Inspired by Los Angeles’ thriving food truck scene, Jolene Mannina admits she at first had doubts her own concept would work on the Strip. But after observing the recent success of other food trucks throughout the Valley, Mannina decided, “I’m doing this! I’m getting the truck, and I’m not fucking around.”
Sloppi Jo’s launched on Dec. 30. There was just one problem—Mannina knew people would expect a sloppy joe to be on the menu, but wasn’t sure how to make it work with her New Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Mannina began experimenting with her slow-roasted pulled pork with red chili sauce, adding pickled onions and a fried egg to create her version: the Sloppi Jo. “It’s sloppy and the egg’s melting all over it and so I’m like, OK, that’s perfect,” Mannina says. “You can slop it into the tortilla or you can dip the tortilla on the side—it just worked.”
As a server at N9NE Steakhouse for the past nine years, Mannina made many connections that proved invaluable to getting the business together in just seven months. She even invited a few chef friends over to her home for a tasting: Adam Sobel of RM Seafood, Geno Bernardo of Nove and Ben Jenkins of Strip Steak all got a preview. “I was cooking for these guys, here,” says Mannina, motioning around her home kitchen. The feedback being good, “I knew I made the right choice.”
Mannina, a self-taught chef, wanted to keep her menu small to ensure that consistency and use high-quality ingredients. The green chili cheeseburger, for example, calls for Hatch green chilies, which are harvested once a year in September, sometimes making them hard to find. “If you like spice, it’s perfect,” Mannina says.
The burger is finished with pepper jack cheese, sour cream and onions that, when pickled, take on “a burst of citrus and perfect texture.” Instead of a bun, Mannina uses a tortilla.
Green Chili Cheeseburger
- 1 pound ground beef
- Mannina’s “New Mexican” seasoning
- Sloppi Jo’s green chili sauce or 1 can of chopped Hatch green chilies
- 4 slices pepper jack cheese 4 medium flour tortillas
- 1 container of crema (sour cream)
- Pickled onions
Form the beef into ½-inch-thick patties and season with Mannina’s New Mexican seasoning on both sides. Heat a pan on medium-high. Cook for one minute, flip the burger, add the green chili sauce to the top of the burger and place the pepper jack cheese on top. Cook for one minute and remove from heat. In a separate nonstick pan, heat the tortilla until slightly crisp on both sides and remove. Add the sour cream and pickled onions toward the top of the tortilla and top with the burger patty. Fold the sides in first and flip the bottom of the tortilla up to finish. It should fit like a sleeve around the burger.
New Mexican Seasoning
Combine in a bowl:
- 3 tablespoons ground red chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons salt
Hatch Green Chile Sauce
- 1 pound Hatch green chilies, skinned, seeded, and chopped
- Half a yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Sweat the onions in a medium-heat pan with olive oil. Once they are soft and slightly browned, add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and cumin and add the stock, cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the chopped chilies and cook until they’re hot.
- 3 sweet onions, sliced thin
- 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (no pulp) or 2 cups of quality orange juice
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoon salt
Combine the orange juice, lime juice, jalapeno, salt and sugar in an airtight container. Blanch the onions in boiling water for 20 seconds, then strain and put them immediately into the juice mixture. Chill for at least 2 hours; for best results leave over night.
Black Star, $7 for a six-pack
“It’s not considered a light beer, it’s not considered a dark beer. It’s kind of in between,” Mannina says. “It’s going to cut the layer of fat and spiciness in the burger and it doesn’t have an aftertaste. It’s not going to overpower anything; it’s just a good beer.”