On a cold, rainy night in late spring 2020, Josh Rogerson and Alex Runyan sat outside Saluda’s, the Five Points fine-dining restaurant where they both worked — over drinks, they joked about the possibility of opening their own restaurant one day.
Rogerson, Saluda’s executive chef at the time, and Runyan, a restaurant manager, had spent decades in the service industry – bouncing between breakfast and casual restaurants before meeting at Saluda.
They left the restaurant that day around four in the morning after plotting their own restaurant while drunk. A sick Runyan left with what later became the flu, Rogerson left with a plan.
That plan will come to fruition around next month, nearly three years after the pair originally considered owning their own restaurant together. Rogerson and Runyan will open their own food truck business, Parabellum Mobile Eats.
“I want to (make) the kind of food I want to eat, which I can’t find almost anywhere well done. Like aside from The Whig and Transmission, it’s hard to find (bar food) consistently well done”, Rogerson said.
The food truck will offer what Rogerson calls “bar comfort food” and will mirror other popular bar fare like The Whig and Transmission Arcade Bar. Rogerson said he would feature items like deckel tacos, Philly cheesesteaks and jalapeño poppers. The pair aims to keep prices low, with the highest item at $15.
The company’s plan – which became more real than a drunken conception when Rogerson and Runyan sat down in February last year – changed from Rogerson’s original vision.
The couple had hoped to open a brick-and-mortar store, but between problems finding an affordable location and difficulty getting approval for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, they opted instead. a food truck.
“(The SBA) doesn’t seem to really like small businesses unless you own property they can take or start a franchised restaurant like a McDonald’s or a Taco Bell,” Runyan said. “(With a food truck) the barrier to entry is so much lower.”
The couple found the huge food truck, which Rogerson joked has more room inside than he had as a chef at Saluda, on Facebook Marketplace.
He had been bought by a “pinball food truck” who buys cheap trucks and fixes them. After packing the truck with branded gear and securing a license, they hope to hit the road at places like Soda City and bars like WECO Bottle & Biergarten.
The business has been in the making for a long time for Rogerson and Runyan.
Rogerson said he first fell in love with cooking in high school. He attended a boarding school in Germany throughout high school, while his parents worked as missionaries in northern Italy. Sundays at the school were what Rogerson called “days left.”
“The only way to make food palatable, even remotely, was to successfully convert it from trash to a little less trash,” Rogerson joked. There he learned his passion for cooking.
While at the University of South Carolina, he started working in restaurants to earn money — he jumped to work at places like the now-closed Momo’s Bistro and Carolina Ale House.
In early 2016, he took over as executive chef of Saluda’s, the white-tablecloth restaurant in the city’s university district, after working there for nearly two years.
“I’m excited for him. I’m sure whatever he does will be awesome,” said Steve Cook, owner of Saluda’s. “He was a great gourmet chef, but I think ultimately what he wanted was to be able to serve more of an everyday clientele and I’m glad he’s finally getting into it. “
Rogerson left Saluda over a year ago to pursue that business and worked part-time at Village Idiot Pizza at Five Points as a bartender, where he is good friends with Kelly and Brian Glynn, who own the bar and restaurant for decades.
“He’s kind of like me, where whatever needs to be done for his cooking, he’ll do it. And if it takes him 20 hours a day, then it’ll take him 20 hours… he’s always 100% on everything he does,” said Brian Glynn, who has worked closely with Rogerson.
The couple are good friends – Rogerson helped Glynn build a swing set for her children. And on Christmas morning last year, he delivered a miniature Zamboni to Glynn’s house after the two joked about buying a large one together.
The same way Glynn and Rogerson clicked in their professional and personal lives, so did Rogerson and Runyan. The couple named their location after a word used in a Latin phrase that translates to “if you desire peace, prepare for war”.
“Depending on your perspective, it either seems really aggressive or really non-aggressive. It’s a mantra or an ideal that we’ve always strived to live independently,” Rogerson said.
“I feel like we both agree that going into a busy shift or a busy week or something is almost like getting ready for a battle,” he said. added Runyan.
Runyan got his start in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher at a breakfast restaurant in Savannah while attending Savannah College of Art and Design. He worked his way up to service, which he said he hated at first given his introverted personality, and eventually became the general manager.
He left that restaurant and Savannah to be closer to his home and family, who live in Beaufort. Runyan worked as the manager of Eggs Up Grill on Devine Street, then finally started working at Saluda in late 2019.
“I just can’t wait to run our own thing…I’ve worked for so many people, some were awesome, some were terrible and I think having your own shop is something special,” Runyan said.
The couple said plans for a brick-and-mortar location are on the back burner for now, but hope that if the food truck is successful they could open a physical location in the future.