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Archive for the ‘Mobile Food’ Category

Leftovers: Truck to Table

Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 14, 2014

I’ve been writing for 614 Magazine sporadically for the last year and more frequently for their new Food and Beverage quarterly Stock and Barrel. I had pitched an idea to the editor about writing about many of our food truckers that are making the jump to Brick and Mortar restaurant spaces. When I pitched the concept they already had it in development but I was asked if they could use Truck to Table as part of the headline and I was happy to do it.

The photos were taken but the story did not develop as planned so I was contacted and asked if I could do it in 48 hours. I was up for the task since I know the subject matter well and because I have a kitchen renovation to help pay for. The article was to focus on food but I had some challenges. One site was undergoing a menu change, another was closed due to a power outage and the third I did not have time to visit. So, I opted to write “big” (going way over word count) to write the stories of the guys behind the food and hoped that the editor could condense into something useable. He did….a lot of condensing. So you can do an compare and contrast by reading this final cut for print -> HERE and the original draft with sidebars, below.


Truck to Table

Zach James
Truck – Paddy Wagon
Table – Jailhouse Rock at Little Rock

In August 2010 Zach James was a student at OSU that liked to hang out at Dick’s Den. He formed a fast friend/mentorship with JP Potter of Fusion Café one of the first food trucks in the city, which often served at James’ watering hole.

James was looking for a challenge and wanted to push his boundaries after a series of food service jobs. Potter revealed his mobile food secrets: how to get started, navigate regulations, etc. and James was a quick study. The original concept for his truck Paddywagon was a burger based menu. His original beat was a mission to dispel the roach coach myth. James learned a lot about branding in his early days which led to two big changes. James changed the wrap on his truck and shifted his focus from burgers to brisket. The first time he sold out all of his brisket was the moment the deputy shifted to thinking like a Sheriff. He knew he was ready to grow out the business and stake his claim on a permanent spot.

One dark night, while sharing beers with Daniel McCarthy (Tatoheads) at St. James Tavern, James was approached by a regular customer who told him about a new bar opening down 4th Street. The bar was looking to partner with a truck so James decided to commit to the new spot for the duration. That bar was Little Rock. After seeing how good food meant good business, owner Quinn Fallon asked James to look at a small space in the bar to see if James could do anything with it. The nook in the back had a walk in cooler, a mop sink and 150 square feet to work with. After plotting out 20-30 configurations James finally found one that was more arresting than the others. Then looking at the layout and what equipment he could shimmy in, he decided a hot dog menu was the best way to get the most out of the little space. Initial response was hot with many regulars working their way through the entire menu in a few visits, To keep customers coming back new items are integrating into the menu as specials and becoming regular items when they resonate with fans but hot dogs remain at the core of the kitchen. Since the space is small like a prison cell and to stay on the with the Paddywagon theme, James dubbed the space the Jailhouse. The operation has also taken a cue from Late Night Slice with some signature (and very, very tasty) sauces available to slather on whatever fills your plate. The Jailhouse recently added Sophie’s Pierogi’s (a truck turned cart) pierogi to the menu to mix things even up more.

What James has learned in his drive from truck to rock and roll dive is that Jailhouse serves as an anchor to consistently connect with his customers. In his experience, even his biggest fans are not going to invest time to find him online and then drive 30 minutes to eat at a different (random) location. Having Paddy Wagon inspired food at the Jailhouse gives James and his customers the consistency both have waited for. Menu items come with names inspired by the Paddy wagon law enforcement motif and the Rock and Roll vibe of Little Rock. James has also moved to Italian Village so he can be a part of the community he is helping to grow. In the meantime the truck rolls during the day and the Jailhouse rocks at night.

Matthew Heaggans
Truck – Swoop
Table – The Hey Hey, operating pop-up eatery Bebe
Table 2 – Swoop Take Over at Ace of Cups.

Forget professional objectivity, Matt Heaggans is my favorite chef to watch in action. In the kitchen he swoops into an action with the mental intensity of an Olympic athlete. A series of serendipitous events seem to be adding more ingredients and experiences to the recipe that may make Heaggans the next big thing.

