For Ja’Don Cavil, owner of NewBo City Market’s newest eatery, One More Bite, starting his own food business has been a transformative experience.
“I’ve been cooking most of my life — barbecues, parties, things like that,” he said.
But it didn’t occur to him it might be a career until his in-laws invited him to cater a house warming party. That went well, and someone else asked him to cater their wedding.
He had been working office jobs — at Verizon and HIBU, and decided he was ready for a change.
“I knew I didn’t want to work behind a desk the rest of my life,” he said. “I thought, well maybe I can start a food truck.”
A food truck, because when he launched One More Bite in October of 2017, he said he wasn’t ready to jump into opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. He never has been a risk taker, he said, always spending a lot of time weighing options and worrying about the odds.
“I’m a conservative person when it comes to taking risks, and it eliminated some of the risk with a food truck,” he said.
Yet now, after expanding One More Bite with a stand at NewBo City Market, he said he’s changed and learned to embrace the gamble of entrepreneurship.
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“If you’re ever thinking of starting anything, it’s worth the risk, for what you become as a person. You have to get outside your comfort zone and figure stuff out,” he said. “To do this, my entire mind-set had to change.”
When he started serving from the truck late last fall, it was too late in the season to get much business, he acknowledged, and he had to shut down when it got too cold.
“We were selling maybe 15 sandwiches a day, not much, but it was good, because we got to work out our kinks,” he said.
It also gave him the confidence that this was something he could make work, and he decided to apply for an open spot in NewBo City Market.
Even with the NewBo stand, One More Bite still is rolling — Cavil reopened the food truck on St. Patrick’s Day, and the stand at NewBo City Market launched May 17.
Opening the market booth has been a transition, but a good one, he said.
“I feel like the food truck was boot camp,” he said. “It was all about the speed of service. Here, there’s a bit more eye candy; there’s not as much of a rush. This allows for more menu creativity and to actually be able to have a conversation with customers.”
That’s his favorite part of the business.
“Working face to face with people, and getting to see a person bite into your food — that reaction is what it’s all about.”
He’s already thinking about the future — he’d like to open a free-standing restaurant, as well as more food trucks with different concepts. He describes the current concept as eclectic but focused on hot sandwiches along with a full catering menu.
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“We didn’t really want to put ourselves in a box. The idea of One More Bite is, it’s so good you want one more bite, but also that we can create anything,” he said.
He learned to cook watching cooking shows and experimenting, as well as from his mother, grandmother and aunts.
“They’d kick all the other kids out of the kitchen, but they’d let me stay, because I was quiet,” he said.
Creating a great sandwich, he said, is more complicated than slapping ingredients between bread.
His menu features combinations like marinated steak with mozzarella, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes, or marinated grilled chicken with pesto spread, spinach, mozzarella and tomatoes.
“It takes good flavor, different textures, the right bread, a solid sauce to bring everything together, and the right toppings,” he said. “And presentation. People eat with their eyes first — well, their nose and eyes, and then they bite into it.”
If you go
• What: One More Bite
• Where: NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
• Details: (319) 929-6705, onemorebitecatering.com
• Food truck: Look for the truck at Food Truck Fridays at Greene Square, Science Thursdays at Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City and Food Truck Wednesdays at NewBo City Market.
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