Painted in a lime green shade that’s easily visible from afar, Springfield’s Sweet Rice Thai food truck has been a mainstay in the area since its debut in 2015.
From the county fair to the corporate luncheon, many Sarpy County residents have tasted pad thai or drunken noodles for the first time from the side of an old FedEx truck.
Then a few weeks ago, in early March, it was loaded into a flatbed trailer and taken away.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without him,” said the Sweet Rice Thai Facebook page.
Addressing the truck, a fan commented: “Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to feed the hungry, warm our bellies and bring us all a wonderful cultural resource. Bless you good luck and more.”
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The plan to create this new food truck came when Peter Lorince and his wife Pam were helping a local nonprofit during their “Taste of Omaha” festival. Didn’t notice any of the food trucks serving Thai food.
“We’ve never worked in a restaurant, so it was kind of a gamble. We decided, ‘Well, let’s give it a try,’ and it turned out well,” Lorince said.
Using his experience as a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur, it took Lorince six months to cut, rewire, plumb, electrify and paint an old delivery truck and turn it into a Sweet Lime Thai food truck. Then he handed it over to Pam, a Thai immigrant.
“He was a good cook. They kept me away from the stoves and the kitchen. Rightly so, said Lorince.
Back then, food trucks were not as common as they are now – especially those serving Asian cuisine. Lorince said their truck was one of the first in the region to focus on Thai cuisine.
The rolling restaurant went from novelty to hotspot within months, prompting them to open a takeaway in downtown Springfield in the summer of 2015. The same time.
“It was too much for us. We were going back and forth between the restaurant and the truck day and night, so we decided to sell it to some friends,” he said.
In 2019, Worawalun Tavornsak and her husband Anan were living in Montana. After years of cooking for others, she dreamed of owning her own restaurant. The couple was looking to invest in a food truck, as startup costs made this inconvenient.
Timing and the chance to get to know Pam Lorince led to a 10-day trip to Nebraska, he said.
“The town I lived in Montana was very small. No Asian people or Asian food. It’s hard to live,” Tavornsak said. “When I came to Nebraska, I loved it here and was like, ‘Okay, I want to do business here’.”
With new lettering to reflect the name change, Tavornsaks has traveled the region with its unique and sought-after dishes, appearing at outdoor concerts, festivals, football matches and everywhere else.
Now, after four years of hard work, the dream has come true. Sweet Rice Thai Food Express has been open in downtown Springfield since January.
They have a house nearby, close to work and their children’s school. Tavornsak said it’s easier to have a nice, cozy shop for cooking instead of a truck.
Still, quitting has some feelings.
“I really missed my truck. Truck was a really good job,” he said.
But the green machine is in a better place today. At least a warmer place.
Worawalun has a friend, a best friend, who lives in New Mexico.
“He saw our successful business and that’s why he decided to build the food truck,” Tavornsak said.
Now, armed with Tavornsak recipes and the couple’s ongoing guidance, the Sweet Rice Thai food truck is roaming freely in the American southwest, leaving a hole in the heart of Springfield. At least temporarily.
“I’m sorry too. But we’re going to build a new food truck,” Worawalun said. “We are planning to build a food truck for fairs or special events. Not for every day like last time.”
And yes. It will be the same color.
“This year I want to focus on my new restaurant. I want to see everything is good and maybe next year the food truck is good,” he said.
Anan will be the master builder on this project and is actively shopping for the new vehicle.
Lorinces couldn’t escape the temptation of mobile cooking either.
“We didn’t give up on the business, my wife missed it a bit after we sold it, so we came back with a trailer called the Red Barn Café,” Lorince said.
All in all, a pretty big legacy for an old delivery truck.