A few years ago, Heaggans, a Columbus native was practicing his craft (he might say, getting schooled) in a French restaurant in DC. What he learned in that kitchen, “there was no way I would learn it all”. That did and still does serve as his daily inspiration to continue to learn and strive for the best quality in his craft. As he was pondering on what his next life lesson would be, a friend from Columbus contacted him for advice on starting a food truck. Heaggans offered to advice on finding and equipping a truck, consulted on a menu and volunteered to spend two weeks to help train the staff to execute the food he conjured up. While this was in process, his mother had an accident and then needed extra help at home, which was an excuse for fate to nudge Heaggans back home. The offer to help turned into an unexpected business venture and Heaggan’s was back in student mode again.
He figured out early on – to be a sustainable food truck business he needed to change the food he was serving. He “had to adjust to dishes that were tailored to shorter prep time, quicker turn around and tight work space of a truck. His style demands fresh food – which means he had to serve almost everything created earlier that day by the end of the day. A fresh food menu takes a lot of prep, space and forethought but along that path somehow his signature dish became tater tots.

According to Heaggans, “most cooks are in the kitchen to learn, and grow so the natural progression is to keep growing by expanding the business or the menu”. In the fall of 2013, when the opportunity of the Hey Hey popped up (passed to him by Angela Theado of The Coop) he was ready to have a little more elbow room in a slightly bigger kitchen.. He expected everyone would flock his way right away but the customer rush started with a trickle instead of a stampede. So he had an opportunity to spend more time with his customers, which at the Hey Hey is a very diverse clientel – a little bit of everything– every class and palate He had to create a menu that will connect with people with at any level. It was a lesson in adaptation.

This summer another opportunity presented itself. This one passed along by another food truck peer, Jamie Anderson of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. Anderson has a good gig set up next to Ace of Cups but the spot needed food the days that Ray Ray’s is not there and it needs a wider range of food and longer hours that Ray Ray’s could do sustainably. So Heaggans and Anderson agreed to pursuing menus that don’t step on others toes. Now Ace of Cups can offer food when its doors are open so owner Marcy Mays does not need to close the doors from exhaustion of running a bar and kitchen. So what is Heaggans lesson from the Swoop Ace of Cups Take Over? Delegation. He can’t be in three places at the same time but he can set the standards for the menus for all of his locations, make the sauces used on all menus and check on the other two when he is not cooking up a new creation at the Hey Hey. While the food at the Hey Hey leans towards comfort foods, the menu at the Ace of Cups plays out as classic bar food for sharing between beers or bands.

Daniel McCarthy
Truck: Tatoheads
Table: Public House

You can blame PBS for the interesting path which drove Daniel McCarthy to the food business. One might even say he entered it out of necessity. His single mother always worked so he had a choice of TV dinners or to make something that he wanted. Public Television was a constant so he grew up with the Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child instructing him in the background. As a teenager he would cut school and make everyone food when they snuck over to his home. As he got older he took a concept of Malcolm Galdwell’s which is one needs 10,000 hours doing something to be skilled at it so he decided at that point in his life, the only thing he had done for close to 10,000 hours was cooking, so he would make cooking as his livelihood.

When I spoke with Daniel McCarthy (I call him Tater) he has just spent the day reconfiguring all of the tables at the Public House (formerly Hall and Al’s). He had also been training staff and fine-tuning some mechanical concerns with his Tatoheads truck. It was well after 9 pm on a weeknight. McCarthy was tired. Running two businesses will take a lot out of a fella but this summer has been a busier that usual. After getting an 11th hour loan he was able to secure the capital he needed to take over the reins of Hal and Al’s but that also meant he had to move to a new house, open a new restaurant and change the home base for his food truck in ten days….during peak food truck season. Luckily, McCarthy is no stranger to a rapid life changes.

In late 2009, the native Chicagoan was given the opportunity to pursue his two passions. His girlfriend was moving to Columbus to go back to school, so he decided to chase her to the capital city. He also decided it was time to make a living by opening a restaurant. That deal fell through but while visiting Columbus he saw the Late Night Slice Truck in action so he decided, “I can do my thing without a restaurant”. McCarthy moved to Columbus in April 2010, bought the truck that May and opened for business on the September 3rd OSU home game that year. He learned a lot in a truck that reached 140 degrees inside. His first three outings were “dismal”. Then he decided he would stay at the same spot until he broke even for the day….that took 16 hours. After a few months he “figured out the trick to the food truck business…work, work, work”. The next step in his transition from truck to table occurred while he was working on a collaborative restaurant project that fell through at the last moment. While disappointed that the endeavor did not launch, he did walk away with an established team, a finished business plan and an extended network of supporters. One was the owner of Hal and Al’s who was looking for the right person to take over the Parsons Ave tavern, a spot that is as much about the community it serves as the food it plates. Having heard of McCarthy’s struggles and frequently experiencing McCarthy’s passion for his menu and desire to grow out his business, it was time for destiny to knock at Daniel’s door.

