Breweries + Food trucks: Come for a beer, stay for a meal

  • Realtor Pete Crisafulli, who owns Night Shift Street Fare, grills burgers, brats and more during a gig at Fort Hill Brewery. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pete Crisafulli, who owns Night Shift Street Fare, tops his homemade chili with onions while preparing a chili cheeseburger during a gig at Fort Hill Brewery, Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pete Crisafulli, who owns Night Shift Street Fare, adds his homemade chili to a bun while preparing a chili cheeseburger during a gig at Fort Hill Brewery, Friday, June 28, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Little Truc, based out of Easthampton, likes to “think we are challenging what it means to be a  food truck,” according to co-owner Alex Kemper.  Courtesy of Katrina Pierson

  •  A banh mi sandwich from Little Truc. “We didn’t do banh mi for the first two years because we couldn’t get the right bread,” said truck co-owner Alex Kemper. “Bread in banh mi is the most important part … If it's on a brioche roll then it’s not banh mi.”  Courtesy of Katrina Pierson

  • Jason Dinelle, owner of 413 Eats, said he finds a “captive audience” at Abandoned Brewery’s biweekly Food Truck Fridays. 413 Eats serves items like basil truffle fries ($8) and Jambalaya ($9). Courtesy of Jason Dinelle

  • The Dancing Bear burger at 413 Eats is topped with Swiss and cheddar cheese, pickled onions, a fried onion, garlic aioli and chipotle BBQ ($9).  Courtesy of Jason Dinelle

  • Food Truck Fridays at Abandoned Building Brewery take place every other week until October in the parking lot of the brewery.  —Courtesy of Abandoned Building Brewery 

Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2019 3:42:45 PM
Modified: 7/5/2019 3:42:31 PM

Food trucks and local breweries are collaborating to host events that pair street-style dining with cold beer. 

Every other Friday evening, the parking lot behind Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton becomes a melting pot of sizzling fried food, “hoppy” brews and music from local performers.    

Since 2015, the brewery has hosted “Food Truck Fridays,” where a caravan of food vendors circle a portion of the parking lot and offer a wide selection of dishes ranging from Asian fusion tacos to Jambalaya. Food Truck Fridays also include food tents and food carts as well. 

“It was a hit right off the bat,” said Matt Tarlecki, owner of Abandoned Building. “When I was traveling to a few different states, I was visiting breweries doing the same concept and I hadn’t seen it in the Northeast at all.” 

Food Truck Fridays are open to all ages and patrons over 21 wear wristbands to purchase alcoholic drinks. Typically there are five food trucks at each event and large tables set up to accommodate crowd sizes that can reach anywhere around 600 to 900 people. Bistro Bus, Little Truc, the Holyoke Hummus Company and 413 Eats were at the most recent event, which runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

New City Brewery, a little over a hundred yards away from Abandon Building, has hosted events paired with food trucks and owner Sam Dibble said its beneficial for all parties involved. 

Patrons come for a beer, stay for a meal and can discover a new dining option when a food truck rolls up next to the brewery's beer garden. The opposite is also true, Dibble said, because many food trucks have gained a following and there are new customers at the brewery attracted by the food trucks. 

“It allows breweries to have a food offering without a commercial kitchen and without having to be a brew pub or a restaurant," said Dibble, who is also the New City brewmaster. “It's good for both brands and it embodies the collaborative spirit we have in brewing.” 

People have often asked him if he sees Abandon Building as competition, he said. 

“It doesn’t feel like competition at all really,” Dibble said. “It feels like we are both building an audience for beer, and people are coming out to each to try some great beer.” 

Food Truck Fridays continue on July 19 and August 2 — and will run until October — at Abandon Building’s parking lot located at 142 Pleasant Street. The brewery will announce vendors for each event in the coming weeks. 

Throughout the summer, a food truck or tent can be found at Easthampton’s New City Brewery every Friday and Saturday evening. Food trucks are also at Fort Hill Brewery on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, typically starting at 2 p.m.  

The Asian taco + sesame noodle spot: Bistro Bus 

Hatfield residents Jimmy and Betsy Tarr have served up Asian fusion cuisine since their food truck, Bistro Bus, began rolling in 2013, and they were among the original core of food trucks when Food Truck Fridays began four years ago. 

