Appleton food truck Locally Sauced makes funky tacos, burgers, fries
APPLETON – Smashsquatch is real. I’ve seen it. It’s a double smashed burger topped with cheese topped with carnitas topped with bacon strips topped with barbecue sauce. And, for another couple of bucks, topped with bacon jam.
It’s a monstrous sandwich found at Locally Sauced, a new food truck roaming the Fox Cities. Owners Chad Nissen and Brian Van Loo make tamer single and double smashed burgers topped by a garlic aioli. They also serve a peanut butter and bacon double cheeseburger. Alternatively, they make tacos made with corn tortillas fried to order filled with carnitas and a pineapple salsa or chicken bacon ranch. Deep-fried cheese curds and loaded french fries like bacon and garlic aioli round out the streamlined menu.
None of these food creations would have been brought to life without an $ 11 bet on Draft Kings. Or a chance meeting in a Bergstrom vehicle dealership.
Serendipity, luck and help from local restaurateurs paved the way for Locally Sauced food truck to debut this year. Nissen and Van Loo are betting their tacos, smashburgers, loaded fries and funky vibe to keep their dream job rolling.
Shunning the status quo, betting on themselves
The Green Bay Packers had just defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in January 2021. Nissen had a few bucks in his Draft Kings account, so he paid an $ 11 entry fee and set a fantasy team lineup for the NFL’s nightcap between the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. First place would take home $ 250,000.
Having played Draft Kings for years, Nissen said he may have won $ 500 at most on any bet. Typically “winnings” were more like $ 14 on a $ 20 bet, he joked. That was about to change. In a big way.
At halftime, Nissen was tied with two others for top score. His wife had gone to bed, and wanting to share his excitement about his good luck to this point, he sent his brother a screenshot.
“They (Draft Kings) make it look like a pinball machine lighting up when you’re winning so I’m constantly refreshing my screen,” Nissen said.
With the game over and scores confirmed, Nissen found out he would be splitting prize money with two others, so he decided it was worth waking up his wife to tell her the good news.
He wasn’t comfortable divulging the exact amount, but it was enough to convince him to chase his food truck dream.
“You never think it will happen to you, then it happens to you, it’s kind of one of those things,” Nissen said.
Initial excitement gave way to a few days of “I’ll believe it when I see it in the bank” disbelief. Nissen said that three days later – “after refreshing my bank account 7,000 times, almost wearing a hole in my screen on my phone” – the money was in the bank.
Nissen said leaving the money in the bank and working the rest of his life “like normal people” wasn’t going to happen.
What was the first thing Nissen wanted to do with the windfall? Start a food truck with Van Loo.
“I’m not going to accept the status quo. I see people doing it (food trucks) and we’re better than them. We haven’t even started yet, and I know we’re better than them,” Nissen said. .
Of all the car dealerships in the world …
If Van Loo hadn’t walked into a Bergstrom dealership wearing his sweatshirt emblazoned with a rack of ribs, Locally Sauced may still be just a dream.
Nissen, seeing the sweatshirt, struck up a conversation about barbecue with Van Loo who was waiting for his car to be serviced. In 2014, a year after their initial meeting, Nissen sold Van Loo to Ford Fusion.
The duo became Facebook friends because, as Nissen puts it, they are kindred spirits in the culinary world.
Or more to the point, Van Loo said, “We are both eaters of delicious foods.”
Nearly seven years of sharing and commenting on food photos in their social media feeds, the big win on Draft Kings turned talk into action.
“I’m betting on myself,” Nissen said. “I’m sick of being everyone else’s best employee, I want to be my own best employee.”
Nissen texted Van Loo: Want to start a food truck?
After reading the text, Van Loo said he looked at his wife and said, “Remember Chad, that I guy bought a Fusion from? He wants to start a food truck. She’s like ‘cool.'”
When he got the text, Van Loo said, he’d been dreaming of starting a food truck for “like 10 years.”
He upgraded from a small backyard smoker to a Big Green Egg in 2010.
“This has changed the game. I’ve been doing everything on it,” Van Loo said.
Then he added a second Big Green Egg and last year both were cemented into the Van Loo’s new outdoor kitchen patio.
Perfecting pulled pork, brisket, ribs and other barbecue through years, Van Loo said co-workers, family and friends would ask if we were going to start a food truck. He’d been giving it serious thought, even just as a side job.
Now was his chance.
When Nissen pitched the food truck idea, he offered to finance the venture.
“But he (Van Loo) said, ‘No, I don’t want you having that much to say,'” Nissen said.