What McCarty learned in his transition from truck to table was the never-ending need to constantly change the business to accommodate what he learned on a daily basis and how to reconfigure the design and equipment in his truck kitchen to work best with the menu he wanted to execute. While Tatoheads has won the hearts and minds of the TatoNation through fries, McCarthy is excited to have the elbow room to flex his cooking muscles and show the public a diversity of menu he has wanted to do for years. In the process, Public House also become home base for the Tatoheads truck so he can prep menus for both concepts from one kitchen. His girlfriend will be using her horticulture skills from college to create and expand a community garden for the restaurant and the neighborhood. McCarthy has planted his roots on Parsons Ave. by moving his household there as well and he plans to grow with the community as the business blooms.

The original concept of Tatoheads was to have a rotating menu but McCarthy could not run with that concept because the fries were so popular. Now with Public House he plans to add dishes like Shepards Pie, Chicken and Potato Pot Pie and more. He is also excited to have the space to do catering, events and parties. He is even more excited about growing a new business in an area where he feels his business can make a difference in the community. Maybe patrons will be watching PBS instead of NFL at Public House?


Sidebars

Table To Truck (Restaurants that have gone mobile)

White Castle – two food trucks
Donatos – One food trailer
Cuco’s – one food truck
Pizza Cottage – one food truck
Schmidt’s – two food trucks
Giant Eagle – Market Place Food Truck
Explorer’s Club – food truck
Los Jalapenos – Tortillas Food Truck
Costello’s (closed) – now the Cilantro Food Truck
Yabos Tacos – one Truck

More Truck or Cart to Table
Skyward Grille – from multiple carts to brick and mortar base of operations and restaurant
Late Night Slice – went from Shack, to Truck to over 8 locations across town
That Food Truck – Dan Kraus is working on a concept in Italian Village

Posted in FooderHero, Leftovers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Sophies Pierogi 2.0

Posted by CMH Gourmand on September 11, 2014

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Cuisine: Pierogi and more
614 715 3210
Facebook
Twitter
InstaGram: Sophies_gourmet_Pierogi

There are many paths into the Food truck field. There is Truck to Table – where ones goes from truck to their own restaurant. There is Table to Truck, where an established restaurant opts to go mobile to expand service or get out of the brick and mortar life. There is also the cart to truck progression. But Steve Redzinak took a different path. He started with a truck back in 2012. Then he got out of the business for a year and 1/2. But with the encouragement of many in the food truck community including: Swoop, Ajumama, Pickled Swine, Green Meanie, Matija Breads to name a few – he came back with a cart in May of 2014. You can read more about the earlier history of the truck in our previous post about Sophie’s.

The name of the cart, like the name of the truck, was inspired by two Sophie’s. The first is Steve’s mom, who paved the way for his passion for food. His grandmother inspired many of the recipes. You can see her below.

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The other Sophie, is Steve’s daughter. You can see both of them in the lead photo for this post.

The menu, obviously, focuses on Pierogi – which have never been widely available in Columbus. In addition to being delicious, this menu really fills and ethnic food niche. A pierogi, in case you have never tried one is boiled, stuffed dumpling from Poland and eastern Europe. The Sophie’s versions take that as a base, add interesting fillings on the inside and tasty toppings on the outside. Steve is an experienced, trained chef with plenty of experience to back up his family recipes.

During his break from the business, he took what he learned from Sophie’s 1.0 and applied it to the cart to make it a leaner, more viable business. This is what Steve shared with me. “We scaled down our mobile unit, simplified the menu while increasing our production ability. Our commissary is at Smokie’s BBQ / Little Tony’s Pizzeria on 900 Columbus Ave. in Marysville. As of Sept 1st, our Pierogi will be available Monday through Saturday for Dinner 4-9pm at Smokie’s BBQ. We are also supplying a few restaurants with our Pierogi such as Jail House Rock @ Little Rock Bar and Explorers Club” (Jailhouse is the brick and mortar version of Paddywagon and Explorer’s Club also has a food truck).

If you can’t find the cart out and about head to the other locations listed above. We have an example of a typical pierogi menu below.

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And here is a photo of a Sophie’s pierogi at it’s finest.

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Posted in Mobile Food | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

New Category: Leftovers – First Serving: Columbus Mobile Food Timeline

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 22, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Gourmets and Gourmands, I’d like to introduce you to a new category on the blog, leftovers.

