When cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac take trips down memory lane, they’re usually riding in a food truck.
In 2012, after reminiscing about their seafood-gorged, childhood summers in Maine, the pair launched Cousins Maine Lobster, a rolling restaurant that brings New England’s favorite shellfish to folks all over the country.
This weekend, Pittsburgh will get its first taste of Maine’s main dish: lobster, served chilled, with a touch of mayo on a split top roll. The truck will be one of those found idling at the new Pittsburgh Food Truck Park. Located along the Allegheny River in Millvale’s Riverfront Park, the new outdoor food venue will also feature a beer garden, performance venue, event space and game yard.
Tselikis is excited to bring his family’s culinary traditions to the Burgh.
“It’s a dream come true for us to be opening up in a city with such an up-and-coming food scene,” he says, noting that the truck will be traveling all over the region.
What started as a $20,000 investment in a single, Los Angeles-based food truck quickly turned into a 29-vehicle fleet covering 15 cities. This was thanks to an appearance on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank.” Tselikis and Lomac netted a $55,000 investment from businesswoman Barbara Corcoran, who helped the young entrepreneurs keep their heads above water and their product in the national spotlight.
By the end of April, they’ll have 32 trucks on the road and brick-and-mortar eateries in Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Taiwan.
“Our success is attributed to the product we serve,” Lomac says. “Everything is directly from Maine. We never cut corners with our food product and we care about our customers. Our saying is, ‘Treat everybody like you’d treat your own mom.’”
Jim and Leslie Matz, of Wexford, are the local franchise owners. But to Tselikis and Lomac, now they’re family.
“The deeper I got into the process and learned their passion and dedication to the brand, I realized it was something worth doing,” says Jim Matz, who saw the Cousins story on “Shark Tank.” He reached out to the guys the same night and, last summer, the couple took a trip out to California to try the food.
Leslie Matz, who worked at a seafood restaurant in her native New Jersey, was amazed by what she tasted and immediately jumped on board with the idea of bringing a Cousins Maine Lobster truck to Pittsburgh.
“Cousins’ brand is so important and the food going out that window has to be great every time,” she says. “We can’t wait to bring this wonderful product to this wonderful city.”
Operating out of an 18-foot kitchen, the couple will dish out the famous lobster rolls (which are also served Connecticut-style: hot, with butter and lemon), as well as lobster bisque, lobster grilled cheese, lobster tots, lobster tacos and lobster quesadillas.
Tselikis and Lomac pride themselves on a shore-to-door concept that uses wild-caught, sustainably harvested lobster, which benefits mariners in their home state.
Last spring, the mayor of Portland, Maine gave Tselikis and Lomac a key to the city and declared May 11, 2017 “Cousins Maine Lobster Day.”
It’s safe to say their moms are proud.