Pelican Brothers: Spotlight on a Gainesville food truck


Every Wednesday through Saturday night, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., you can hear the soft humming of a generator outside of High Dive, a local bar in downtown Gainesville. The hum comes from only one of the few food trucks located in our city.

Most chicken and waffle dishes are served with the two items separate, but there’s one place in Gainesville that merges them closer together and makes it a sandwich: the Pelican Brothers food truck.

Pelican Brothers is known for its chicken and waffle slider.

“It’s salty, sweet and delicious. Fresh-made Belgian waffles, fried chicken and we have local honey and maple gravy to put in between there,” said Mike Riska, co-owner and founder of the truck, as he cooked in the tiny kitchen in the back.

When the truck opens, a crowd gathers. Almost all of the early comers will be getting the slider. As one of the chefs sticks his head outside of the window and calls your name, indicating your order is ready, a giddy feeling rises up in your stomach.

“The smell alone makes me salivate. The first thing you want to do is start eating it because it looks and smells so good. You know you’ll burn your mouth, but you do it anyways,” said Patrick Wang, a 22-year-old engineering student who tried the chicken and waffle slider for the first time on Friday and went back for another.

As the fluffy waffles absorb the sweet and gooey honey-maple gravy that has created a pool at the bottom of the paper bowl, steam continuously rises from the concoction that far too many people have not tried.

The freshly fried chicken is extra crunchy. It provides the salty flavor that counteracts the sweet. The meat is juicy and tender after you bite through the crispy skin.

“My favorite thing about my menu is that we switch it constantly because I don’t like making the same food over [again],” Riska said.

While Pelican Brothers has an ever-changing menu according to what vegetables are in season, or what the owners feel like whipping up that night, one thing is on it every night: the chicken and waffle slider.

The Pelican Brothers food truck celebrated its one-year anniversary this Oct. 6. Mike Riska and Matt Holmes started the truck because they were sick of working for other people. They can be found at various locations and social gatherings in Gainesville.

While not everyone sees a chicken and waffle sandwich on a regular basis, Riska said that the idea came from past memories of eating at Waffle House Inc. after late nights out.

“When we would go out and were younger, we would go to Waffle House and I would put everything in the middle of it [the waffle] and make a sandwich out of it,” Riska said.

His friends thought he was crazy for the first couple of years, but soon he convinced them to try it for themselves. After a $30,000 investment into the truck and all the maintenance, Pelican Brothers was born.

Matt Marder is an 18-year-old student that goes to High Dive about once or twice a week. He said that whether he is hungry or not, every time he is there he gets a chicken and waffle slider.

“Even if I was allergic to this, I would get it every time,” Marder said.

Jessie Erickson works at High Dive and is a public relations student at the University of Florida. A lot of people ask her what she recommends from the truck and she always says the chicken and waffles.

Whether you’ve tried the slider or not, the first taste of the Pelican Brothers has kept many customers coming back for more and more.

“If you put out good food, people will return. It’s as simple as that,” Riska said.


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