Working a a free-lance writer I sometimes find myself with leftover material or something that met with the chopping block when a magazine runs out of space or runs out of time to get something to print. For this first edition of leftovers, I am sharing a timeline of the history of mobile food in Columbus. This was to go with a story about Jim Pashovich (The Godfather of Mobile Food) of Pitabilities. I’d also like to thank Jim for helping with some of the details as I was putting the timeline together. The story about Jim appears in the new publication, Stock and Barrel which is just now hitting the spots where you usually find 614 Magazine. Bon Lecture.


1886 – Schmidt’s opens in Columbus as a meat packing company. A tradition of serving sausage to go begins which includes the Ohio State Fair (1914 to present) and countless festivals

1934 White Castle, the first fast food restaurant moves headquarters to Columbus

1972 Jeff Morris starts All A Cart Manufacturing, which grows to make all styles of food carts, trucks and kiosks for sale all over the world

1978 Harry Hirschinger “Hot Dog Harry” starts his company, which grows to 18 carts serving Columbus by the time it is sold in the 1990’s

1985 – The Burrito Buggy begins serving Ohio University students in Athens Ohio; it trains a generation of Columbus immigrants to crave trailer food

1986 Derek’s Gyros (founder Jim Pashovich) opens the first gyro cart in Columbus (name changed in 1994 to Skyward Grille)

1990 Bunny & Michelle’s Food trailer starts serving at an east side Home Depot

1990 Kevin & Lori Ames started a food cart (Ames to Please) and later sold it to Open Fresno in the Short North

1990’s Hot Dog and Gyro Carts are popular on the OSU campus, the County Courthouse, The Statehouse and the Arena District. As the numbers increase so does the pressure, competition results in a cart pushed into the river and new regulations for food carts in the city.

1996 Skyward Grill left the sidewalks of Columbus to serve at Columbus State Community College and OSU Medical Center.

2002 taco trucks first appear in Columbus on the west side

2009 a website called Taco Trucks Columbus launches after three food writers find out that instead of four or five taco trucks our city supports almost 45.

2010 Boston Bert’s takes over a space in Clintonville that has been home to a lunchtime food trailer serving Marzetti workers

2010 – the first of a new wave of food trucks and carts takes Columbus by storm – including Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, Mojo Tago, Late Night Slice and Leslie’s Creperie

July 2010 Those previously mentioned food writers start another website, Street Eats Columbus

August 2010 first large food truck events occur at Wonderland and The Ohio Historical Society

Spring 2011 Jeni’s ice Cream adds a truck and a Bajaj to their mobile scooping options

July 2011 Los Guachos gets national attention in Maxim Magazine

July 2011 The Food Fort opens helping entrepreneurs start in the mobile food business through consulting and food cart rental (I work there October 2011 to September 2013)

August 2011 First Food Truck and Cart Festival at Columbus Commons

May 2012 Hot Dog Harry passes away

Summer 2012, the marriage of food trucks and taprooms begins at Zauber Brewing Co

August 2012 First Vendy Awards at the Food Truck and Cart Festival

Fall 2012 Schmidt’s launches their first food truck

December 2012 Serious Eats shares 5 Incredible Tacos from Columbus with the nation

March 2013 – That Food Truck is featured on Nightline

Summer 2013 – City of Columbus investigates possible pilot program for food trucks – while the effort was appreciated, the outcome was as popular as a flat tire

Summer 2013 White Castle launches two food trucks to serve Cravers across the nation

September 2013, The Cooking Network program Eat Street visits Columbus to profile six different food trucks. Episodes should air summer of 2014

April 2014 – Led by Council Member Michelle Mills, the city of Columbus passes what may be the most progressive food truck regulations in the USA

Spring 2014 – more food trucks launch in a community which including Taco Trucks, Food Carts, Trailers and Food Trucks exceeds 150 mobile kitchens. This number includes operations with multiple trucks including Late Night Slice, Mojo Tago, Pitabilities, Schmidt’s and more

May 2014
Mobile Food Advisory Board formed by the City of Columbus. Board members include Jim Pashovich from Pitabilities, Mikey Sorboro from Late Night Slice and Jim Ellison, listed as “Citizen at Large”

Posted in Leftovers, Mobile Food | 1 Comment »

Flat Top Pizza Company: New to the Streets

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 20, 2014

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Cuisine: Pizza, Ice Cream, Soda and Seasonal specials