“The first two years we were on the streets pretty much,” Tarr said, because there were not many events for food truck vendors, which has changed in recent years. He said he’s seen a lot of food trucks hit the scene in the past year and a half, often appearing at brewery events.  

With the large draw at events like Food Truck Fridays, “It’s finally exploded and it’s fabulous for the community.” 

Jimmy estimates the largest crowds during the first year were about 500 people, and since then, the crowds have nearly doubled. 

The Asian fusion tacos are the Tarr’s “calling card,” Jimmy said, which are made with thai slaw, bean sprouts and chili mayo with Asian barbecue pork, honey ginger chicken or tofu ($8). Other items the truck offers include a grilled cheese with pulled pork ($8) and sesame noodles with veggies ($5). 

The elevated comfort food purveyor: 413 Eats 

The food truck offers sloppy tots ($9), basil truffle fries ($8), quesadillas ($7-$9) and Jambalaya ($9), with items varying at each event. In addition to Abandon Building, 413 Eats has also recently served at the Iron Duke in Ludlow and Tim Bridge in Westfield.

Jason Dinelle of Ludlow started 413 Eats last year after 20 years in the restaurant business. He also worked for the dining services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he helped launch their popular Baby Berk food trucks. 

Dinelle said he saw food trucks everywhere on a trip to the West coast in 2014, and he said he has seen the rise of food trucks in western Massachusetts coincide with the state’s growing craft beer movement.

“It's great accidental marriage of the two,” he said. “It’s mutually beneficial for both … It’s a monumental investment for a kitchen, so it works out great for everyone.” 

As for Food Truck Fridays, “It’s a captive audience that comes hungry,” he said. “We can do a lot of sales in a small amount of time." 

The Southeast Asian spot — with a locavore twist: Little Truc

Alex Kemper, a co-owner of Little Truc, would go to a Vietnamese restaurant every Sunday with his family growing up in Connecticut, and he said when he began crafting his food truck’s menu, he wanted to prepare the same type of cuisine. 

Little Truc opened in 2017 after Kemper and co-owner and partner Katrina Pierson moved back from New York City to Easthampton. Kemper worked in restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan and Pierson worked in the fashion industry, and they would return to New York in the off-season over the past two years until they moved back permanently this summer. 

“I’d like to think we are challenging what it means to be a food truck … It’s not a greasy spoon kind of thing,” Kemper said. “You can get locally farmed veggies and beef from a food truck." 

He continued, “We have the same commitment to using quality products, and it doesn’t go out the window because there are wheels on the bottom of the kitchen.” 

Although the truck’s menu changes weekly, one staple is the beef and pork burger with Thai flavors, cole slaw, homemade pickles, chili yogurt, on a potato roll ($9). 

The food truck is “uncompromising,” Kemper said, when it comes to its ingredients. Apart from the bread, all dishes are made from scratch, such as the curry paste and sauces, and the bread used for the truck’s banh mi sandwiches comes from a Vietnamese bakery in Boston. 

Other vendors

New to the scene is Night Shift Street Fare, a food cart operated by Pete Crisafulli, who works by day as a realtor with Taylor Real Estate. 

“It’s a new venture for me,” said Crisafulli. As a former administrator for the Frontier Regional School District, he said he conceived of the idea of starting a food cart during the summer months, but opted instead to paint houses and he put his cooking aspirations on hold. 

“Recently,” he said, “I decided to give it a shot.” 

The menu at Night Shift is New York City-inspired, with Coney Island hot dogs, soft pretzels, potato knishes, Italian sausage with peppers and onions and fried chicken sandwiches.

Night Shift — and its egg sandwiches — can also be found at the Easthampton Farmer’s Market at 50 Payson Avenue on Saturday mornings.

Other vendors at Food Truck Fridays include a mobile wood-fire brick oven that cooks pizza at temperatures of upwards of 800 degrees, called Hearth + Timber Pizza, and Vibesman’s Jerk Shack, which offers jerk-spiced chicken, pesto asparagus quesadillas and spiced corn on the cob. 

MGM Springfield has also caught the food truck fever, and now they host their own Food Truck Fridays every week during the summer, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Armory Square. 

Towards the end of the summer, Look Park will host their third annual food truck festival — with over 25 food trucks — on Saturday, August 24, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. It’s free admission, but $10 to park. 

Luis Fieldman  can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 




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