Albert LeaAlbert Lea, MN

Dori Etheridge, owner and operator of the Peppered Cow food truck, was set up in the parking lot of Crossroads Trailer on Wednesday. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

By Tyler Julson  |  Albert Lea Tribune

Trucks offer expanded food options throughout the city

Food trucks, once considered to be a rarity in Albert Lea, have started popping up all over the community in recent years. Several mobile food units have made frequent stops in Albert Lea, sure to satisfy the hunger of any customer with a wide range of food varieties.

With Albert Lea’s recent changes to its food truck ordinance, the owners have seen a vast increase in the amount of people they can reach.

Dori Etheridge, owner and operator of Peppered Cow, has been in operation for just over a month and said business so far has been fantastic.

“The response from people in town has really been great,” Etheridge said. “I think it’s  a reflection of how great the Albert Lea community bas been. It’s just been awesome. We’re very grateful to everyone for that.”

Peppered Cow offers the traditional cheeseburger, dubbed “smashburger,” and fries. However, Etheridge’s most popular items are a little more exotic. The Banh Mi and Cuban sandwiches as well as the Asian Chicken Salad are the items that fly out the door.

“People are so excited about the food,” Etheridge said. “My menu offers some things that are very different from things you can get anywhere else. People have really embraced the cultural diversity of the menu.”

To be able to sell from a food truck in Albert Lea, vendors must first apply for a permit with the city. Before the recent changes to the city ordinance, food trucks were only allowed to park in private commercial lots with the owner’s permission. However, there are now six locations food trucks are allowed to sell their cuisine from.

The bison burger from Evan’s Eatery, pictured during last year’s Freeborn County Fair. Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

 

Washington Avenue next to the splash pad, the North Broadway parking lot, Bancroft Park, Brookside Boat Landing, City Beach and Frank Hall Park all now have designated spots for food trucks to operate from.

Daniel and April Miller, owners of Evan’s Eatery, travel throughout the area and try to make it to Albert Lea at least once a week. In their second year of operation, Daniel Miller talked about his experience so far in Albert Lea and what it is like owning his own food truck.

“It’s been good,” Daniel Miller said. “Everyone likes seeing new food. Everyone likes a good variety. …

“I really like the independence of being your own boss, making it on your own. I like that part.”

Many of the food vendors take part in the popular events in the area such as Wind Down Wednesdays, Thursday’s on Fountain and the surrounding town festivals, but some have regular spots staked out.

On top of working all the popular events around town, Nel’s Diner has made itself a staple at the Albert Lea Lakers games. Owner Monica Nelson has made a name for herself with her specialty wedge-cut french fries, a smash hit with all of her regular baseball fans. For Nelson, on top of doing what she enjoys, running the food truck has the added value of spending quality time with her family.

“I love it and it’s fun,” Nelson said. “I always call it my fun job. I’m a full time RN up in same-day surgery, so this is kind of my fun thing. My family are the only ones that work it, so it’s kind of a family event. It’s good family time for us.”

Other registered food vendors in Albert Lea include Big Red, Bruno’s, Conger Inn Victory Catering and Don’s Crumble Beef. Their locations and menus for any given day can be found on their respective Facebook pages.

“We totally enjoy it,” Nelson said. “Out at the Lakers games we see a lot of the same people. It’s about the relationships and new friendships we make.”

The chicken quesadilla from Evan’s Eatery, pictured during last year’s Freeborn County Fair. Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune