Duluth-area food truck scene expands

The U.S. food truck industry is now a $1.2 billion market. Duluth-area food truck options have grown steadily since the city’s first mobile restaurants hit the streets in 2012. That summer there were four mobile eateries. Now there are at least 15.

To simplify the guide below, we’re excluding neighborhood ice cream peddlers and vendors that pop up exclusively at special events. The focus is on the key food purveyors that rove around and have a regular presence on local streets and outside breweries and bars.

The built-in takeaway model and ability to change locations proved especially advantageous for food wagons during the pandemic when brick-and-mortar restaurants had to close and restrict indoor dining.

Jonathan Reznick bristled at the mention of the “C-word” (COVID-19). The owner of the Rambler — one of Duluth’s longest-running food trucks — pointed to how the pandemic crippled much of the service industry and was thankful to be able to keep on truckin’ during this time with the Rambler.

“We were able to act accordingly and do what we needed to do per Minnesota health guidelines. We were lucky when it came to that — to be able to work,” he said.

Reznick, who also operates MidCoast Catering, has learned a lot in his nine years of operating the food truck. He doesn’t have many days off as the mobile restaurant is out all week and then booked with special events on the weekends. He and his staff are constantly working and prepping.

“You kind of have to be a little crazy and be passionate about it. You’ve got to enjoy it,” said Reznick. “I have a great team of people who work for me. I wouldn’t be able to be where I’m at now without them.”

Opting to Go Mobile

Some mobile eateries boldly opened in the midst of the pandemic. Dogs n’ Kabobs is one of the newest. Mary Martinson started the business last August. After getting laid off from her job as a medical assistant at Essentia, she opted to go the entrepreneurial route.

Martinson has been channeling her love for cooking and feeding people with the food wagon, which offers up traditional Coneys and cheese curds alongside beef and veggie kabobs. The business is still in its infancy but has been well received, according to Martinson.

“It’s kind of been a blessing … I get to do what I love and be out in the community and see people — and help people in a different way,” she said.

Room at the Table Catering entered the food truck scene in June 2020. Owners Paul Sapyta and Kevin Peterson have been catering since 2017. They acquired a food trailer in 2018 that had been used for a handful of private events. Then the pandemic happened. A shift to more a mobile operation made complying with COVID-19 safety guidelines simpler.

Sapyta said it has been going “spectacularly well.” The business winterized its food trailer, in defiance of the typical Minnesota food truck season, which usually ends by November. The first time Room at the Table went out in December it sold out in less than two hours.

Making Community Connections

Mama Roots also debuted in June 2020, making a splash on the scene with its canary blue bus and vegan comfort food menu. Long lines and food sellouts were common last year. Owner Melanie Hallstein said this summer isn’t quite as busy. She’s enjoying the pace because it gives her a chance to get to know customers.

“I’m super excited this is the second year we get to be doing this,” said Hallstein. “We’ve been pushing ourselves more creatively in terms of items on the menu. We’re also simplifying things so we can serve more food and have more time to connect with people.”

Jim Hase, owner of Mr. Goodies food trailer, agrees that community is what makes the hard work worth it. “The basic idea is that it’s fun to be around people,” he said, adding “The first sandwich I sold was to the guy that owns Hudy’s Bar in Superior. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Hase is a 29-year veteran of the mobile food business and has traveled around several neighboring states, festival-hopping with his food wagon. When many of Mr. Goodies’ scheduled stops at festivals were canceled over the past couple of years, the food trailer became a regular fixture at Hudy’s Bar. The trailer is now hitting the road until late September to take advantage of the festival circuit again.

On any given day of the week, Twin Ports food fanatics can feast at an array of food wagons offering gourmet sandwiches, pizzas, gyros, tacos, Coneys, kabobs, rice bowls, cheese curds and more.

Below is a rundown of some of the most common mobile food purveyors in the Twin Ports and info on when and where to find them. It’s worth clarifying that many of these mobile restaurants operate out of trailers, not actual trucks.

Chow Haul

  • Opened: 2012
  • Owner: Keith Burgess
  • Menu: Varies. Features include wontons, spring rolls, cornbrats, tacos, noodle bowls and more. Offers vegan and gluten-free options.
  • Operates out of one truck.
  • Locations frequented: Late-night services around Duluth bars such as Carmody Irish Pub.
  • Season: Before the pandemic, Chow Haul typically operated from Homegrown Music Festival week through Thanksgiving. The business has done some private events lately. Fans can expect the longstanding mobile restaurant to re-emerge in August.
  • Tracker: Facebook

Dogs n’ Kabobs

  • Opened: 2021
  • Owner: Mary Martinson
  • Menu: Old-fashioned Coneys, hot dogs, beef and veggie kabobs, French fries, cheese curds and more. Best sellers are the gyro (house-made tzatziki sauce) and the beef kabob (homemade marinade).
  • Operates a food trailer that was converted from a camper.
  • Locations frequented: Deluxe Insurance Company in Duluth’s Lakeside, Echo Valley Motocross Park in Brookston, Sweetly Kismet Candy Shop in Carlton, the Powerhouse Bar in Proctor, Boreal House in Duluth. Also will be at festivals such as the South St. Louis County Fair, and Proctor’s Hoghead Festival.
  • Season: May through October.
  • Tracker: Facebook. A schedule is typically posted each week.

The Grumpy Goose

  • Opened: May 2021
  • Owner: Joshua Gosar
  • Menu: Vegan alternatives to traditional comfort meals. Expect items such as BBQ ribz, a bruschetta chik’n sandwich, and monster cookies loaded with chocolate chips, peanuts, Oreos, sprinkles and more.
  • Operates out of a white 26-foot Cargo Craft trailer.
  • Locations frequented: Changes weekly. Recent stops include Duluth Cider and Free Air Life. Co. in Duluth.
  • Season: April through October.
  • Tracker: Facebook

K&B Grilled Cheese

  • Opened: 2016
  • Owner: Kevin White
  • Menu: Serves up a wide rotating variety of grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread. Customer favorites include the bacon and four-cheese and spinach artichoke grilled cheese.
  • Operates out of a trailer.
  • Locations frequented: Deluxe Insurance in Duluth, Duluth Cider, Earth Rider in Superior.
  • Season: April through October.
  • Tracker: Facebook. Schedule is updated weekly.

Log Home Wood Fired Pizza

  • Opened: 2014
  • Owners: Rick and Nancy Herman
  • Menu: Wood-fired, artisan pizzas (including vegetarian, breakfast and dessert options) crafted with hand-prepared dough and signature sauces. Some favorites include the “In the Woods” and “Smokehouse” pizzas. The former features garlic oil, asparagus, mushrooms, prosciutto, and a blend of five kinds of cheese while the latter has BBQ sauce, cheddar, pulled pork, bacon, and green onion.
  • Operates from a trailer and a food truck (does both catering and vending).
  • Locations frequented: Duluth Cider, the Great Lakes Aquarium, Wild State Cider and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Also makes monthly stops at Moose Lake Brewing Co.
  • Season: May through October.
  • Tracker: Facebook, Instagram, website.

Mama Roots

  • Opened: June 2020
  • Owners: Melanie Hallstein and Desiree Jenkins
  • Menu: Ever-changing menu of surprisingly hearty, plant-based comfort food made with fresh, seasonal ingredients and beautifully garnished with edible flowers. Recent offerings have included a blueberry basil ck’n bowl, a crunch wrap and an Indian Bombay burrito.
  • Operates from a blue school bus.
  • Locations frequented: Duluth Studio Market, Lincoln Park Farmers Market and Wild State Cider.
  • Season: May through September.
  • Tracker: Facebook and Instagram.

Mr. Goodies

  • Opened: 1993
  • Owner: Jim Hase
  • Menu: Varies. Some customer favorites include gyros with house-made tzatziki sauce, Philly steak sandwiches and Wisconsin cheese curds, which are made with a secret Mr. Goodies trick and are sourced directly from the plant.
  • Operates from two customized food trailers.
  • Season: May through October.
  • Tracker: Personal posts are made to foodie Facebook pages when the trailer will be at Hudy’s.

Oasis Del Norte

  • Opened: 2015
  • Owners: Eduardo and Angela Sandoval
  • Menu: Authentic Mexican street tacos, quesadillas, burritos and tortas (Mexican sandwiches). Several choices of meat are available. Customers appreciate that lengua (cow tongue) and nopales (cactus) tacos are also offered by Oasis Del Norte. Many recipes are passed down from Eduardo Sandoval’s mother who owned a restaurant in Mexico. He’s on a mission to bring his culture to the Northland through food.
  • Operates from a food trailer (and is currently looking for a brick and mortar location).
  • Locations frequented: Duluth Cider, Castle Danger, Earth Rider and Bent Paddle. Also does private events and travels to many festivals.
  • Schedule: April through October (the last event is Duluth’s All Souls Night).
  • Tracker: Facebook, Instagram, website. The weekly schedule is typically posted by Monday.

