Jeff Green started with a van and a plan. He was going to drive around, selling candy to provide for himself and his family.
It worked. After a while, the 25-year-old figured that “candy doesn’t appeal to everybody,” so he added some food items to the van menu. In June, he opened The Sweet Tooth, a walk-up restaurant at 4004 W. Main St. in Belleville, which has a lunch and dinner menu and just added soft-serve ice cream.
Jeff would love to franchise his sweets shop, whose menu has changed to focus on quesadillas, tacos, nachos, burgers, salads and meals. He has some other steps to take first, including opening the dining room of the restaurant that was once a Taco Bell.
Jeff is a self-taught cook, heavily influence by the television show “Man Vs. Food,” where host Adam Richman takes on food challenges.
An example of that is Jeff’s favorite menu item, the “Hell Yea Nacho,” which is $18.99. The tortilla chips are covered with “every meat” he has: grilled chicken, herb steak, grilled shrimp, andouille sausage, pepperoni and bacon. It is then topped with cheese, jalapenos, banana peppers, olives and sauteed onions.
Jeff says customers look at the menu, then say things like, “Nachos? Well, lemme just try it ...”
So, the Cavity Nacho includes seasoned ground beef and pepperoni ($10.99). Or try the Chopped Sausage Tacos ($7). The Bacon Omelette Burger, with a 3/4-pound patty on a kaiser bun with cheese, onions, peppers, is topped with a cheesy veggie-stuffed omelette ($12.49).
“I don’t want to get too much into fried chicken and wings,” he said. His guiding philosophy in cooking is more “What can we do that’s something you can’t find?”
The top seller is likely the TST Chicken Philly for $10.99, with fries, he said. The 8-inch roll is topped with three-quarters of a pound of cajun-seasoned shredded chicken and covered with Swiss and pepper jack cheese, onions, green peppers and banana peppers.
Sweets on the menu are kept to Build Your Own Funnel Cake (8-inch, $7.99) and chocolate-covered strawberries for $3.25 each.
Jeff has his regulars who like to try new menu items, saying about 20 to 30 percent of his customers are from nearby Lindenwood University. He’s hoping to reach out to new customers.
“Just give us a chance,” he said. “Everybody (who) tries us loves us.”
He knows the location has a reputation of not having long-lasting businesses. He hopes to change that.
“Given our appeal, to the taste, to the creativity — I’m not closing.”
The Sweet Tooth
What: Walk-up eatery serving sandwiches, nachos, salads and more. Indoor dining to open in 2017, seating about 30. Delivery available.
Where: 4004 W. Main St., Belleville
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Information: 618-974-2151 or https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-sweet-tooth-belleville
On the menu
Shrimp Salad: Spring mix lettuce, shredded cheese, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, mild banana peppers. Includes six skewered grilled shrimp. $11.99
Cajun Chicken Quesadilla: 10 inches, served with fries. $9.99
TST Steak Tacos: Two 6-inch soft tacos. $6
The Cavity Footlong: Smoked wiener with smoked bacon, steamed onions, steamed peppers, jalapenos, pepperoni and house-made sauces. Served with fries. $12.99
Buffalo Fries: Cajun chicken chunks on top of cheesy fries. Topped with buffalo wing sauce and Parmesan ranch. $9.99
Funnel Cake: 8-inch, powered plain. $7.99. Each topping 50 cents.