Since Friday December 10th, I have been cooking up "inside-out" cheeseburgers at the Kruger's Farm produce stand, located at 7316 N Lombard St, 97203. Humongous thanks to all those who have already visited, and to those who had no idea we were out there cooking, my deepest apologies.
You see, the opportunity to open at Kruger's first arose just two days before we actually began cooking, when Dylan from Captured by Porches Brewing Company contacted me to see if I could get the truck ready fast enough to open alongside his mobile ale van (yes, you read that right...mobile ale van!). Eager for the opportunity to cook, I scrambled like a mad man to get my truck ready for service, and with the help of loved ones I was able to get the truck open just as the taps on Dylan's van were being connected. What I had originally thought was going to be a weekend-only engagement turned out to be an everyday gig, and for the last ten days I've happily been flipping cheeseburgers (and vegan cheeseburgers) on the same North Portland street where we closed our cafe almost six months ago. I'm taking the day off today in effort to refuel, prep, and try to keep y'all informed as to just what heck has been going on around here.
What is Lucy's Original?
Lucy's Original is a roving food truck that serves inside-out cheeseburgers.
It's not the LRBC, and I know many of you out there may have been wishing for a food truck based on the dishes you grew to love at our former cafe. Lucy's Original is a food truck that offers yours truly an opportunity to continue doing one of the things I love most, cooking for others, while simultaneously providing a new direction for growth within the local food industry. The birth of Lucy's Original does not signal the ultimate death of the LRBC. In choosing to develop a new food concept we maintain hopeful that somewhere, someday, the LRBC might be reborn. Rest assured that for the time being the LRBC Recipe Bible rests safely on a shelf above the kitchen counter in our home. Perhaps one day it will be taken down and dusted off in preparation for a new restaurant endeavor, but until that day comes, I encourage you to get out there and eat some cheeseburgers.
What is an "inside-out cheeseburger?"
An "inside-out cheeseburger" is a cheeseburger where the meat patty has been stuffed with cheese. The result is that the cheese melts as the patty is cooked, and eventually it is released onto your taste buds like hellfire when you sink your teeth into that first bite. The idea of the inside out cheeseburger comes from the Jucy Lucy (not misspelled), the original inside out cheeseburger which hails from Minneapolis, MN.
Why a truck? Why cheeseburgers?
The journey in which we went from closing our cafe to opening a mobile food truck serving cheeseburgers was a long one. Thankfully requests for information from online magazines such as Thrillist and Willamette Week have forced me to try to recount how all this has materialized. If I hadn't been contacted by these organizations I probably wouldn't be able to make sense of it myself. Our love for truck food can be traced back a long way, and was taken to a whole new level from 2002-2004 when we often dined at a particular taco ruck that operated in Eagle Rock, a small section of Northern Los Angeles located between Glendale and Pasadena. Never in a million years would I have guessed back then, that someday I would be operating my own food truck, but that day has come and here I am.
After closing the cafe in June we eventually took some time off and did some travel. It was during this time that we were able to rekindle our mutual love for wandering, and subsequently we realized that somewhere inside, we both yearned to see more of the world. That said, travel costs money, and in effort to put ourselves in a position where we can comfortably travel for periods of time we knew that we had to get back to work and begin saving. In dreaming up ideas of what kind of work we could enter into, I continuously came back to the realization that nothing makes me happier than cooking for others, and working for myself. In consideration of future plans to travel we began to think more seriously about mobile food trucks as a viable means to re-enter the food business. In addition to the fact that they cost a fraction of the price to open as a small restaurant, should we some day wish to visit Guatemala for example, we could always take our food truck with us. Don't worry, we don't currently have plans to relocate to Guatemala, but the fact that food trucks offer so much possibility in terms of one's ability to relocate was a very appealing aspect of the mobile food business, and one that made it seem as though it might suit us perfectly.
Ultimately we wanted something that was ours. Based on our experience with the LRBC, we badly yearned to create something that we had control over, that couldn't be jeopardized or left behind. For now, the truck offers us that sense of ownership we so badly craved. We own a kitchen on wheels, and the truck's window functions as both a means with which we can connect with the world, as well as offering a window into our souls.
After we purchased our truck we began the process of trying to create a breakfast heavy menu to entice the good people of Portland. As time passed, we felt as though we were simply creating an alternate version of the LRBC, and we began to worry that serving breakfast, but not serving favorite recipes from the cafe, could prove problematic on many levels. Similarly we grew weary of the idea of serving breakfast out of a truck in a city where it rains nine months out of the year. Quickly our focus shifted towards dinner. The idea of serving cheeseburgers, and specifically cheeseburgers inspired by the famous Jucy Lucy, grew from a conversation we had while on a road trip to Central Oregon. The Jucy Lucy entered the debate probably as a result of the fact that we have many friends now living in Portland who moved here from Minneapolis, not to mention the fact that with its bike-loving populace, and penchant for indie-rock, we've always felt that Minneapolis is Portland's separated-at-birth sister city. Our logic was simple: if the Jucy Lucy had become iconic in Minneapolis then Portland should also fall in love with this unique cheeseburger. After doing some research we were surprised to discover that no restaurant in Portland (to our knowledge) serves a Jucy Lucy. We wanted to be the first. The original. The rest, as they say, is history.
How can you find Lucy's Original?
Given that "Lucy" is a roving food truck, the best way to track us down is on Twitter. You can find Lucy's Original on Twitter at twitter.com/LucysOriginal.
Plans for the future are subject to change. I've had a wonderful ten days at Kruger's, and I'd be delighted to be able to operate there in the future. I plan to continue to operate there (7316 N Lombard St, 97203) this Tuesday through Friday (12/21-24) from 12:00pm-8:00pm, closed for Christmas Day, and open again this coming Sunday (12/26).
Next Monday through Friday (12/27-31) the truck will move to a triangular shaped parking lot outside the Leftbank Building, located at 240 N Broadway, 97227 near the Rose Quarter.
Dates and times are subject to change so check us out on Twitter for the latest news and updates.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:54 AM
I can almost taste it now.
Last Monday we passed our pre-opening inspection from the Multnomah County Department of Environmental Health and have subsequently been deemed "ready to open." The only thing keeping us from cooking is that our good friends, whom we hoped would be able to host us during the launch of the new food truck business, have yet to receive the official go-ahead order from higher up (I'm not talking about the Lord with a capital "L," but the almighty land-lord, whose word is legally mightier than those of God).
When looking at the kitchen above, please note the wheels. There are six of them in total: two wheels up front, and four in the back. If you're lucky (and willing to fork over the appropriate amount of dough), you may be able to have your name engraved into one of the truck's many lug nuts during a forthcoming fundraising campaign.* Currently, we are gearing up towards putting those wheels to use and trying to find a temporary location for the truck to begin operating. When and where that will take place has yet to be decided.
The transition from a brick and mortar cafe into a new food truck business has not been easy. There have been many bumps and taxing experiences shelled out along the way, which is really a euphemism translating to: we've spent a lot more cash than we had originally anticipated would take to get us this far. The other day it dawned on me that our launch will coincide with a time of year when most mobile food units are operating on reduced hours, if they haven't already shuttered for the winter. But as I've stated before, I'm just eager to cook, and getting open remains my only goal.
Much of the work that we have done to the truck has stemmed from my initial desire to make the truck easy to operate in most locations. At the time of purchase the truck was wired to run off a gasoline generator to power its 12V appliances, such as the exhaust fans, overhead lights and water pump. Having never been a big fan of the noise and smell that accompanies most generators, I sought the aid of my father-in-law and his close friend to help me rewire the truck so that it could be plugged in to a standard 110V outlet. Additional (unexpected) work on the truck has included replacing the starter, battery, rewiring the cabin lights and adding extra fixtures, rewiring the battery, installing a battery disconnect or isolator, re-routing the kitchen gas line and replacing a loose fan belt. Keep in mind all this work was completed after the truck received a passing grade from a local mechanic during a pre-purchase inspection. Replacing the alternator is next on the to-do list. This last little tidbit I discovered on my way home one night, when the headlights on the truck went out and I feared the engine would soon follow suit.
Welcome to the world of mobile food unit ownership. I now know that in effort to maintain a truly mobile kitchen, auto maintenance will at times cost the same as a small waitstaff. Though they cost a fraction as much to start as a small restaurant, they aren't by any means easy to get off the ground. Still, we've labored to get to this place, and thanks to the help and support of family and friends, here we are. Ready to open, literally, just as soon as we nail down that oh so important location.
Suffice to say, we'll let you know how it all works out.
* More on the Kickstarter campaign in time. We're teaming up with some talented friends who are committed to seeing this thing through, and whom we are dearly indebted to for their unwavering support.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:05 PM