The Pig Pen

  • Opened: June 2021
  • Owner: Scott Graden
  • Menu: Gourmet Y-ker Acres brats and hot dogs with a variety of toppings. The nacho dog comes dressed with queso fundido, pickled jalapeno and salsa while the Idaho dog is dolloped with Top the Tater and shoestring potatoes.
  • Operates from a food trailer.
  • Location: Parked in Lift Bridge Park, south of Grandma’s Sports Garden.
  • Schedule: Late June through October 2021, every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tracker: Instagram.

The Rambler

  • Opened: 2012
  • Owner: Jonathan Reznick.
  • Menu: A variety of gourmet street fare like hot sandwiches, tacos and appetizers, including some vegan and gluten-free options. The teriyaki pulled pork sandwich is a popular item as are the prime rib sandwich and mahi mahi tacos. Reznick is particularly proud of his Cuban sandwich, which is made with homemade pickles and beer mustard.
  • Operates a P90 Step Van and also does catering.
  • Locations frequented: Canal Park by the Vista Fleet, Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Earth Rider, St. Luke’s, Bent Paddle, Rose Garden. Weekends are open for private parties and other events.
  • Schedule: April through October.
  • Tracker: Facebook, Instagram, website. Location updates are posted regularly.

Room at the Table Catering and Bakery

  • Opened: 2020 (The business started with catering in 2017, the food trailer hit the local scene in June 2020).
  • Owners: Paul Sapyta and Kevin Peterson
  • Menu: Rotates. First known for street tacos but best known for burgers. People have also been “ridiculously happy with the rice bowl,” according to Sapyta. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are always available. The inclusive notion that everyone deserves to have good food is central to the Room at the Table brand.
  • Operates from a trailer.
  • Locations frequented. Cloquet VFW, Coppertop Church in Duluth, Powerhouse Bar in Proctor. Also does private parties, festivals, and other events.
  • Schedule: Operates year-round.
  • Tracker: Facebook.

Scenic 61 Mobile Kitchen

  • Opened: August 2020
  • Owner: Scott Graden
  • Menu: Featuring favorites from the New Scenic Cafe such as sashimi tuna tacos as well as banh mi, laab moo and a salmon burger served on black brioche.
  • Operates from a restored 1969 Airstream trailer.
  • Location: Parked in Lift Bridge Park, south of Grandma’s Sports Garden.
  • Schedule: June through October 2021, every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tracker: Instagram, Facebook and website.

Tig’s Smok’n Pig BBQ

  • Opened: 2016 (originally working in tents with a smoker on a trailer, purchased a food truck in 2019).
  • Owner: Troy “Tig” Fralich
  • Menu: A variety of smoked meats including brisket, pork, chicken and ribs as well as unique sides like smoked mac & cheese and Tig’s original recipe smoked beans. Customer favorites include the loaded smoked potato, nachos and family meal packages. Tig’s also sells a line of BBQ sauces and rubs in partnership with London Road Rental in Duluth and the Minno-ette. These products will soon be available at Boomtown (the restaurant uses Tig’s habanero sauce for its ribs).
  • Operates out of a 26-foot trailer.
  • Regular locations: Harley Davidson Sport Center in Duluth, RJ Sport & Cycle in Duluth, Deluxe Insurance in Duluth, Duluth Cider, Kolar Chevrolet in Hermantown, Fredenberg Minno-ette, and the Jack in Cloquet.
  • Schedule: available on the website, Facebook and Instagram.
  • Season: The truck is out and about for events from May until early October. The business provides catering year-round. It also has stock-up sales for freezer meals from October until April and sells smoked turkey and ham for holidays.
  • Tracker: Facebook

Updawg

1 Comment

Robert Sterner

about 4 months ago

I long for a single area map that shows where *all* of these will be on a given day. Following individual pages takes too much clicking to see who is where. I'm sure I'd patronize the local food trucks more if such a resource was out there. Or is it?

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