“I wanted it to be a 50/50 partnership,” Van Loo said.
Van Loo pulled together the financing for his half and in May 2021, they formed the LLC for Locally Sauced. A food truck that doesn’t serve barbecue.
Finding a mentor in Cozzy Corner owners
Though Van Loo had been mastering backyard barbecue for years and Nissen describes himself as not good in the kitchen but good on the deck (grilling), neither had any restaurant experience. Nor any experience starting or running a business. Finding answers to questions they didn’t even know to ask, a lengthy to-do list and a few supply chain issues delayed their dream. Getting help from a well-known Fox Cities restaurateur kept them on track.
Nissen and Van Loo contacted Tasha and Mike Banks (of Cozzy Corner fame) for advice on starting a restaurant.
“They were just a wealth of knowledge,” Nissen said. “They have started many businesses and know the ins and outs so well and had an answer for every question we asked.”
The Banks went beyond answering questions.
“They mentored us,” Nissen said. “They actually found the trailer for us.”
The trailer needed to be assembled, but the Banks connected Nissen and Van Loo with a guy who had experience putting food trailers together. Delays in getting pieces, like water tanks that won’t freeze, delayed the build and their plans to launch last fall.
With the custom built food trailer completed in January, the duo finished their to-do list and debuted in March, scheduled a few events in April, and in May began booking spots regularly.
The carnival barker and the chef
A Guy Fieri Funko Pop! Icons figurine and Nissen greet customers at the window while Van Loo handles flattop and deep fryer duties.
“There’s a yin and yang there,” Nissen said. “I’m the carnival barker, and he’s the chef.”
Both are fans of Fieri and his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” show. Their deep-fried cheese curds, loaded fries and smashburgers fit into the food-of-the-people focus of Fieri’s show. Nissen’s gregarious personality at the window gives off Fieri vibes.
“When you show up and see our trailer, we’re funky. We’re goofy. We’re having fun,” Nissen said. “The thing is, we’re really trying to deliver amazing food. We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just doing a little different spin on it.”
Despite Van Loo’s reputation for smoked meat and barbecue, they steered clear of those foods because of the smattering of smokehouse food trucks and restaurants like Parker John’s BBQ.
“I didn’t want to compete with that,” Van Loo said. “Everybody who ever learned to smoke a brisket is opening a smokehouse now.”
Instead they decided to focus on some “funky tacos and funky burgers.”
They served their first Uncle Chuck, the double bacon cheeseburger topped with peanut butter, to friends on Van Loo’s patio last September.
“Other places do peanut butter burgers. Whatever we do, it’s our version of what somebody else may have done,” Nissen said of their menu. “We do swineapple tacos – our spin on carnitas on a fresh fried corn tortilla shell topped with pineapple salsa and Cotija cheese. No lettuce. No tomato. No yellow cheese. Some people say that’s not a taco. But they eat it and they like it. “
With just enough room in the trailer for Nissen to take orders and Van Loo to cook, they stick to a streamlined menu alternating between serving smashburgers and tacos at each event.
The menu isn’t set and could evolve to include a Philly cheesesteak or even a vegetarian option like a caprese sandwich.
“It’s a process, we’re trying to learn as we go,” Van Loo said.
Early favorites will likely stick around. That includes french fries topped with bacon, Cotija, green onion and Locally Sauced’s signature garlic aioli. Be warned, the garlic asserts itself as the star among the competing flavors.
Same for cheese curds dipped in house-made batter before getting deep fried.
Curds come from Arthur Bay Cheese, the buns from Manderfield’s Home Bakery and barbecue sauce from Jimmy J’s Razorback Rib Sauces put the local in Locally Sauced.
While you can count on local ingredients, Nissen advises leaving your calorie counter at home.
“It’s called local not low-cal,” Nissen said. “Nobody’s watching their points around our truck.”
Both are counting on Locally Sauced to be their primary source of income.
Nissen quit a job at an electronics store last fall and Van Loo put his chimney sweep job on the back burner for now.
Locally Sauced lists when and where the food truck will be serving on its Facebook events page.
“We are dreaming big. We don’t know what we’re capable of, we don’t know what the future holds. All we know is that we’re not going to fail, “Van Loo said.” Who doesn’t want to be their own boss? Who doesn’t want to own a business? We just stumbled upon a great opportunity and we ‘ re making it happen. ”
Contact Daniel Higgins [email protected] Follow @HigginsEats on Twitter and Instagram and like on Facebook.