By Allison Michelli
From high school history to barbecuing hogs, former Oakton High School teacher and football coach Joe Neuman is trading in textbooks for a food truck. Sloppy Mama’s is set to debut at the end of July with stops throughout Fairfax and Arlington, including Tysons Corner, Reston and Rosslyn.
Five years ago, Neuman and his wife Mandy catered a pig roast for their wedding and it was such a hit that friends and family began requesting them to cater other parties. Neuman says, the idea grew through word of mouth and eventually they were doing a few pig roasts a summer. As the catering business grew in popularity, the Neuman’s began to branch out into the farmers market scene by selling pickles and sausages at the DC Grey Farmers Market and the DC Meet Market. During this time Neuman says he began considering a career change and the next step for their business economically was transitioning from part-time catering to a full-time food truck venture. Surprisingly, Neuman’s original idea for the truck was to sell sliders and poutine, the infamous Canadian concoction of french fries drenched in brown gravy and cheese curds, but requests for his pig roasts kept coming in, so he decided to make a permanent transition into the world of barbecue.
The name Sloppy Mama’s was inspired by Neuman’s basketball nickname, “Joe Mama.” and for many years, Neuman says he wanted to own a bar named Sloppy Joe’s. After taking a trip to Key West in college he saw that there was already a bar with the same name, so at a friend’s suggestion he combined both names and Sloppy Mama’s came together.
For the first few months of business, Sloppy Mama’s will offer a limited menu of two meats and two sides like pulled pork, brisket, cole slaw and potato chips. “We just try and do simple things well,” says Neuman All the sauces, rubs, dressings and sides they use on the truck are made from scratch and were a product of trial and error, he explains, “We have always cooked, so it’s not like we are starting a brand from scratch. It is kind of like our life turned into a menu.”