Chicago: Wagyu Wagon Ups Ante of Food Trucks

By Dominic Trombino |
Food on wheels is far from a new idea, although it may seem that way here in Chicago.

For those of us in the Second City, food trucks are just gaining popularity, but our trucks aren’t bringing around the food that most would associate with the mobile eateries. You won’t find any hot dogs or cheese steaks here. Chicago’s trucks are likely to offer up sandwiches and gourmet cupcakes.

But a new truck coming soon promises to offer a full assortment of wagyu beef products.

The Wagyu Wagon, at the direction of  chef/owner/driver Aaron Crumbaugh, is going to be the newest excursion into mobile meals to hit Chicago, but with a catch. It won’t be hitting the streets of city. Not right away at least.

As of right now, laws still prohibit trucks from preparing food in trucks that serve on the streets, so everything has to be made and pre-packaged ahead of time. Crumbaugh didn’t really like that idea, so his truck has a full kitchen on board. Until legislation gets changed, Crumbaugh will be focusing on getting his name out there at festivals, the first of which he will be at being the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, at the end of July.

So what does it take to get a high end food truck started? Crumbaugh says two things: a knowledge of the restaurant industry, and money.

Crumbaugh certainly has the experience in the restaurant industry. He worked at the Peninsula for three years, and runs a private catering business. He also worked on the Bunge Food Oils food truck last spring, so he had the experience with food on a truck.

It was the money that proved a little bit more elusive, but Crumbaugh had a plan for that. He used the website to help fund his idea for a high class food truck.

Kickstarter is a site for people with ideas, but not the money to fund them, can go on and explain to the world what they want to do. Anyone can them come along and make a donation, and in return Crumbaugh offered some thank-you gifts.

“For 15 bucks I gave people a sandwich or a tee-shirt. It went up to $1,000, which was a dinner for eight with three courses, including wagyu.” Crumbaugh explains.

Crumbaugh’s goal on Kickstarter was to raise $10,000, a number he was able to reach in the month that the idea was up on the website.

Once he had the money though, there were still obstacles in his way before he was ready to go. So what are some of the biggest issues someone might run into when they are trying to open a new food truck?

“Dealing with the city. So many different departments that you have to ask questions, and no one knows the answer to these food trucks because they are so new,” explains Crumbaugh. “So you’re just kind of swimming blindly, asking a lot of people who don’t know and they’ll push you onto someone else until you finally find the right answer. That’s been a big problem with this business.”

While Crumbaugh is poised to open up his truck to what seems like plenty of eager customers, he’s not likely to be the last person opening up a food truck in the city of Chicago in the near future. So what advice does the newest truck owner have for those who are looking to get in?

“When you cost your business, add 20 percent to the bottom line,” he said.

Crumbaugh explains that plenty of things pop up when you least expect them, things like sanitation classes, or increased gas prices that you don’t take into account at first.