Website
Facebook
Twitter
614.285.4309

We begin with a bit of Columbus Mobile Food culture. You may have heard of Mikey’s Late Night Slice, a guy named Mike started the first mobile pizza empire in the city. Then you may have heard of Pizza Mike, Mike Evans owned the first restaurant (pizzeria) in Westerville to serve booze in the dry city. Then his pizzeria burned down. Mike was on the Great Food Race and used that experience to start a food truck last year. And then there is Mike and Other Mike. In 2012 a couple of lads working on a food cart decided they needed to do something different to stand out from the cart crowd, so they started doing a grilled cheese style pizza on a cart. The concept worked but they found a cart limiting so they started working on a truck. It took a lot longer to build out the truck than expected so Mike opted for full-time employment while Other Mike continued plugging, painting and paying away on the Pizza Truck. Other Mike is owner/operator/dough slinger Mike Cyan. The lesson of this paragraph – if your name is Mike you are probably running a pizza truck. The name of the truck is an homage to how the pizza is crafted, on a flat top grill.

Flat Top pizza is much more than pizza. The menu also includes truck made ice cream and craft soda. Future menu items may include pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls and soups.

The pizzas start with homemade dough and high grade ingredients. The sauces and pesto are made from scratch.

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The ice cream is made in small batches and served in scoops or floats.

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The soda pops are hand crafted as well with a mix of traditional with not so traditional flavors. Mike makes special syrups and flavorings for each pop, which are mixed to order.

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As for the name, Flat Top Pizza is made on a grill not in a pizza oven. The end result still combines pizza with a little grilled cheese char.

We like the look of the truck as well (as do many of the other food truck owners in town). Mike spent a long time crafting his truck, doing almost all of the work on his own. There is a cool retro look to the Flat Top (a Grumman truck, older than Mike is) with wood doors integrated into the design. Adding to the retro, pizza to go is served in paper bags (the way pizza was served back in the 1940’s and 1950’s). Flat Top officially launched in May 2014 so keep an eye out for truck as it starts to build a following at the usual spots. The easiest place to find Flat Top in action will be at Zauber Brewing Company, check with the truck and the brewery for schedule information.

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Posted in gelato, ice cream, Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, pizza | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Ice Man Cometh: Dan Kraus – That Food Truck

Posted by CMH Gourmand on February 14, 2014

Some of you have heard of That Food Truck. The name might not be memorable but the owner is. I met Dan when he first started building the truck in 2012. I’ve watched him finish out the truck, saw his first day serving to the public and was happy to see him featured on Nightline and noted as a Tastemaker in Crave Magazine back in 2013. Dan is the real deal. His guiding passion is the art and craft of cooking. He butchers his own pigs, smokes his own meat and never considers cutting a corner that would compromise his “order up”.

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For the last several months, Dan has been hanging his hat at Seventh Son Brewing Friday nights and Saturday Noon to 5 pm. Dan loads up his smoker with wood on Friday and keeps smoking through Saturday afternoon. Out of those hallowed smoker doors come brisket, chicken, pork and occasionally lamb. Oh, the lamb. The food is amazing. But the story behind the meal is even more intriguing.

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You may have noticed it has been very cold all winter. That has not hindered Dan. Schools and businesses may close. Seventh Son was even hit by a truck – but Dan has continued to press on. Rain or shine, cold or colder, Dan monitors his smoker all night and throughout the morning. He checks on his meat every 45 minutes to one hour. You may be scratching your head at this point so let me elaborate. Dan takes cat naps in his truck all night, getting up to check his temperatures every hour. If he loses his fire or his temperatures go under his target mark, he will need to cook an additional four hours to make up for every 1 hour he loses. So how exactly does one comfortably sleep in a food truck? Well, one does not. See the photo below as Dan demonstrates how he spends his late night Fridays and early morning Saturdays.

Before
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After (Dan places himself on the counter, note it is shorter than he is)
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One night the interior temperature dropped below 20 and Dan could see ice on some of his inside equipment. Is he tucked under layers of blankets and buried in expensive Arctic explorer style parkas and snow pants? No way. Only one thing protects him from the elements – Carhartt. So next time you grab something to go from Dan or complain about the walk from your office to your car, think about the journey your sandwich made to get to your belly and throw an extra dollar in the tip jar. Dan earned it.

Posted in CLOSED, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, FooderHero, Locally Sourced, Mobile Food, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ray Ray’s Revisited: The Good, The Bad and The Yummy

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 17, 2014

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I seem to have a tradition to write about Ray Ray’s once per year. So I’ll start early for 2014. Let’s get the bad over with. Ray Ray’s Chicken Wing Shack is no more. The project had a good run and created some of the best wings in town, but it is no more. RIP Ray Ray’s Chicken Wings.

