Reporting Sara Pelissero
With so many new — and delicious — food trucks hitting the streets of the Twin Cities each summer, it’s almost too tough to keep up. Well, fear not, we’re here to help. Here’s this week’s Friday food truck feature!
He may be wearing a different shirt and a new tie every day but there’s one thing that Nate Beck is never without — a friendly smile.
Rain or shine, first-timers or loyal customers, Beck always serves up some of the finest hot dogs in Minnesota with a side of humility and charisma.
After all, he said meeting and serving people is what brought him to this business in the first place. Toting a bright orange hot dog cart and some of the most delectable slaws and toppings, Beck has taken his passion for gourmet hot dogs to the street to prove that sometimes, there’s just nothing better than a tasty dog.
Owner: Nate Beck
Date the food truck opened: May 5, 2011.
What kind of food do you serve? I do all-natural, locally sourced wieners and brats. This year, I started adding in other locally made sausages but also using locally sourced, sustainable hormone-free meats. So far it’s just been one other vendor. The pork wieners and brats that I get are from a farm west of Willmar called Pastures A Plenty and Kramarczuk’s made their chicken and apple sausage in the same wiener size, so I can have everything the same size and a unique niche (because everything I do is all in the smaller casing) and that’s made with another local farm.
Then I scratch make all of my condiments — kraut, I make something called Carolina Slaw, a pulled pork topping with cabbage and then I make all of my mustards. I always make one with a local beer, and I rotate it depending on if I’m going to be at a local event where a specific brewery is, but I’ve made at least one beer mustard with every brewery in Minnesota so far. And then I have my signature honey-spiced mustard — and that’s the mustard that I actually have bottled to sell in stores.
Price range of menu: $3 or under. The chicken and apple sausages are a little more at $4, when I have those, but they’re a little bit bigger and the chicken’s a little more expensive than the pork. I do a locally bottled soda for $2.50 and chips for $1.50.
Hours of operation: When I’m out for lunch, it’s typically 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. And then I often will do a catered event in the evenings and some type of festival on Saturdays and Sundays.
Job before opening food truck: I used to actually run a specialty shoe store, more or less for 10 years — the two specialty Birkenstock shoe stores here in town, so I managed those for the most part for 10 years. I had a brief spell during that time where I helped a friend do a high-end remodeling business. So I ran the operations and kind of all of the people face time stuff.
What made you want to open a food truck? I wanted to do something, not necessarily on my own but I wanted more challenge. The gentleman I worked for really wanted to hand off his business to his kids, so wasn’t really willing to hand over any of the business to me, the buying of the product or even part ownership or anything like that. So I thought, well I’ve gotta do something different. I had a friend who runs a high-end fragrance and skin care shop in Texas … and he goes, ‘Nate, you should start a hot dog cart,’ because I’d been talking about doing some type of food business. So it kind of stuck with me because hot dogs are my absolute favorite food. Bar none. I love to cook and I’m as much an amateur cook or chef as anyone, I’m not classically trained but I love to cook. And I love to cook hot dogs. I thought, man, I could probably afford to do a hot dog business. … For me, (the cart) made way more sense. Probably one of the biggest things I do, with the hot dog cart, is interacting with people. And you just don’t get that with a food truck because you’re always talking down to people and you don’t have as much time to chit-chat.
I’m trying to use this hot dog cart as my mission — as a way to serve people. The whole idea of “Get a Dog, Give a Dog,” is we really try to give away a hot dog for every hot dog we sell. Having it be really interactive is actually a better way for me to be able to tangibly impact people.
Why did you want to go into the food industry? I just love food. I’m actually a classically trained singer, that’s my degree. Right out of college, I pursued music full time but I wanted to have a family. I have five little girls and I wanted to be a dad. Being in the music business is really not conducive to having a healthy family life. So I always loved doing food and I liked doing food more for money than I did singing. I used to cater maybe three or five times a year, for as many as 500 people sometimes.
Is everything done from the truck? That’s one thing that’s nice about this business. There’s not a lot of prep work. I prep all my own slaws and mustards but that’s kind of the ideal thing of having a hot dog cart. You don’t have nearly as much prep work as a food truck. It allows me that sanity and balance of actually having a family life.
How did you come up with the name? The guy I used to work with at the shoe store used to call me “Nate Dog.”
What do you think is your best dish? My favorite way to have it is the Nate Dog with caramelized onions and honey-spiced mustard. My other favorite topping that’s a specialty thing that I do … is called bacon jam — that’s a mixture of a whole bunch of stuff, so bacon and onions, garlic, local beer, maple syrup, a little vinegar and then it all reduces down into a jam-like spread. When you spread it out, it just melts into the hot dog.
Describe your truck in one word: Serving. Whatever I do with the cart, I want it to be about serving the community first. Not only serving food, but serving people.
What’s your craziest story from working at a food truck? Getting rear-ended, I think. That was probably the craziest one. But honestly, I think it worked out far more positively than I ever could’ve imagined. I was able to get a second hot dog cart, that will get some use this fall and then I hope to use it full time next year. But I was able to get the hot dog cart because a guy rear-ended me.
What’s one thing you want people to know about your food cart? I think one thing, if anyone is looking to do a food truck or a food cart, the one thing I found in starting a business like this, is that if you think it’s too risky to do this and start your own business — it’s not. Always take the risk to try something fun. You’ll never regret it — ever. I think that’s what I enjoy most about this. I mean, we toughed it out through January and February but I don’t regret doing this for one second. Always take the risk.
Catch the Friday Food Truck Feature every week, in the Curiocity column. Know of a food truck you think should be featured? Let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting your suggestion to @SaraPelissero!