Born in Tokyo, Japan to a Chinese mother and Jewish-American father, Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla says he’s always been around food and loved eating yakitori, tonkatsu, and tempura as a child. “My mom would set up a hot pot in the center of our dining table at home and we would all make shabu shabu tableside for dinner, another Japanese favorite,” he says. At one point, his dad (who now consults for restaurant brands trying to enter the Asian market) owned five restaurants in China and Hong Kong. “Food has always been important [to me],” Silverstein says. “We ate dinner with family every day.”
Then at age 11, Silverstein and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he discovered Southern comfort foods like fried chicken, biscuits, collard greens, and fried okra. Asian and Southern American flavors would both inform his future business. After earning an undergraduate finance/marketing degree and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Silverstein worked as a litigator. But, he says, “my passion was always in food and being an entrepreneur.”
Silverstein originally planned to open a restaurant but tabled that idea due to cash constraints. His sister was then living in Los Angeles, where food trucks like Kogi Korean BBQ were gaining popularity, so she encouraged him to open a food truck instead. He narrowed down his options to Seattle, Denver, and Austin, Texas, because those three cities afforded him the option to lease a food truck. “If the business was a failure, I didn’t want to have a $60,000 asset on my hands,” Silverstein says.
His then-girlfriend (now wife) chose Austin, so at age 27, Silverstein quit his law job and moved to Texas. The original Peached Tortilla food truck opened on September 25, 2010. The food truck served street foods like tacos, sliders, burritos, and bowls with Asian influences. “We also served a JapaJam burger that was a riff on a MosBurger burger from Japan,” he adds.
While people immediately liked the Southern-Asian food, fluctuating foot traffic proved challenging. “We had to find the right location,” Silverstein says. “Volume wasn’t great some days. It depended on where we were.” Downtown office parks and a farmer’s market in Cedar Park (north of Austin) provided a more reliable flow of customers.
Silverstein pressed on, adding more food trucks to his fleet and opening a brick and mortar restaurant in December 2014. “When we opened in the restaurant, we could drive our food truck into the restaurant and do a counter service concept,” he says. “We now have a full bar with a full beer, wine, and cocktail program.” He created the restaurant’s menu himself. The colorful, sun-lit space stays busy with Taco Tuesdays, Fried Chicken & Whiskey Wednesdays, and Ramen Night every Thursday.
Peached Social House, a multi-functional event space with in-house catering, opened in September 2016. Peached Tortilla catering operates out of that space, and Silverstein says event catering is actually the biggest piece of the business at the moment. As if that weren’t enough pots on the fire, The Peached Tortilla opened a location at Austin–Bergstrom International Airport this past spring. When I caught up with Silverstein by phone, he admitted that that time was one of the most stressful he could remember. [Read more…]