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Chicken lovers, don’t be downtrodden but instead rejoice, for out of the ashes like a phoenix has risen a new menu item. The Pulled Chicken BBQ sandwich with Pineapple Cabbage Slaw. Oh Boy! This is a phenomenal combination. It is available Fridays and I have had it on a Sunday too. The chicken is cooked well and shredded to ease the chewing process. The slaw has plenty of fresh shredded purple cabbage mixed with a bit of pineapple to accentuate and compliment the sweet flavors from the house made BBQ sauce. This sandwich is the total package. It is a great addition to the menu.

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Everything else that we love about Ray Ray’s continues as always. There is still easy access to the Ace of Cups patio and interior so you don’t have to eat on the run.

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Posted in BBQ, Clintonville, Mobile Food | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Swooping into the Coop’s spot at the Hey Hey

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 11, 2013

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The Hey Hey is an iconic dive bar located in Merion Village / German Village. It previously served as host kitchen to Angela Theado of the Coop. The Coop will soon be perched in a new spot in Clintonville so Angie put out a call for another Food Truck chef to fill her spot. Matt Heaggans swooped in to get that spot as the brick and mortar extension of his Swoop Food Truck.

Actually, the official name of Swoop is Swoop Food Group and it is now a combination of a food truck, two food carts and a lot of good culinary ideas. The Swoop truck was birthed in Washington D.C. a few years ago. It was at that time that my relationship with Swoop began. The captain guiding the ship at Swoop is Chef Matt Heaggans. About two years ago, I started e-mailing with him as he was planning his journey back to Columbus. I have come to know Matt and his crew well over the last year. The constant theme in anything Matt does is a desire to do more than expected and do it better. He maintains a high standard for all of the food he prepares from a lowly tater tot to the most haute of cuisines. Matt is a man of many words however, I enjoy him best when he is quiet. Let me clarify that. I have watched him intently crafting a dish in a kitchen with intense concentration and focus. At these moments he is in the zone and it is truly a pleasure to observe. What I enjoy best is watching him silently watch someone who is enjoying what he has created for them. He watches, smiles briefly then moves on. Sometimes the smile is a smirk and other times it is a large grin but it is always from the heart. Matt is happiest when he can see someone enjoy the craft of his labors.

The Hey Hey has a long tradition of serving food. The old standard expected from any chef who calls the kitchen home are the sauerkraut balls. Yak was added to the menu by the Coop and it continues as the signature protein of the Swoop menu. A bit of back story on Yak. The son of the owner of the Hey Hey operates a Yak Farm. The Coop featured a Yak Burger when it was a food truck. That relationship fostered the transition of the Coop to roost in the kitchen of the Hey Hey. Yak was quickly embraced by the very diverse clientage of the Hey Hey and has become so entwined with the Hey Hey experience that it had to remain on the new Swoop menu.

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I am sure that menu may change over time. I am also confident that two of the new menu items will remain as long as Matt is cooking in the Kitchen. The first is a burger that was described by one person I dined with as the “best fucking burger ever”. That was from a man who rarely uses profanity. His wife, who does use profanity frequently, took a different approach. She silently ate much more of the burger than she planned, a lot more. She was impressed too – but speechless about it which is the highest of compliments. The Yak Attack is a double Yak Burger served on a toasted brioche bun (made by Matt Swint formerly of the Per Zoot Food Truck), a special sauce (which I can not reveal) and a garnish of arugula, diced onion and tomato. It may sound exotic but I would say it is the epitome of a classic American burger just with yak instead of beef. It tastes lean. The bun is moist and has a slight crunch but just enough firmness to hold everything in place. It is among the finest burgers I have ever had. Given the opportunity to sample a few more over the course of time, I may even come to call it the best burger ever. I don’t give praise like that away. The Yak Attack is all that but does not need the bag of nuts.

The second menu feature I foresee as an enduring feature is House Pimento Cheese with Toasted Bread. The cheese dip has just enough spicy kick to it to keep your attention. The toasted bread is dense, chewy and filled with plenty of holes to soak up the dip. This is the perfect item to share with friends. Soon you will be interested to find how many other menu items you will find yourself spreading leftover cheese sauce on.

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There are many good reasons to go to the Hey Hey. You can go to enjoy the bar, soak in the history of the place, enjoy one of the wonderful live music performances hosted there, or partake in some exquisite people watching. And now the Hey hey adds in some of the finest bar food or any food for that matter. Check it out Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays evenings.

Hey Hey Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in CLOSED, hamburgers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Food Truck Tour via Columbus Food Adventures

Posted by CMH Gourmand on July 16, 2013

One might think that as writer and tri-creator of Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus (as well as my daily work with the food truck community) that I would be food trucked out. Quite the opposite. I found that I wanted a fresh perspective and different point of view on mobile food. I hoped to feel like it was my first taste into this culture again. I wanted to see the world of food trucks through fresh eyes once more. So instead of being my own guide, I opted to ride along on the newly added Food Truck Tour with Columbus Food Adventures as an anonymous rider and to listen to the questions “greenhorns” would have.

One might say, with the two websites in place, why would anyone want to go on a tour of food trucks when you can DIY. I would counter with – why wouldn’t you not want to take a tour? If you have never tried a food truck, then you want to do a tour for sure. First, the tour ensures you are sampling some of the best in the city. Second, you are being educated on the culture and nuances of the food truck world at each stop as well as additional background and commentary between each destination. Third, you typically get to meet the owners of the food trucks and have one on one time with them. Often they are creating a sampler of some of their favorite dishes to share with you to make a first good impression to get you to come back. Fourth it is fun. Fifth there are five trucks to try. Sixth it is a great way to meet new people who share a common interest….or at least a curiosity. And seventh, you will be full by the middle of the tour and definitely stuffed at the end.

So if you are a newbie to this world, the reasons above should sell you on the concept. But what if you are an experienced Taco Trucker or Food Truck enthusiast like me? In my own experiences, my personal interaction with food trucks for food has become pure hunter and gatherer mode…wham, bam, thank you ma’am of sir as I get my food and go. On the tour, I was able to go back to the good old days where I could sit back and leisurely enjoy my food while getting to know the owner and finding out why they decided to do this as their living. That was a big part of the joy for me in the beginning of my mobile food exploration phase where I could appreciate the personal connection between the customer and owner. The experience changes from transactional to educational and conversational. Plus, the sampler plates are often unique to the tour. Indecisive and don’t know what to order, these mobile amuse bouches (can I use that word?) will give you a quick and efficient sample of what the truck boss thinks is the best.

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The current tour presents a variety of menus and a mix of old pros and new kids on the block.

Our first stop was Ajumama which is based at the future site of Zauber Brewing in 5th Ave. Chef Laura Lee creates a mini sampler of 3-4 of her signature dishes. She is very articulate and passionate about her business and takes pride in explaining her Korean cuisine.

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Next on our route was Ray Ray’s, now based at Ace of Cups in Old North Columbus. The sampler here is a mix of brisket, pork, a rib, a chicken wing from Jamie’s new venture inside the bar and his personal favorite sidedish, a mini serving of greens (which he says he eats with every meal).

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Ray Ray’s former location is the new home of Mya’s Chicken. Mark the chef, owner and chief chicken fryer presents a slightly different sampler each time based on his signature items as well as what his daily special may be. And thank goodness, there is a biscuit, one of the best in the city.

Our fourth stop (ownership has changed (2019) so I was requested by the new owners to remove mention of the truck in question from this post because (I speculate) they were concerned a post from 2013 might hurt their brand. So I will say that in 2013 the only Indonesian food truck in Columbus (and probably the only Indonesian food based experience to be had in central Ohio or Ohio as a state). There really is nothing like this in town. As a bonus, (name removed) shares a parking lot of Taco Nazo, one of the favorites of the Taco Trucks Columbus team so a little Taco Truck history is thrown in as a no calorie side dish.

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The fifth and final destination for our tour was Tokyo GoGo based at Brothers Drake in the Short North (this changed in 2017). In addition to getting an education on authentic Japanese style late night bar food there is an opportunity to try some very unique Ohio made mead in the process.

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The itinerary I joined may not be the same as the one you take on your tour but you can expect to try five or more of the best trucks in town and then be well prepared to continue on your own food truck adventures afterwards.

For more information on the Food Truck Tour, cruise over to the Columbus Food Adventures website.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Mobile Food, Road Trip, tour | Leave a Comment »

Yerba Buena is Back….Again.

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 16, 2013

Not unlike the Terminator, Yerba Buena keeps going down for the count and then comes back from nowhere. When I last check-in in with Carlos and Carolina about the fate of Yerba Buena in Spring of 2012, the trailer was for sale because they were too busy with a new restaurant and an even newer child. But last week I saw the trailer back in the old spot. I called the restaurant, left a message….No response. And today….it was open. Yerba Buena is the mobile version of El Arepazo which means great food within walking distance of my house. El Arepazo started as a stall at the Latino Festival – then became a restaurant and then a second restaurant. The trailer has a really good run in 2011 but then ran in to some problems with their location.

Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez are the husband and wife owners of the restaurant. You can follow their story at the El Arepazo Facebook page.

The mobile menu mirrors the restaurant menu and is the same as the last time the trailer was working. Items include arepas (corn cakes), plantains, chorizo, empanadas and assort Latino beverages.

Yerba Buena
4490 Indianola Ave
Clintonville (about five blocks south of Morse Road)
Facebook
Wednesday to Saturday 3:30 pm to 8:30 pm (based on previous experience, these hours will change).
And please note: CASH Only, no credit cards.

(Note: Yes this is largely recycled content – my belly was full when I visited to confirm hours today).

Posted in CLOSED, Mobile Food | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Seventh Son: The Marriage of Microbrewing and Mobile Food

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 30, 2013

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The two surging trends in the Columbus Food scene for the last two years have been microbrewing and microrestauranting – in the form of food trucks. The exponential growth of both has been staggering. In the case of microbreweries as well as specialty beers stores and bars focusing on locally and regionally brewed beer, the number of businesses tapping into this trend has at least quadrupled since 2011. As for Food Trucks, although some have asked if this is a fad that is jumping the shark, the evidence shows this trend has shown no sign of going off the road at the curve. My observation indicates our choices have grown by nearly ten fold in the last couple years.

Some of the elements these two microenterprises have in common include: a desire to own a business, to be able to create something unique to the owner/brewer/team, a focus on local ingredients as well as supporting other local businesses and a sense of contentment of not having to be all things to all people and to not have to dumb down quality for the additional opportunities of being on more shelves or serving more people at more locations. Such is not the case for all owners…some food truck owners view their business as a pathway to a restaurant or other food business. Some Microbreweries have an eye on additional products or markets, but for the most part, the people behind these businesses are happy to have a sustainable business that allows them to earn a living and create something that is a reflection of themselves and their values.

The pairing of these two businesses is a natural fit. The costs of adding a full kitchen to a microbrewing enterprise is daunting. The challenge of finding a location to park and serve to a captive audience that has a reason to stick around and access to amenities like tables, chairs and bathrooms is helpful to a food truck. The trucks need a place to set up. The breweries need food to help draw in customers and to keep their customers on site longer. The marriage of these two types of independent businesses is a marriage that is destined to last.

In the early days of mobile food, bars and food trucks established a quick bond. St. James Tavern, Dick’s Den and a few other watering holes were quick to see the advantages of having fresh food to serve to their patrons…good for the bar business. Access to a set location is key, though maybe counterintuitive, to most mobile food businesses. While not mobile, the expansion of Mikey’s Late Night slice to Woodlands, the Newport and other bar venues was critical to the growth of that business and to the success of the businesses Mikey and Company paired themselves with.

Geoff Towne at Zauber Brewing Company was the first to pair microbrew with regular scheduled appearances by multiple food trucks. What started as growler pours at lunch or dinnertime grew into larger monthly events. We can expect to see more of the same from Zauber in 2013.

At the dawn of this year, Seventh Son Brewing Company started a similar pairing but what makes the place unique is that the layout and design of the brewery, bar and space was with the intention of having food trucks on site on a regular basis. Currently, Seventh Son hosts mobile food Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Saturday and Sunday lunch and brunch service are in the works. Seventh Son just started to offer their own beers to the public in April. In addition to their own brews, the bar maintains a focus on local and regional beers and spirits. These pair perfectly with the food truck offerings. All in all the combination of location, beer and food makes Seventh Son a Hipster Heaven and acts as an anchor for the growth of the Italian Village neighborhood. This is a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. More than two types of businesses benefit, the community does as well with the addition of more food choices in a neighborhood lacking them and on the end there is a stronger community.

Now for a photo tour of Seventh Son.

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Customers can see the brewery in action as they walk through the front entrance.

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The open space of the main bar provides quick access to food trucks and an easy view of 4th Street.

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The rear bar area is a bit more intimate and can be used as event space or for spillover traffic.

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The large outdoor patio has plenty of tables, quick access to the inside as well as to the food trucks in the parking lot and a fire ring to allow to space to continue to be cozy in the frigid late fall and wet early spring of Columbus.

Seventh Son Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

Posted in beer, Mobile Food | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »