and Matt have also chosen to break from the historical ghost restaurant model by offering pick-up service at their Highland Square location.
These two self-described Rubber City kids at heart are enthusiastic about the future. They’ve been pushing the boundaries of what a food truck can be for years now, and are looking forward to giving the restaurant model a similar creative shakeup.