by Christine Stuart | CTNewsJunkie.com
It debuted on Elm Street in May, but it didn’t take long before Hartford’s workforce was making a lunchtime trip to the gmonkey truck part of their weekly routine.
The nation’s first vegetarian, biodiesel fueled food truck from Shadle Farm in Durham has already earned a loyal following of fans who love their food so much they return to the truck to thank its co-owners Ami Beach and Mark Shadle.
Last week, Pete Brunelli, self-identified omnivore and state employee, said he visits the truck once a week and doesn’t even miss the meat. He said there’s nothing else like gmonkey in the food truck genre and he likes to eat healthy.
When the truck wasn’t in its usual spot on Elm Street last week, Brunelli went online to hunt it down. When he arrived he already knew what he wanted since the menu changes daily and is always posted online.
Last Wednesday, the truck was parked outside the state Capitol for the state employees’ health care fair sponsored by the gmonkey fans in the state Comptroller’s office.
The change of venue attracted new customers and regulars alike.
The business got off to a fast start after a year of planning and preparation, which included refurbishing a truck and installing a commercial kitchen at their solar powered farm.
“It’s like a monkey monster,” Beach, a raw food chef and founder of the Colonic Institute in West Hartford, said.
“But it’s a labor of love and represents everything we are all in one.”
Shadle, co-owner of It’s Only Natural Restaurant in Middletown, which has no affiliation with the mobile food truck, is a well-known vegan and vegetarian chef.
But the food truck unlike the restaurant business gives him an opportunity to converse with his customers and get feedback from them instantly in a way he never could before.
“It’s building a kitchen and putting it on the road,” Shadle said. “All you have to do is open up the window and you’re serving food.”
Beach said it’s easier with the food truck to establish a rapport with your customers and there’s something “romantic about being on a truck.”
The truck with a full commercial kitchen gives Shadle and Beach the capacity to cook for up to 100 people.
Shadle said eventually the duo want to start traveling with the truck to music festivals and have even scheduled some weddings in the future.
The truck’s tagline “Farm2Street” isn’t just a slogan it’s a way of life for Shadle and Beach.
They want to have as little an impact on the environment as possible so they serve the food on biodegradable, vegetable-based plates with biodegradable napkins and utensils. The food scraps are composted at their farm.
The food is an extension of that philosophy. It’s local, healthy, and eco-friendly.
Beach said when they can they incorporate the food they grow on the farm into the daily menu. In addition Beach sells her three day juice cleanse on the truck making it kind of a “traveling medicine show.”
One of the most popular dishes at the Capitol gmonkey stop, according to the Farm2Street blog, was the “DOUBLE G” combo, which is a vegan grilled cheese sandwich along with their “g-fries.“ The downward dog burrito and feisty monkey peanut and cilantro noodles were also a hit.
The gmonkey truck is mobile, but it does make some regular stops in Hartford, including Elm Street on Wednesdays and the Billings Forge farmers market on Thursday.