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Kenny’s Meat Wagon (Truck)

2 Mar

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon Facebook
Kenny’s Meat Wagon Instagram
Kenny’s Meat Wagon Twitter

Phone: (614) 425-0556

Let’s start with some mobile food math. What happens when you take this:

Flat Top Pizza

Then add one of these:

Kennys Meat Wagon Cart

The end result equals this, the breakaway favorite of the winter 2017 food truck season, Kenny’s Meat Wagon (2.0).

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon has established a reputation on serving big, man sized sandwiches with lots of fresh ingredients and exceptional locally sourced breads. See a few examples below.

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Kenny’s Meat Wagon started as a cart in 2013. Being a bit under the radar and a smaller profile cart he won notoriety at several food trucks events including best food cart in Columbus in 2014 at the Columbus Food Truck Festival, in 2015, best overall vendor at the Q FM 96 food truck festival, in 2016, 2nd place overall in the Columbus Food Truck Festival.

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In the late fall of 2016 inspired by a spin of the Lend Lease Act between England and the USA during World War Two, Kenny’s Meat Wagon brokered access to the Flattop Pizza Truck (with the arcane knowledge of its owner Mike Cryan) thus Kenny’s Meat Wagon (2.0, Truck, Kenny’s Mike Wagon) was born. This true Meat Wagon has been pounding the pavement pretty hard over the winter, something Kenny could not do in cart format. His timing was good since he was also expanding his family with a second child concurrently. The truck offers a more expanded menu than the cart could as well as the capacity to serve more people in a shorter period of time. I checked in with Kenny to find out more about his Meat Wagon.

1) What was the tipping point for you to start Kenny’s Meat Wagon?

I had been working an office job for 8 years and not going very far. I really didn’t like the office life and wanted to do something else but I felt stuck. I had always wanted to get into the restaurant industry but the thought of cooking someone else’s food and working crazy hours didn’t sound great to me. My wife had been pushing the food cart idea for a while. We saved up as much as we could, then, one day while staring out the window of the office I decided to go for it. My wife backed me 1000% of the time and we jumped in feet first. My last day in the office was a Thursday, we got married on Friday, took a little honeymoon and I was a full time food cart owner/operator when we got home

2) You operated as a cart for over three years, what are the pros and cons of operating from a cart vs. a truck. Is there anything you miss about being a cart operator?

I have to say that there’s not a whole lot that I miss about running a food cart! I had a ton of fun and got to work some really fun events and meet a countless number of amazing people. But, it is hard, physical work, hot in the summer and nearly impossible to operate in the winter. The food truck has given me the opportunity to run through the winter. It has also allowed me to expand the menu in ways that I never could with the cart. It has opened the door to use ingredients that I could never use on the cart. The thing that I do miss the most about the cart is not having the face to face contact with the regulars I’ve built up over time. I’ve met some really amazing, interesting people over the years and I’ve had some great conversations while cooking their food. I also think that people really like to be able to watch their food be prepared in front of them.


3) What type of culinary experiences did you have prior to starting the cart?

I had no professional cooking experience when I started the cart. I had never gone to culinary school. I am pretty much completely self-taught when it comes to cooking. I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen, reading recipes and helping as I could. I started to really learn watching Alton Brown on the Food Network. He really got me interested in the science of cooking, and how and why you use different techniques in the kitchen. I practised as much as I could. Anytime friends or family had parties, tailgates, etc. I would always jump on the opportunity to “cater” the event and try new things. Everyone I knew became guinea pigs in whatever experiment I was on at the time. They enjoyed that most of the time but trust me, not everything is a winner! Just learn and adapt and keep on moving!

4) When did you know that you loved to cook and wanted to do so for a living? Do you have strong food traditions in your family growing up?

I enjoyed food from a very early age. As I was getting out of high school and beyond is when I really stared to realize that cooking was my future. We didn’t really have strong food traditions growing up. My mom did make sure that we always had really good home-made food on the table every night. She had her core recipes that she stuck with (some that I still cook today), and she would experiment when she could. Being around and having good food so often is what really got me interested in cooking. Without my mom, I don’t think I would be the cook that I am today.

5) Most of your menu is sandwich based and often skews toward items like Italian Beef Sandwiches as well as what objective people such as my wife consider to be the best Italian sub in the state of Ohio. What inspired your choice of sandwiches? Do you have Italian family connections where you grew up? Did you discover Italian Beef while in Chicago?

