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.
Customers can see the brewery in action as they walk through the front entrance.
The open space of the main bar provides quick access to food trucks and an easy view of 4th Street.
The rear bar area is a bit more intimate and can be used as event space or for spillover traffic.
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.