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Kris Werbelow (left) and owner Jonathan Reznick prepare an order in the Rambler food truck recently. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Another food truck rolls into Duluth

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Duluth News Tribune
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Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

Nick Arntz was having an egg roll lunch with a colleague and a rolling conversation started. According to Arntz’s new business partner, Elyse Wachendorf, that conversation begat The Happy Wanderer food truck. It is expected to hit the streets of Duluth as early as next week, serving a variety of egg roll specialties.

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Wachendorf relayed the genesis story.

“They were eating egg rolls and said ‘You can put anything in one of these. Why hasn’t anyone done it?’” Wachendorf said.

Eventually, Wachendorf and Arntz decided to leave the corporate world in the Twin Cities area and step into the food truck market. They chose Duluth for its potential and familiarity. Arntz is from Britt on the Iron Range and Wachendorf went to school at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

“Neither of us were truly happy in our current positions and wanted something more,” Wachendorf stated on the online Kickstarter page that is asking investors for $10,000 to finish the ramp-up to opening the truck.

Those egg roll varieties? Try a wild rice and mushroom, buffalo chicken, mini-mozzarella, or, for that sweet tooth: apple pie.

“It’s a twist,” Wachendorf said.

The mission is simple, the couple says. “Put smiles on faces one egg roll at a time.”

The Happy Wanderer will join the three-year-old food truck market in Duluth and will likely be seen where the Chow Haul and The Rambler trucks feed the masses.

This is the second official year of food trucks in the city following ordinances passed last year to manage any further growth.

‘The camaraderie’

Owners of The Rambler and Chow Haul are happy to see something new in the market.

“We’re always open to friendly competition,” said Jonathan Reznick, owner of The Rambler.

“We support them,” said Samara Heim, co-owner of Chow haul with Keith Burgess. “We like the camaraderie.”

Both enterprises have found their niche in the afternoon and evening eating times and are often seen together at events or weekly gatherings like those at Bent Paddle Brewing.

Reznick said he tracked the Chow Haul owners when they both came on the scene in 2012, and they’ve had a “great relationship” ever since.

“We call each other four or five times a week,” he said.

Burgess said he hopes a similar relationship evolves with The Happy Wanderer.

“I love the idea of it,” he said of the egg roll theme. He said getting trucks together in one area lets the public know they should stop and check it out. One truck, they might glance and move on, he said, “two or three trucks, and it’s an event all its own.”

In demand

The ordinance passed last year placed restrictions on how close a food truck could operate near a fixed restaurant.

“We started working that much harder to find new places,” Reznick said as he helped customers on West First Street during a recent lunch hour.

“For two years, we were telling people what we were,” Heim said. Now, they are finding themselves in demand for events.

“We’ll try all kind of things,” Burgess said as he stood in the Chow Haul truck with Heim outside of Bent Paddle on a recent Thursday night. The pair said they’ve learned which events are musts and which are busts.

Both trucks have found special events that pay big dividends outside of the regular late-night stops near bars around town.

Events like All Pints North, the annual craft brewing gathering (on July 26 this year) at Bayfront Festival Park, was a big day for Chow Haul last year, Burgess said. They also appreciate a regular stop, along with The Rambler, at the Duluth Public Library downtown.

The Rambler can be seen downtown many weekdays near City Hall and has a regular stop on Park Point on Sundays.

The veterans said the lessons they’ve learned from the market will only help The Happy Wanderer when it rolls into town.

“We want to be a partner rather than compete,” Wachendorf said. “I think Duluth could benefit even more with more trucks.”

WHAT’S NEW WITH FOOD TRUCKS?

Well, all-new this year will be The Happy Wanderer, offering a variety of stuffing for egg rolls.

For the two trucks entering their third year on the streets of Duluth, the favorites remain, along with some new entries. The Rambler Teriyaki pulled pork and the ham and cheese on a croissant remain favorites for the now-familiar green food truck.

Owner Jonathan Reznick said he is working on some flatbread recipes and has already introduced two sandwiches: barbecue chicken and portabella mushroom. Chow Haul Keith Burgess and Samara Heim are absolutely pumped about the custom cutting surfaces they’re installing in the full kitchen. They come from local manufacturer Epicurean. They’re keeping with the favorites: the Iron Bowl noodle concoction, tacos, wontons and the corn brat.

They’re working to perfect chicken wings and have “some other surprises in the works,” Heim said.

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Mike Creger
(218) 723-5218
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