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  • Tara Crutchfield

Cravin’ Haven



If you’re craving something, chances are it’s on the menu at Cravin’ Haven. This rotating menu food truck boasts “food with no borders” and an inviting patio dining space. What started as ‘just something to do’ became the Best Food Truck in Winter Haven in only a year. 


Winter Haven resident Phillip Brooks worked in construction for 25 years. A year and a half post-retirement, Brooks was getting restless. Ex-wife Mandy Brooks encouraged Phillip that if he was going back to work, it should be something he wanted to do. He decided to open a food truck. “I’ve done a little competitive cooking,” Brooks said. “I’ve just always loved to do it. I didn’t realize it was such a big job until we got this place here.”


After a year of preparation, Cravin’ Haven opened off Dundee Road on September 23, 2022. Just a few days later, Hurricane Ian barreled through the state. To say it was a rough opening would be an understatement. But, a year later, Cravin’ Haven has built a loyal following and was voted Best Food Truck in the 2023 Best of Haven readers’ choice awards. 



THE FOOD 


“I knew that I wanted to be able to serve what I want to,” Brooks said. “I always knew I’d be serving some sort of barbecue.” But Cravin’ Haven isn’t a barbecue joint by any means. This Dundee Road dining destination offers “food with no borders.” Patrons might get a barbecue brisket sandwich one day and a banh mi another. Brooks has chosen not to limit his offerings to one culinary genre. 


Their rotating menu includes fan favorites like brisket, pork, or ahi tuna tacos, as well as their famous smash burger. “The most fun part is I just love cooking and coming up with new menus,” Brooks said. 


Cravin’ Haven’s tacos come served in upright stands, so they don’t slide all over the place – an appreciated touch. Though each delicious in its own right, the ahi tuna tacos stole the show. Two tacos are filled with succulent seared ahi tuna and topped with micro greens, avocado, fresco cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and finished with house wasabi lime aioli. 


Second only to the tuna tacos was the gourmet smash burger made with a homemade ¼ pound burger piled with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, served with fries and coleslaw. 


Their fresh, all-natural jumbo chicken wings are also climbing the ranks for a top spot on the menu, available in garlic parmesan, barbecue, or Buffalo (mild, medium, or hot). Don’t skip out on the authentic Cuban sandwich pressed with house-smoked pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese, and mustard on Cuban bread.


Though one might be tempted to take their food and escape to the air conditioning from the oppressive Florida heat, Cravin’ Haven’s screened-in patio is a shaded spot to lounge for lunchtime. A breeze wafts teasing aromas from the food truck into a screened-in patio with ample seating and string lights. 


THE TEAM  


“When I opened it, I opened it for me, so I’d have something to do. I never thought for a second that it would take off like this,” Brooks said. Some of his biggest supporters have been ex-wife and friend Mandy Brooks and her mother, Brenda Mitchell. Brooks said of Mandy, “She’s been a massive help from day one.” 


Brooks now has four employees and a traveling food trailer in addition to the stationary food truck. Daughter Katie is on the team, along with prep cook Renee, and Ryan, who works in the traveling trailer. “The biggest surprise is how we’ve been accepted,” Brooks said. “It grew really fast around me.” 


Katie, who formerly worked in a food truck at LEGOLAND, discussed the best part about working at Cravin’ Haven. “Just working with family is good and getting to know all our customers,” she said. She noted the food truck’s success: “It’s amazing. […] I’m so honored.” 


A year in, Brooks has his sights on a brick-and-mortar with no set plans just yet. “I think that’s anyone’s dream to see their food truck go to a brick and mortar. Just waiting on that one investor,” he said. “I like this, what I’m doing. But a brick-and-mortar would be the payoff. It would mean I made it.” 


Photography by Amy Sexson

 

Cravin’ Haven

3223 Dundee Rd., Winter Haven

863-604-9423

FB: Cravin’ Haven

IG @cravinhavenfl

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