Photos by L.G. Patterson
Opening a vegan food truck wasn’t exactly Gina Overshiner’s dream. Initially, she had a far less grand goal: She planned to peddle — or rather pedal — her fare from a vegan food bike.
In fall 2018, she started talking to her friend Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze, about starting a vegan food business. Then, in June 2020, she and her husband, Tim, bought their trailer from Xola’s Vegan On The Go, Columbia’s first vegan food truck. Because the trailer had been a vegan truck, it was ideal for their needs.
For now, the truck has a sporadic schedule: “We’re a tiny operation, just Tim and I, doing this part-time on the weekends because we both work full-time corporate jobs,” Overshiner says. ”We’re hoping to make this more regular as we head into spring.”
They post everything on Instagram and Facebook and Overshiner tries to keep their website updated.
“Really, the best way to keep up with our schedule is to follow Instagram and Facebook for updates,” she says.
When asked about the food truck’s name, Gina’s Vegan A Go-Go, Overshiner says, “I’m definitely not like a sophisticated kind of beige-y person.” Fun, retro, quirky, colorful vibes are what she goes for.
Overshiner has no formal culinary training — but that hasn’t hampered her.
“I’m self-taught, years of trial and error!” she quips.
Over the past year, she’s been honing her skills by taking vegan/Whole Food Plant-based (WFPB) cooking classes through Rouxbe online culinary school.
Vegan since fall 2015, she originally started eating a WFPB diet to see how it would affect her health. She was really surprised by the changes: She lost weight, felt more energetic, didn’t have mood swings and found she thought more clearly. She became really interested in how nutrition affects health and immersed herself in learning about it. She also started cooking WFPB at home.
Describing what she and her husband serve, Overshiner says they’re specializing in vegan comfort foods, made from scratch, “like your mom would make (if she knew what vegan was and was really cool!). I love showing folks that vegan foods can be yummy, familiar and delicious. It’s easy to feed yourself without hurting yourself, the planet or the animals.”
They prepare everything at their commissary kitchen, owned by Centro Latino. Right before taking the truck out, they load everything on it, then build the sandwiches, burritos, nachos, etc. on the truck.
One of their top sellers is the “Beetnik Burger,” served with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion and what Overshiner describes as “our awesome sauce.” She was never a fan of most veggie burgers, finding them either overly processed or kind of flavorless and mushy. After a lot of experimenting, she came up with a burger that’s mostly mushrooms, onion, garlic, beets and texturized veggie protein bound with vital wheat gluten.
“My friend and frequent taster, Leigh, once said, ‘It’s disturbingly meat-like,’ which is what I was going for,” Overshiner says.
Another popular pick is the VBQ sandwich. Before going vegan, one of Overshiner’s husband’s guilty pleasures was a McRib. So she set out to make a veganized version. She finally hit upon a recipe with seasoned seitan (“wheat meat”) slow-braised in a savory, smoky, tangy, slightly sweet/little spicy braising liquid to produce a traditional barbecue flavor. It’s served on a hoagie with onion, dill pickle and homemade VBQ sauce.
Among the side stars is Tim Overshiner’s potato salad, a classic mustard-based version with a nice tangy, slightly spicy kick and a nice sweet crunch from bread and butter pickles.
“We have a secret process to keep the potato texture really nice and firm,” she says. Other sides include cucumber salad, chips, bean salad, greens and roasted potatoes.
The truck’s first big outing was July 1 for First Friday. It sold out in two hours. The truck’s now been to 12 events.
Most items are around $8-$12 depending on what you order.
“Basically, about $10 is going to fill up your belly and make you happy,” Overshiner says.