The smiling face you see when walking up to Cubano X-Press is that of Brenda Rosa. Close behind her, you’ll find fiancé Henry Sanchez hard at work pressing Cubanos and grilling tasty meats. Together, the couple own and operate their food truck, based in North Jersey. The mouth-watering Latin dishes with Cuban flair make Cubano X-Press one of The Best Food Trucks in New Jersey.
Though the food truck is only three years old, both Rosa and Sanchez have extensive experience in the food industry. (More on that later.) Their eye-catching yellow truck boasts a modest menu with both traditional and imaginative sandwiches. They always use fresh ingredients, and wake up early every event morning to prep; you’ll find the truck at events across NJ from April through November.
Of course, the truck’s signature items are their Cuban sandwiches. But even their side dishes are full of flavor, pairing perfectly with any sandwich. For instance, they serve yucca fries piled with pulled pork, and fried plantains with sofrito mayo. Cubano X-Press always keeps their most popular items on the menu, however, they often offer exclusive items at events. Click here to see their menu.
The couple took some time to speak to Best of NJ about their food, the truck, and more. Keep reading below for our full chat.
The Best New Jersey Food Trucks: Cubano X-Press Interview
Best of NJ: How did you both meet?
Henry Sanchez: Seven years ago I was in Massachusetts working in Nantucket, and I worked in the Sturbridge Village for a couple seasons. The village recreates Colonial times in New England. I took a chef job there.
Brenda Rosa: I was working as a banquet server in the [Sturbridge] village, and I also was doing cakes there.
BONJ: How did you make your way to New Jersey?
Henry: I was born and raised in New Jersey. As a chef, I wanted to experience different things, so I travel a lot. I was in Miami for a few years, New York City for a few years, Massachusetts for three years; and in New Jersey for the rest.
After dating for about a year, and after commuting back and forth to see each other, Brenda decided to move here.
BONJ: Tell us about both of your backgrounds.
Henry: I went to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). I’ve been in the business since I was 16 years old; a lot of traveling and experiencing different parts of the culinary world and working as a chef.
Brenda: I have experience serving and also baking and doing stuff like that.
BONJ: When did you know you wanted to run your own business? And why a food truck?
Brenda: He came home from work one day and was like, “I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore. I quit.”
Henry: I felt like I had to. That was after working a 20-hour shift, and I was like, “I can’t do this every day.” I was making somebody else so much money, and there was no future there. So I wanted to start a food truck, and Brenda said, “Okay, But you need to go work for somebody else on a food truck first, before you decide what you are going to do.”
Brenda: I said I’m not going to invest any money until you go and work the whole year with somebody else; and see if you like it.
Henry: So I worked for Josh Sacks, Oink and Moo BBQ, and got to understand the business and food trucks. He really helped me understand the work and the business.
BONJ: How was the transition going from the culinary world of restaurants to starting your own gourmet food truck?
Henry: It’s way different from the restaurant. You have to be a lot more creative with your food. You have to be a lot more energetic. It’s a different lifestyle than being out in a kitchen. During the time I worked for Josh, Brenda was working her butt off. We put every penny into the truck. And the first year was a struggle. The second year was good. The third year was great.
Brenda: In that first year, you’re making so many mistakes. You get pickier—with events and those types of things—the second year. Eventually you get to the point where you can pick events and spots that you want, what’s good for you. You have to take so many things into consideration, and it’s impossible to learn it all right away. It’s really a learning process.
Henry: After the first two months on the truck, I came home and said to Brenda, “Are you going to quit your job? I need your helping running this truck.” She quit her job, and we’ve been doing this since 2017. I do the manual work and she does the administrative work, scheduling events, taking orders, and prepping food.
BONJ: Does Cubano X-Press offer catering?
Henry: We love catering parties and other events. They’re always great experiences. We offer three distinct packages.
Brenda: We have the combo package; it’s a flat rate per person and you can choose a sandwich, a side, and a drink, or a platter. We have rice, beans, plantains for sides. Then we offer chicken, beef, or vegetables. We also offer all you can eat, and that’s a flat rate per person, too. And then you can rent out the truck for an hourly rate of $150. And we do all types of parties—weddings, birthdays; we did a communion recently.
BONJ: What items do you offer?
Henry: We offer mostly Cuban sandwiches with a twist. For our concept, we started developing different types of Cuban sandwiches, plus a few other sandwiches in a Latin style.
BONJ: What are some of your most popular sandwiches?
Henry: Oh, the Cubano. If we sell 200 sandwiches at an event, at least 50 of them are Cubanos. That’s our most popular sandwich. Another one is the Cubano Caliente. That one’s pork, ham, pepperoni, spicy capocollo, with Swiss cheese and hot sauce. T
Then we have our plantain nachos. Those are fried plantains, sofrito cheese, chimichurri sauce (not spicy), and mojo sauce; and you can get it with pulled pork or chicken, and that sells quite a bit. Those three are the top items.
BONJ: What does the future look like for Cubano X-Press?
Henry: We threw around the idea of opening a restaurant, but we’re going to stick with the truck. If anything, we may add another truck, and one of us can be on each truck at any given time. If too many people are putting their hands on your food, so to speak, it can get messed up easily; so we want to be there to make sure we’re putting out the products as best as possible.
BONJ: What advice do you have for aspiring food truckers?
Henry: If you want to start a food truck…
Brenda: …Go and work for another food truck.
Henry: That is the main advice. It’s so important. That’s how you can learn the business and learn if it’s right for you. I have a good example for you: I have a friend who was interested in starting a food truck. I told him to come work with me to see what the industry is like. He worked two really busy days over a weekend last year, and I haven’t heard from him since [laughs].
There are others who buy their food trucks before getting any experience out in the field; but they often don’t last more than a season or two. People come to events and see you have a long line and look like you’re making a lot of money. But they don’t see you get up at five, six o’clock in the morning to start prepping Cubanos; they don’t see you paying for permits or festival fees or your employees; they don’t see you cleaning up after working an event for hours. It’s a gamble to start a food truck, so it’s really important to get some experience before opening your own.
Brenda: The other part of the advice is to have a concept.
Henry: Yes, that’s important, too. Since the food truck is so different from a restaurant, it’s important for you to develop your concept; what type of food you’ll make, and all that. It sets you apart from other trucks and really builds your identity.
Want to find more of The Best New Jersey Food Trucks? Then check out The Best New Jersey Food Trucks: The Complete Series.
All Images: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