Adventurous foodies and gearheads alike are crossing the Pacific Ocean for a bite of some plain sweet potatoes, served in tinfoil on the side of the road. It's a new take on the food truck called RodoPot, and it's the invention of a man who has become known as Lord Rod.
The phenomena is centered in Japan's second-largest city, Yokohama, where The Outline tracked down Lord Rod as he prowled the streets in a modified, third-generation Mazda Miata. The RodoPot, named after a mashup of "roadster" and "potato," hauls a wood-fired oven on its trunk for the purpose of making "yaki-imo," a classic wintertime street food in Japanese culture. They may just be roasted sweet potatoes, but the combination of warmth, sweetness, and smoky flavor tick the same boxes that s'mores do, and that's why Japan loves yaki-imo.
As explained in a 2018 Jalopnik feature, inspiration for the RodoPot is rooted in Lord Rod's childhood. Before earning his trade name, Lord Rod was a young boy name Eroko, one who once watched the owner of a luxurious Toyota Century—a high-status car in Japan—serve noodles from their car. The idea of a food car-t stuck with him, and after scraping together ¥500,000 (about $4,700), Eroko converted his Miata into the nomadic potato cart known today as the RodoPot.
Lord Rod kicks off an evening of cooking potatoes by tweeting where he plans to sell food for the day, before live-streaming his commute via Periscope. Loyal customers sometimes camp out in advance of his arrival, and while a following of yaki-imo lovers is good for business, it may almost be too good; Lord Rod's following grew to the point where he started looking at hiring help.
Lord Rod advertised an open position in March, with the promise that a second RodoPot would be built and operated if his potato hawker-in-training was up to scratch. It seems his hire cut the mustard, as Lord Rod announced earlier this month that he has acquired a second Miata, ready for conversion into RodoPot II.
Is a franchise headed to your nearest metropolitan area? Probably not. Is a portable oven on the back of a Mazda the right tool for every food truck operation? Definitely not. Is it something we wish we could see in America? Hell yes.