The food truck phenomenon in the United States has lasted the ages. Chuckwagons and pushcarts catered to cowboys and urban workers alike in the nation’s early days, and mobile kitchens have served all sorts of people since.
The culture of easily accessible, affordable fare still travels the Gunnison Valley, where food trucks can be found — either at community events, weddings or just parked around town. Most recently, however, food truck proprietors have formed partnerships with brick-and-mortar businesses to extend offerings or hours of operation.
One food truck that has found its spot in Gunnison is Burnell’s Farmhouse Eatery, owned by Denise and Kevin Reinert. The truck has operated along Main Street since 2017 — and this past winter served brunch at The Dive through an agreement with owners Kerry and Danny Lefebvre.
The Reinerts initially considered converting their residential home into a restaurant. But after assessing the costs of construction, the Reinert’s decided to reinvent the wheel and eventually came up with a food truck.
Denise Reinert worked more than 20 years in the restaurant industry in Crested Butte — at restaurants such as Marchitelli's, Teocalli Tamale and others.
“I started working in restaurants but knew I wanted to start a restaurant with my husband,” she recalled.
For Reinert, one of the best benefits of food trucks is the mobility — whether it’s serving cowboys at Cattlemen’s Days, feeding hungry crowds at I Bar Ranch during music events, or catering a wedding.
Burnell’s is built on locally sourced food from Matt Ozyp at Iola Farms as well as Calder Farms for all sorts of greens and more. They also incorporate CSA boxes from Mountain Roots, which offers an array of fruits and vegetables from the valley.
“What makes us stand out from almost every restaurant in town is that we use local ingredients,” explained Reinert. “Enough people can tell the difference, especially when you make it from scratch too.”
“When I moved here, I quit my job and moved to Crested Butte because I loved it up here. I wanted to ski. I wanted to mountain bike,” said Reinert, noting that founding the food truck was a way to continue fostering that dream.
Hope Jones, alongside sisterin-law Emily Jones, has operated Delish Food Truck in the Gunnison Valley since 2014. Hope Jones, owner of the enterprise, said mobility always keeps her on her toes. The adventure of serving in different settings for varied crowds and occasions is what Jones loves about her job.
Another benefit is flexibility, said Jones, who cites her 3-yearold daughter as a motivator for feeding folks on wheels.
Jones says nearly 90 percent of her business comes from catering weddings throughout the valley.
“I’ve found my niche in it, and it sets us apart more so in the catering world,” said Jones.
“Having my own kitchen and being able to supply good local ingredients with my twist on menus and recipes and making people happy and knowing they enjoy my food is everything,” said Jones. “It makes me love my job everyday.”
Delish Food Truck recently set up shop outside Double Shot in Gunnison, serving dinner to patrons of the popular bike shop and coffee bar.
Another popular food truck is Hwy. 50 Pit Stop, which has been pulling in those who pass through town with a selection of classic American cuisine.
Preston Lee of Hwy. 50 Pit Stop — actually, a trailer as opposed to a food truck — now serves breakfast alongside the Palisades Restaurant, where you can walk up from the deck to get your first meal of the day.
“I’ve been in the food industry for over 40 years,” said Lee. “You have to have a passion to cook and to create, and after 40 years it was an opportunity to pick up the food truck.”
Lee is the kitchen manager at Palisades and showcases his skills in not one job in the food industry but two — leading the restaurant operations and the food truck located right outside.
Hwy. 50 Pit Stop offers all sorts of breakfast items, including savory and sweet crepes, breakfast burritos, and biscuits and gravy. Even after working doubles, Lee is hoping to step up the pace, serving breakfast for six days a week from Hwy. 50 Pit Stop and Sunday breakfast buffet at Palisades.
“It’s like a tiny little restaurant,” said Lee, who added the inventory and labor is less intensive with a food truck.
(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org .)