In Stephanie Brooks’ cooking bag of tricks, molten cheese is a secret sandwich weapon.
“I like crispy cheese on my sandwich. I put a little cheese on the grill when I put the bread on the grill so it gets a little crunch. When I can see that crunch on the edge, I think, ‘Success.’ There’s nothing better than pulling a sandwich apart and seeing cheese from one side to the other,” said Brooks, who has started a food truck, Gnosh, in Gig Harbor.
She offers a menu of grilled sandwiches with an emphasis on cheese. She’s never met a cheese she disliked, said the self-taught cook who had a previous career as a manager of a Home Depot.
“There’s a reason on the back of our shirts, it says, ‘Cheesy Does It,’ ” said Brooks.
That’s also the name of one of her sandwiches. The Cheesy Does It ($5) is a grilled sandwich stacked with Colby-Jack, mozzarella and Swiss. She also makes a grilled pizza sandwich ($5) with pepperoni, marinara, oregano and mozzarella. A grilled ham ($5) includes a swipe of Dijon and melted Swiss.
The Caprese ($5) was an incredibly cheesy concoction, and one fit for vegetarians. The sandwich that’s a spin on the simple Italian salad of the same name was layered with gooey mozzarella, diced tomatoes, whole basil leaves and a thin layer of pesto mayo on grilled bread.
It’s one of several menu items built with fresh herbs. Her menu also lists wraps and deli-style cold sandwiches, along with fries tossed with rosemary, garlic and Parmesan cheese ($3-$4) and straightforward fries ($2-$3).
For those who eschew cheese, there’s an Italian sandwich with salami, tomatoes, red onions, pepperoncinis and pesto mayo on French bread ($8.50). The bacon-lettuce-tomato with avocado ($8) sandwich also skips the cheese.
Brooks’ business got a bumpy start when her truck blew a head gasket after her second day serving in a gravel lot at the corner of 56th Street Northwest and 32nd Avenue Northwest.
A trip to the mechanic and a week later, she’s back on the road.
Getting her business open encompassed a year of setbacks. The company she hired to build her truck delayed delivery for several months. She also had trouble figuring out where to open and ultimately settled on Gig Harbor because it came with more foot traffic than Purdy or Wauna, where she lives.
She’s also trying to clear a few final hurdles. The gravel lot where she’s located won’t allow parking. But she thinks there’s plenty of open spaces near the lot to accommodate her diners.
Next up is thwarting the cold, rainy weather that can shutter a food truck when outdoor dining season ends. Her work-around is online ordering. “You type in your order and it will give you an estimated wait time. You can pick up your order and not wait in the rain,” said Brooks.
A few more things to know about her business:
Dietary restrictions: She offers gluten-free bread, just ask.
Seating: It’s limited, so bring your own or tailgate it.
Specials: Ask what’s new that day.
Gnosh Food Truck
Where: 3123 56th St., Gig Harbor; 253-778-9549.
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, but check facebook.com/GNOSHfoodtruck for an up-to-date schedule.