I’ve spent my whole life making everything into sandwiches. Having pasta for dinner? Butter some bread and eat it like a sandwich! Breakfast? Pile it all between your toast and eat it like a sandwich! I discovered Italian Beef on my first trip out Chicago and I was hooked. The au jus soaked bread with tender, thin sliced beef with giardiniera and roasted peppers immediately became my favorite sandwich. I started trying to recreate it as soon as I got home. When starting the cart I needed something that no one else had and Italian Beef was it. The rest of the menu has come since then based on my favorite things to eat. I put a ton of thought into every item on the menu. Everything on the menu has been tested and tweaked countless times before you even see it as a customer. Quality is not something to take lightly. Our THE Italian Sandwich that you referenced has been an evolving sandwich for the last 3 years. We’ve finally gotten it to where I’m 100% happy with it. It is absolutely my favorite sandwich on the menu.

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Baba’s Porch

3 Nov

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Phone: 614-262-2227

You may not know it but you have met Baba’s Porch before – in the form of That Food Truck and in particular, Dan Kraus.

When the engine of That Food Truck died, Dan had to find another path to your stomachs. A bit tight on cash while building out his restaurant Baba’s Kitchen, Dan found a trailer and started working on a concept to compliment his brick and mortar project. He also took what he learned from a few years of smoking meats on the fly and built a new smoker to add to Baba’s Porch. Baba’s has been serving Friday nights at Seventh Son Brewing and occasional Saturday afternoons to fill in for other mobile vendors. As Baba’s Kitchen slowly….but surely, comes close to completion Dan says he will continue to keep to Porch out for Friday night service and catering.

When Baba’s Kitchen opens you will find the Restaurant at 2515 Summit Street near the intersection of Hudson Street and 3rd Ave. You can expect to see the Baba’s trailer at Seventh Son and special events.

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I checked in with Dan between courses and construction to find out more about Baba’s Porch.

1) Let’s start with the smoker you built for Baba’s, any design enhancements or special features on this smoker from the previous one you built. What makes this smoker extra special to you?

This was the first smoker I fabricated and welded from beginning to end. It was an education during the whole process and being so intimate with the whole thing gave me a chance to really understand the dynamics of space and draft. Making sure its airtight between the firebox and cooking chamber is what kicked this up to another level and maintain consistent temps regardless of barometric pressure.

2) What was the transition like from Truck to Trailer? You are accustomed to tight spaces but its looks like you have to get creative with the space. What do you like best about trailer life?

In many ways it’s a lot easier. Building the trailer out after having That Food Truck for so many years, we knew exactly what was needed and shed the rest. Simplifying the line and having only what is absolutely necessary makes it a breeze to have everything within reach. trim the fat to save the meat. The best thing about trailer life is no rusty ass engine to break down. I can rest knowing as long as I have access to a truck, I can make the gig, no problem.

3) Baba’s Porch will continue after you open Baba’s Kitchen, how do you think the Porch may change as the kitchen grows and you start the grocery aspect to the business?

The Porch will be our place to shine a spotlight on the smoked meats. Simple, smoked sandwiches will always be flying out the window. Having access to more produce and homemade items from Baba’s Kitchen will allow us to play with specials and sides.

4) You have a secret weapon at Baba’s now – Tim. Can you share your history with him and why he is such a great addition to the team?

I met Tim in Culinary school in Portland OR ten years ago and we clicked right away. We have parallel ways of thinking about food and how it should be prepared. We started this conversation about our own place way back then with intent to open a truck in Portland. Literally life happened as my wife and I found out we were pregnant and decided to move back to Ohio. Tim went on to Hawaii and Minnesota and really honed in on some tight culinary skills. His high end expertise and managing a huge line at Lafayette Club has really matured his kitchen nature and often reels my more wild eyed approach. We can challenge each other in respectful ways to find the most delicious and efficient ways to build a plate.

5) Your other secret weapon is your wife Caroline. What are some of the ways she has helped with both projects over the last year?

Can I just say everything, lol? Caroline has supported every crazy idea and move I wanted to make. She gives me the foundation and real support anyone trying to do this would need. She gives words to my ideas and helps organize the chaos. Outside of the actual cooking she is involved in every aspect of the business. Concepts, construction, finance, design, and and networking, Caroline is all over it. Its so cliche, but she is my rock.

She is itching to get Baba’s blog populated with stories of the line and gorgeous food photos.

6) What one (or two) things do you want people to know about Baba’s Porch?

First that we have felt the support for the change of business. We lost TFT and were worried about re-branding and loosing some of the steam we had with the old truck. But Columbus people are awesome and have showed up hungry and left with smiles.

Its an elementary introduction to the food Tim and I can cook. Simple and quick as truck food needs to be. But what flies out of Baba’s Kitchen is elevated with the luxury of time and space. Basically, if you like the Porch food you will love what Baba’s is serving up!

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Sock Hop Soda Shop

26 Oct

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Sock Hop Soda Shop

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The Sock Hop Soda shop is the creation of Terry Levine, a 50’s enthusiast who literally brings the party to you. In world of mobile food, one path is to beat the streets looking for hungry customers, and the alternative to chase events and private parties – that is the approach for Sock Hop Soda Shop. The crew comes attired as soda jerks and works hard to create a fifties vibe with music, hula hoops, dancing (when not serving) and a soda shop style menu with ice cream and sandwiches. The team also rocks local with Velvet Ice Cream and Frosttop Root Beer.

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Sock Hop Velvet Menu

You will see them set up at events and private parties in the warm months, during the winter they bring the party inside (without the truck) by request.

Sock Hop Soda Shop

Native Eats

8 Apr

cart

Native Eats (Closed) 
(Locally sourced / eclectic)

Website: www.nativeeats.com
Facebook: NativeEats
Twitter: NativeEatsCbus

Native Eats is a new food cart in Columbus serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner menus with a strong emphasis on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. A photo of a recent menu is below and a link to their current menu is -> HERE. You can find them on a regular basis at Seventh Son Brewing on Saturdays for the Lunch/Brunch shift. Expect to see them more places soon.

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So far we have sampled the Sweet Potato and Beet Burger (seen below) and the Barbacoa Breakfast Torta. Both offered great flavor and fresh ingredients including buns made my Matt Swint (who ran the Per Zoot food truck in the past) of Matija Breads (a favorite purveyor of local mobile vendors).

beet burger

Like any new business, especially in the world of mobile food there will be changes and shifts in the menu over “season one” and we think this cart is off to a strong start. We asked Alyssa Block a few questions about getting started and we share the answers below.

1) What inspired your menu?

Community. Native Eats unites community by sourcing all of our main ingredients right here in Ohio. Quality. This is another thing that drives our brand. We take no short cuts, all of our meat is grass-fed and sourced locally and all of our breads are fresh-baked locally. Sustainability. By sourcing our main ingredients locally, we not only stimulate the Ohio economy, but we also use less energy to receive our goods. Health. Grass fed, GMO free meats are significantly lower in fat than grain fed meats. We also always offer unique hand-made healthy options along with vegan and gluten-free options.

2) What did you do before starting the cart?

I worked in production for the Limited and still do to this day. This has taught me valuable lessons on cost negotiating, networking, vendor relations, and business relationship building.

3) Who else is on your team and what are their roles?

David Southwick doubles as both my boyfriend and my manager for the cart and staff. Erin Lamneck, Amber Roy, and Alena Southwick are all of our servers/prep cooks.

4) What did you do to get ready to launch this spring?

Reach out to as many vendors and gigs as possible. Start being active in the social media scene. Get active in the community by joining the City of Columbus food truck program, COFTA, and we are about to be a member of Experience Columbus. We have also been trying to get some press, such as (614), Fit Ohio, and Biz 1st

5) What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

Hard work pays off and doing things the morally correct way usually gets noticed. There will ALWAYS be hurdles in this business, but you make mistakes, learn from them, and prosper.

6) What do you want guests to know about your food and food philosophy?

We want them to know we believe in community, eating local, buying local, quality, health, and natural foods

7) Anything else to share with those new to native eats?

Everything is made from scratch and to be full of flavor. We are your #1 fan. We know you will love our food.

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Schmidt’s Sausage Truck

30 May

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Cuisine: Bavarian

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Street Food Finder
614.444.5050

In 1886, the Schmidt family started selling sausages and other meats in Columbus. In September 2012, Schmidt’s launched their Sausage Truck. Although the truck was new, Schmidt’s was not new to mobile food. Schmidt’s sold sausages from carts in the early days and they have been selling their wares from the Ohio State Fair for over a century. In between the early days and today, they also launched the city’s most iconic restaurant, Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. So it seems fitting that Schmidt’s would finally take to the streets with a few of their fan favorites.

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The menu features Bavarian favorites including: Bahama Mama, Bratwursts, Knockwursts, Fat Daddy’s (Thickly sliced, spicy German balogna sandwiches), Frankfurters and German Potato Salad. And have no fear, the truck carries as many cream puffs as they can squeeze in. Throughout the year, seasonal daily specials are offered such as soups and main dishes. Occasionally a special cream puff flavor will find a way on the menu as well.

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I’ll back track a bit to the Bahama Mama. If you are new to Columbus then you may not have heard of Schmidt’s most famous, signature dish. It is a mildly spicy sausage made with a mix of beef and pork with a touch of hickory smoke. If you can’t make it to German Village, a Schmidt’s Sausage Truck (we will see a second launch this year) will bring it to you.

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Melty Crue

24 May

Truck

Cuisine: Extreme Grilled Cheese inspired by coronary artery disease

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614.316.7805

The food truck owner equivalent of Tommy Lee is Neil Hertenstein. Neil has always been a go really big or go home type of guy. He drives around in a bright yellow Hummer and you can see below, when he decided to help launch a new truck concept in Columbus…..he was dedicated.

Neil

Neil Hertenstein, along with partners, Carlos Pasillias and Jason Davis are the dynamic trio behind Hungry Monkey (burgers) and Juniors Tacos (Carlos started his truck back in 2010 but opted to join forces with Neil a few years ago) decided Columbus needed more cheese in its diet. The concept is about 6 months old (as of May 2014) but quickly won best new food truck in Columbus in an Alive! poll.

So in case you have not already guessed the truck has a Motley Crue / heavy metal theme in everything it does including the wrap on the truck, the music in the background but thankfully not the hair.

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As for the menu – guests have a choice of fifteen styles of grilled cheese or customized Mac & Cheese.

I tried the Primal Reuben which included: grilled marble rye, shaved corn beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, double servings of mozzarella, provolone and Muenster (yes that is seven slices of cheese) and a bit of siracha mayonnaise to help all of that slide down.

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I’m happy to report the sandwich tastes really good. And unexpected bonus was that it was served with some high-end potato chips and a pickle. Here is an inside tip for you. Always eat the pickle – it aids digestion.

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Challah!

10 Jul

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Challah! debuted on June 30th and is Columbus’ first food truck specializing in Jewish cuisine. It turns out (from a quick google scan) that Jewish food trucks are popular in other cities, offering a combination of traditional favorites and Jewish fusion dishes (corned beef egg rolls!). Challah’s menu is predominantly sandwich-based, so far, with latkes also featuring prominently.

Co-owners Catie Randazzo and Shoshanna Gross recently moved from NYC to Columbus to open the new truck. They plan to use local ingredients whenever possible and everything (except the bread) is made from scratch on the truck. You can read more about the background of the truck here.

We visited them during their (absolutely mobbed) opening on June 30th and again for lunch when the duo were much calmer (if not cooler – food trucks can be brutal in the summer!).

challah menu

Pictured above is Challah’s lunch menu. Their late night menu adds a few more items:

Challah-loo-yah……………….………………………………………..…….…….$6.00
Brined chicken breast dredged in cornmeal and deep-fried. Servedwith pickled red
onion, cucumber and an herb mayo on a toasted challah roll.

Challah Back……………………………………………………………………………$5.00
Fried Egg and potato latke with mayo on a challah roll.
Add Corned Beef for $2.00

Fried Pickles…………………………………………………………………………….$3.00
Beer battered spicy pickles served with a sour cream and dill dipping sauce.

Sandwiches are made with either challah (surprise!) or rye breads, depending on the filling. You can also substitute bread for seasonal greens to make for a gluten free salad option. So far we’ve sampled full sized versions of the corned beef sandwich and the smoked whitefish sandwich as well as some mini samples of some of the others.

The corned beef sandwich comes with a homemade Russian dressing and smoky, vinaigrette-based coleslaw. It was a delicious, with one possible point of contention – the fattiness of the corned beef itself. To be fair, this is an entirely debatable point – there are definitely those who feel that the fattier the better, as far as corned beef goes.

jewish street food

The smoked whitefish sandwich (pictured below) is as appealing visually as it is tasty. Beets (no, they’re not tomato slices) may seem a surprising sandwich topping, but we thought they worked brilliantly with the whitefish. There’s a good balance of textures with a nice crunch from the latke contrasting the soft tuna salad-like whitefish. The whitefish is not overly strong in flavor and also not too heavy on mayo, a plus in our book. We also liked the added dill.

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Latkes are also available as a side and, as alluded to before, they have a nice crunchy exterior. The inside was tender and silky, and onions and potatoes were well balanced. I thought they’d be even better with some kind of dip or sauce, a little sour cream perhaps.

Challah! is a great new debut, and we’re looking forward to both seeing how they evolve and trying out their late night menu.