A new food truck concept is rolling through Cleveland this summer, one that emphasizes lickety-split service, child-friendly meals, and locally sourced favorites while a single proprietor keeps watch.
That man is Jason Lawenda, who recently launched his Food Buggy retro concession trailer as part of All Culinary Services
, a small events catering company. The buggy — an Airstream trailer that resembles an oversized sleep pod from a science fiction movie — transports fare prepared by local food artisans as well as the owner.
Hungry patrons simply saddle up and type in their order on an iPad. Lawenda prepares food right there on his grill, or hands over sandwiches and other ready-made delicacies cooked off-site.
"There's no cash involved, almost like vending machine," says Lawenda, 39. "Plus I'm cooking in front of you, so you still get that face-to-face interaction."
Lawenda's sandwich selection includes Italian roast pork, chicken paprikash and sweet potato torte. The Bainbridge resident works closely with area farms and food purveyors, among them Ohio City Provisions
, Sirna's Farm
, On The Rise Breads
, and New Creation Farm
. He also buys cupcakes from White Flower Cake Shoppe
and soft drinks from Old City Soda
"I basically have prep cooks cooking the meats of our sandwiches at their facilities, then I'll finish the product in my kitchen," Lawenda says. "This is a unique business model that supports the local small businesses that give us high-quality food."
Lawenda's clientele isn't just the young professional types you'd expect to see hanging around a food truck downtown. He caters to families as well, offering hot dogs and cookie butter-and-jelly sandwiches. His littlest customers get a complimentary selection of purees from Oregon-based Peter Rabbit Organics.
"I'm smaller-scale, so I've been able to separate myself and be family-friendly," says Lawenda. "I'm like a compliment to other food trucks when I go to an event."
Lawenda has 100 outings planned for the next several months, starting with The Chomp in Midtown
. His packed summer includes stops at Edgewater Live
, the Blossom Time Festival
and Wade Oval Wednesdays
on University Circle.
A native of Los Angeles, Lawenda cooked up the one-man Food Buggy concept as a means of harnessing skills he learned years ago at a Philadelphia culinary school. Custom orders, fast service and a family-centric atmosphere will keep Lawenda's food business on the road year-round.
"I'll bring the buggy out in the winter, too," he says. "I'm prepared to go out any time."