Johnny Pork Roll's ruben sandwich is $8 at North Eats (Boardwalk at 7th Avenue in Asbury Park).

Johnny Pork Roll’s reuben sandwich is $8 at North Eats (Boardwalk at 7th Avenue in Asbury Park).

Call it “Taylor ham” or “pork roll,” it’s the unofficial New Jersey state food.

Originally “Taylor’s Prepared Ham,” it was created in 1856 by John Taylor in his Trenton meat shop.  In 1906, regulators insisted he change the name because it didn’t meet the federal definition of ham.  Taylor then re-branded his epicurean invention as both Trenton Pork Roll and Taylor’s Pork Roll.  In 1910, a judge ruled “pork roll” could not be trademarked and imitators came and went.

But there is just one original, legendary pork roll – with a guarded recipe – still produced today by Taylor Provision Company in Trenton and shipped around the world.

For those in our area craving the crispy savory, sweet meat, there is John Yarusi’s Johnny Pork Roll food truck.  His is one of six trucks part of North Eats, the country’s first oceanfront food truck park launched earlier this summer by Madison Marquette on the north side of the boardwalk.

“Pork Roll is distinctly a Jersey thing but Johnny does it with a twist, a spin on the traditional,” said Tim Donnelly of Madison Marquette, boardwalk redeveloper.  “We wanted to be adventurous with a variety of trucks to serve local tastes and vacationer’s cravings.”

Seven days a week for 10 hours a day, Yarusi serves a menu of six to eight items ranging from pork roll reuben with sauerkraut, creamy swiss cheese topped with homemade Russian dressing on fresh, crispy rye bread to the sweet and savory Hawaiian pork roll with swiss, zesty bar-b-que sauce and pineapples, and of course, the classic pork roll egg and cheese served on a fluffy fresh roll.  Everything is made-to-order with care and focus.

John Yarusi is Johnny Pork Roll.

John Yarusi is Johnny Pork Roll, established in 2013.

“The trick to cooking pork roll is starting with a thin, even slice and cooking it at the right temperature to get it completely caramelized and brown but not chewy,” said Yarusi.  “Every sandwich is grilled just enough to melt the flavors.  We don’t pre-cook the pork roll and let it sit.  We have our heart in each sandwich.”

Prior to becoming Johnny Pork Roll, Yarusi spent the first part of his career as a high-energy New York City advertising executive.  After Superstorm Sandy and the loss of his dad, he began looking for a change and thinking about the great meals his grandmother served him years ago with pork roll.

“My life took a dramatic turn, the economy was crap, and I wanted something new,” said Yarusi.  “At the end of the day, I had a connection to pork roll and New Jersey.  I started thinking about how I could turn something I loved into a job.”

So, with the help of his business partner, the owner of Carlos O’Connors in Red Bank, he began experimenting with pork roll sandwich recipes. He purchased a 30 year old truck and rebuilt it top to bottom over the next six months to make the classic and best – “the Levis of pork roll sandwiches in the state.”

In 2013, he, err… rolled out his truck, serving up classic sandwiches everywhere from Red Bank Farmer’s Market to catering jobs at weddings and sweet sixteen parties.  Now, his “office” overlooks the ocean and his clients come from all over to satisfy their cravings at North Eats food truck park in Asbury Park.

“I live in Boston and heard about the pork roll truck a few weeks ago,” said Jon Cusick.  “We have nothing like this up there.  Getting a sandwich was key for my visit back to see my family in Wall.  The sandwich brings back great memories of being a kid at the shore.”

Follow the Johnny Pork Roll truck via hashtag #PorkRollTruck.  There is ample parking next to North Eats off of Seventh Avenue.  Read about all six North Eats food trucks here.  And for everything happening on the Asbury Park boardwalk this season, visit (mute your sound).