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!
It’s tough to miss this week’s feature — with a sunny yellow truck and flavors just as bright, Dandelion Kitchen is certainly a fan favorite among food-truck goers.
It’s well deserved, too, since they were there to start the Twin Cities food truck revolution. After falling in love with street food abroad, Natalie Coleman and Alexander Brand were excited to bring mobile food to Minneapolis. They waited through months of debate, but when the City Council finally approved the use of food trucks, they bought the brightest truck they could find and hit the road. Here’s their story.
Owner: Natalie Coleman and Alexander Brand
Date the food truck opened: Summer of 2010, starting at farmers markets until the law was passed to allow food trucks in downtown Minneapolis.
What kind of food do you serve? I serve gourmet salads, sandwiches and soups. We make our own house-made sodas and we really focus on using as much local, organic product as possible — working with small family farms, local producers and trying to use really high-quality ingredients to put out the best food that we can that’s fast and something that people can just grab and go.
Price range of menu: Mostly between $7 to $10.
Hours of operation: Everyday, Monday through Friday in downtown Minneapolis. We open at 11 a.m. and close around 1:30 p.m.
Job before opening food truck: Before I opened the food truck, basically I had graduated from college and was working for a company that was kind of a study abroad company for teenagers. So I was working teaching Spanish in Latin America and Central America.
How did you transition into the food world? Alex and I had always worked in restaurants, especially Alex — he had worked as a chef all through college. This, for him, was kind of part of his dream, in terms of moving forward in the culinary world. But for me, I actually studied environmental philosophy, so we kind of fused my interest in the environment and commitment to sustainable practices and his culinary expertise and came up with this food truck.
So what made you want to open the food truck? We actually initially, like a lot of people, wanted to open a restaurant. When we started looking into what it entailed, opening a food truck ended up being a lot more of an attractive option because it’s a much smaller operation and a way for us to get into the industry without jumping into something that was way over our heads. We can run this food truck with a small enough crew where we’re there to see everything that goes on, so we can really ensure the quality of what we’re doing, bring the energy that we want to bring to it. As we were thinking of doing this, Minneapolis was just passing the laws through so we got pretty involved in the process, advocating for that. And that just turned into sort of momentum in and of itself.
Is everything done from the truck? We have a full commercial kitchen that we work out of because we serve a lot of people a day so most of the food is assembled in the truck and any of the hot food is cooked to order. All of the food is cooked to order but all of the prep work takes place in our kitchen in south Minneapolis.
How did you come up with the name? The name sort of followed the truck because we found this yellow trailer and we just fell in love with the color. We just wanted something that fit the style of the graphics and color of the food truck.
What do you think is your best dish? Our BLT is definitely our most popular — it’s maple-glazed and super amazing bacon from Pastures A Plenty, really good lettuce, heirloom tomatoes and then we put some avocado on there instead of mayo to add a creaminess. My favorite is our salads, because we change them every week. I go to the farmers market probably like four times a week and buy whatever’s most fresh and we just cook it really simply. That’s probably what I eat the most.
How long did it take to come up with the menu/theme? We did quite a bit of research beforehand thinking of different styles we wanted to do and I think in the end, what really was our driving force was wanting to use really good local product and serve it in a way that’s really accessible to people. At this point, there’s a growing amount of people who are changing the way we think about food and our environment and our communities. Just being a small part of that has been really amazing. That’s the most important part of this.
Describe your truck in one word: Fresh.
What’s your craziest story from working at a food truck? Every day is kind of its own adventure. This year, our door got stuck and we all got locked in, that was kind of … for anyone who’s even a little claustrophobic, working in a food truck can be an experience in and of itself, but having the door not open and there’s five of us in that little truck, we were definitely on the fence about how we were going to get out. Ultimately we were able to go out the window but we looked like a clown car with everybody just piling out.
What’s one thing you want people to know about your food truck? I think what I really want people to take away from this is we’re really trying to create an experience of not just eating your lunch in a way that’s convenient — which is important — but we also really want people to care about where the food comes from and what goes into it, the amount of care and the attention to detail. Everybody who works in this truck puts an enormous amount of time and effort into every piece of what gets served out of the window. I think it’s important that people understand that. What we put into our bodies, and what we take from the environment, it’s all a huge system that’s interconnected and I think being a part of that system, on every end of it, is an important choice that consumers are making. Bringing out the integrity of that system is something we’re trying to promote.
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!