One-on-One With Tim Little


Matthew Rezab/Iowa State Daily

Tim Little, owner of Finley’s Curbside Beastro, said his food truck will be on campus through the fall and likely into the winter, at which time he hopes to offer coffee and hot chocolate.

Matthew Rezab

Tim Little is the owner of Finley’s Curbside Beastro, a popular food truck at the intersection of Stange Road and Osbourne Drive. Finley’s Curbside Beastro is the only food truck on the ISU campus and has been open on campus since 2013.

How did you get started in the food truck business?

Well you know, I used to do events outside using tents that you set up and take down that would take an hour or two before and an hour or two afterwards. I thought, “There’s gotta be a better way.” I’d been following the Food Network, watching food trucks, so we decided to build one. I built this truck from scratch. We built it and it’s been a good deal. We’ve been going for a little over two years now.

What’s an average work day like for you on the truck?

On a typical average day it takes about an hour, hour and a half prep time for each hour actually on the truck. Sourcing food, prep time, we get everything fresh all the time. My morning starts somewhere around 7 o’clock and then we start getting everything ready for the truck and then we pull out of my property about 9:30. We come up here [the intersection of Stange and Osborne], set up. It only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to get everything cooking. That’s the great thing about a food truck. Our busiest time is between 11:30 and 12:30; we’re so busy, which is fine because we can crank the food out really quick. If you come in before 11:30 or after 12:30 it’s a more leisurely place. We get out of here approximately 1:30 or 2 o’clock every day. We try to have food ready between 10:45 and 1:15.

What makes your food truck unique?

Well, we were the first … I think the first true food truck in Iowa two years ago. There were taco trucks out there, but they usually go to one site and they don’t have a full blown kitchen like ours does. This truck has everything in it a real kitchen would have. What makes us unique is our menu offering, you know we deep fry our hot dogs, we wrap them in bacon. We came up with our own chipotle mayo, which gives it a really nice spicy lift. We introduced Cycones up here — it’s a tortilla wrap filled with anything from chicken to shrimp. We have a little bit of everything.

Speaking of having everything, what’s your personal favorite Finley’s item?

That’s a real toss up … I really like the tenderloins. The tenderloins are awesome. They’re a half pound so you have to be hungry. The other thing I really, really like is the Southwest Iowa Dog. That’s a quarter pound all beef hot dog wrapped in bacon with red cabbage and chipotle mayo. Oh god, it’s so delicious. It really is good.

Are you less busy in the summertime than you are during the traditional school year?

Yes we are, but only because of the number of students. We go from eight or nine thousand students here in the summer to the main year having around 32,000, so it’s a big difference in flow. Fortunately many of our clients are professors, maintenance, construction workers and support staff on campus — that’s another six thousand people.

How is running a food truck different from running a traditional restaurant?

It’s easier and it’s harder. It’s harder because you don’t have things like a full blown walk-in freezer, our sinks are miniaturized so it’s a little more work to clean up. However, it’s cheaper to run and if my location is bad I move. I can’t do that in a restaurant. In fact right now we’re in the process of building a second food truck that we hope to have on campus. It’s going to be a pizza truck. I’m excited about that. We’re going to start off rotating the two trucks every other day, but eventually we hope to have both of them here at the same time. We’re planning on having the students decide what the specialty pizza will be the following week and then we’ll see if we can make it.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened working on the truck?

You know, we’ve done some dumb stuff. One time we sent out a hamburger without a top bun on it. She came back the next day and said, “Hey can I have a little bit more today, I went topless yesterday.” Things like that just happen, you know. I tell you what, it’s just meeting the students and our customers because we get a lot of repeats and it’s just fun [to] joke around and see them grow.

Do you feel like you’ve developed a relationship with the student body?

Oh definitely. We’ve got some customers that come every day, we’ve got some who come in every other day, which means our food’s good and it means they’re very important to me. My biggest fear working on the truck is that we’ll turn out some bad food; we don’t want that. We have a trust built up with our customers.

Does anything ever shut you down for a day or two?

In the wintertime I finally just put a rule out there. If it’s below 10 degrees, we don’t come out. It’s just cold, it’s just too cold. It’s not as cold inside the truck, but it’s just too cold for our customers.

It seems like this would be the perfect tailgating truck. Did you ever think of taking it to a game?

Oh yeah [laughs], actually we’ve been called for catering, and we’re going to do a wedding in September. We just did a couple picnics for about 300 people, so we’re ramped up a little right now. We just did Grinell’s class reunion a couple weeks ago and that turned out to be really good. We try to do a little of everything. When it gets super hot outside, we hand out flavored ices for free just to be nice.