By Maria L. Kirkpatrick | Independent Record
Helena’s new Mediterranean restaurant can be found in various locations at different times of the week around town.
You’ll know when you’ve found it when you see boatloads of steaming, fragrant sandwiches and fries being passed through the window of a bright yellow and blue truck sporting a lightning bolt.
Eat Greekish is a food truck six months in the making and years in planning, born from the minds of food lovers John and Carrie Wolf.
John is from North Dakota, Carrie is a Helena native. The couple moved to town about a year and a half ago after living for 20 years in Michigan. They have long had the dream of opening a restaurant but were too afraid to try. The food truck is their answer and John’s passion.
“My wife is my hardcore support system,” he said.
While living in Michigan, John was a pollination specialist. He worked for a company that raised insects for pest control and bumblebees for pollination. While that career doesn’t necessarily transition into becoming a chef, John said throughout his life, whenever he needed a job, he worked in a kitchen. It was at those positions he learned how to set up an efficient working space.
“I always had that in the back of my mind,” he said. “My wife and I always wanted to open a restaurant but never had the courage.”
While living in Detroit, they were close to Dearborn, which has one of the largest Middle Eastern populations outside of the Middle East. They loved the flavors they tasted in nearby restaurants. So, they took a good look at street food in the Middle East, and the Mediterranean in general, and made their own version to serve to Helena foodies.
“We had a lot of really, really good food,” John said. “When we moved to Montana, it was a little scarce. We’ve been wanting to do a food truck — mostly me — we thought it’s really a great time. Let’s find a way to make it happen.”
The idea for a food truck came about nine years ago. John and Carrie were watching food TV and saw a food truck race. It struck John that it would be fun to do something like that.
“I thought, if I started a restaurant I would probably do it in a truck setting and have some of that mobility to get out there and open my front door to a different place every day,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is take the base elements from Mediterranean food in general,” John said. “We went with the word Greek because it’s readily identifiable as Mediterranean and good, interesting, unique food. And we put the ‘ish’ on the back of it to let people know we’re not really a Greek restaurant. We’re Greekish.”
The cooking took years and years of practice. He credits his wife for playing at home with different sauce recipes while, he said, he’s good at cooking meat.
“It’s a barbecue truck with different sauces and vegetables,” he said. “Literally, it’s meat and potatoes. It’s all about the sauce.”
John studied food truck restaurants for about six months. He learned the biggest problem associated with mobile dining is letting customers know where you are and where you will be next. So, he updates his website, www.eatgreekish.com, hourly if necessary to notify diners.
“We want you to eat with us,” John said.
The menu, while not final, offers three sandwiches: Freek Gyro, Schwarma or Bulgarian Bizarre. Additional items include Greekish stir-fry, Greekish poutine and side options. Meats are traditional Greek-style pork shoulder and Lebanese-style chicken breast and thigh. The food is served in paper boat trays.
Instead of feta cheese, John uses a sheep milk cheese made in Helena at Sheep Mountain Creamery. The cheese curds come from the same place and also are made from sheep milk.
Right now, John is the sole employee during the week as Carrie works at Bank of the Rockies. They were able to use savings to purchase and outfit the truck and get the business going. John said people are finding him and that he gets busy.
“Efficiency is everything,” he said. “I designed the workspace to be efficient. I twirl like a ballerina in there.”
Soon, he may have to hire assistants as future plans include catering for large private events.