Merion Village restaurant to explore food-truck scene

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Explorers Club head chef Dan Vargas poses for a portrait inside the restaurant's new food truck May 1, in Columbus. The restaurant plans to complete the truck in about a week and will serve food at various events. The restaurant also plans to operate the truck on Sunday mornings for customers at the restaurant.
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The Explorers Club is the latest restaurant to take advantage of the local food-truck craze.

The Merion Village eatery has purchased a 1979 Grumman model that will make its debut at Village Valuables, the German Village yard sale to be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 18.

"It's going to make our restaurant more known," said Tracy Studer, who owns the restaurant. "And, that's what it's all about. It's a marketing tool."

Studer said the $45,000 purchase will do more than make the rounds of the summer food-truck scene this summer.

It will be perched Sunday mornings at the Honey-Bee Drive-Thru & Liquor store, right across Morrill Avenue.

Because brunch service has gotten so popular, patrons who are unable to get a seat will be able to grab some of the more popular dishes at the truck.

It also will be used as an adjunct kitchen during busier nights at the restaurant, 1586 S. High St.

Studer said the truck essentially will be a mobile billboard featuring the restaurant's quirky gorilla logo.

He also has sold anchor advertising space to other businesses. He plans to roll out the truck five lunches and a few evenings every week.

Accompanying the mobile vittles vendor will be a refrigerated truck, which will be necessary to store food during busier festivals, Studer said.

Chef Dan Varga said many of the Explorers Club's popular dishes -- tempeh tots, mofongo sandwich and ropa vieja burrito -- will be offered at the truck.

He also plans to do theme menus, where the bill of fare will be composed entirely of one country's cuisine, similar to Hungarian nights offered at the restaurant the second Wednesday of each month.

Varga hopes to have an even split between vegan and non-vegan fare.

Studer said he sees more brick-and-mortar restaurants jumping on board with food trucks "because they know it's the cool thing right now."

Explorers Club isn't the only South Side restaurant investing in mobile-food operations.

Just last year, Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant unveiled its $200,000 customized state-of-the art truck complete with a self-contained plumbing, gas, electrical and fresh-water systems.

Geoff Schmidt, a partner in the German Village restaurant, agrees the food truck can be a good promotion tool for a restaurant, "if it's done correctly."

"If it's good on the truck just think of how good the restaurant is," Schmidt said.

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