With the freezing fog and return of the rain (any minute?), I wondered if new mobile restaurant owners Nate Daep and Jay Gallinatti had second thoughts about starting their outdoor-based food businesses at a time of year when few diners are saying, “Hey, let’s eat outside!”
“We were really concerned about that,” laughed Nate Daep, who opened Big Boys Filipino food truck with fiance Melanie Querubin in a neighborhood in Pacific that straddles the Pierce County side of the Pierce-King County line. Ultimately, economics decided the couple would open their al fresco truck. They couldn’t afford to be idle waiting for warmer weather.
For Jay Gallinatti, a first-time restaurant owner, a primary concern for starting an outdoor business during the rainy season was figuring out shelter. That’s why he’s weatherproofed - as much as one can during our sideways-blowing rain season - his Center Street hot dog cart he opened in Tacoma Nov. 1.
On a recent and sort-of-dry day, I visited both new mobile restaurants. Today, I'll tell you about Jay Dogs. Tomorrow, check back for a report on Big Boys Filipino Food Truck.
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Jay Gallinatti could not have created a more simple menu - two kinds of griddled dogs served on toasted buns. What makes his cart a dog lover’s destination are the serve-yourself toppings - bacon is a 50 cent surcharge, but a good 20 or so condiments are free - including cream cheese, a dozen or so kinds of mustard and mustard relatives, chopped onions, peppers, kraut, relish and pickle spears. All-beef dogs are priced $3 or two for $5. A spicy sausage link is $4. Dogs come with chips.
I first encountered Jay Dogs at Moveable Feast, the Cheney Stadium mobile restaurant meetup held last July. What struck me about Gallinatti’s dogs was that he served grilled-to-order dogs, not steamed dogs. Another thing I liked? He buttered and toasted the bun - and the buns are from Tacoma's Baker Boys. It's an easy equation. Griddling + toasting = good tasting dogs.
While this is Gallinatti's first permanent home on Center Street, he's operated his cart at festivals and special events. Gallinatti lives in University Place and this is his first solely owned food business, although he's worked at restaurants and he's held jobs supporting restaurants. He started his career 30 years ago at H.D. Hotspurs in Kent and then worked in the computer business, selling to restaurants.
He transports his hot dog cart with his 1962 VW pickup truck, which is parked near the curb and holds a sign advertising the hot dog cart to Center Street traffic. If that Center street location sounds familiar to mobile food watchers, it's because Norma's Tacos was at that location. (Not sure where the cart went - but I'm always on the lookout.)
So about that rain. Gallinatti has a solution for that. “My two 10-by-10 pop-ups have a 10-by-20 feet heavy duty waterproof tarp over the top so it is nice and dry underneath even with all the rain we have been having,” he said via email earlier this month.
Our pledge to readers: Sue Kidd dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals.