Sometimes, in the course of our hectic lives, it’s easy to forget — or not even notice — the little things that make living in Frederick County great. In that spirit, I launched, “What I Love in Frederick this Week”: the best food, drink, shows, shopping, and events coming to the city. If you love something in Frederick, let me know. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeted to @kamamasters.
This week: Gambrill Mt. Food Co.’s new restaurant
Fans of my work (lol) might remember my gleaming review of Gambrill Mt. Food Co., still a brand-new food truck when I visited in June of last year. Back then, I was impressed by the truck’s creative menu of hyperlocal food that really delivered on the local, with Chicken of the Woods mushrooms foraged from the Catoctin Mountains and microgreens from a next-door neighbor’s farm.
Since then, Gambrill Mt.’s food game has only gotten stronger. I’m talking umami-rich ramen packed with pickled vegetables and softly steamed bao stuffed with flavorful pork belly, among a rotating list of other seasonal options. Despite the menu’s advances, running a full-time food truck was increasingly hard work, said Ben Cohen, who left an executive chef position at The Wine Kitchen in Purcellville to purchase the truck with partner Jasmin Tregoning.
“Last winter was crazy, working through the snow, the sleet, and the rain to keep the truck on the road,” said Cohen, who went from working 50 hours a week at a job with a steady paycheck to 90-plus hours running his own (less-predictable) business. “We’ve been busting our butts for the past year to make it successful.”
That’s why I was thrilled to hear that Gambrill Mt. locked down a brick-and-mortar spot near downtown Frederick. Come November, Cohen and Tregoning will be taking over the current location of Cafe Bueno at 503 N. East Street after the much-adored Mexican standby moves to a bigger spot just down the road.
The space is small, but the couple has big visions. Namely, expanding service to breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus late-night hours on the weekend. And adding delivery to nearby breweries like Rockwell and Midnight Run. And don’t forget plans to add a SECOND truck to service their usual locations.
“The community has given us such great support and feedback that we only want to expand what we’ve been doing,” Cohen said.
His plan seems even more stressful than running a single truck, but he assured me that he and Tregoning also plan to add at least 10 staff members when they open.
“For the past year, it’s just been Jasmin and I working crazy hours trying to get anything done,” Cohen added. “So, we’re hoping we’ll be able to focus more on the restaurant and offer so much more than what we’ve already been doing.”
Some of their biggest plans involve the menu itself. At the restaurant, Cohen wants to keep fan favorites like the ever-popular Philly cheesesteak and add whole new categories to the menu. His biggest ideas include Mexican street food and a whole line of “Impossible” items based on the cult favorite meat substitute, including Impossible gyros, Impossible meatball subs, and Impossible breakfast sandwiches. For breakfast, he’s thinking hash bowls, breakfast sandwiches and French toast — already-popular items from the truck’s occasional brunch service.
Those staples, Cohen said, will allow the food truck (and eventually trucks) to focus on single-concept menus and upscale eats. His ideas range from a burgers-only day at the truck to five-course tasting menus served at local wineries and breweries. At the restaurant, he and Tregoning are working on getting a liquor license to serve local beers on tap.
“It’s not our main focus, but we’ve always served all the little breweries in Frederick,” Cohen said. “So, it makes sense for us to do that. We’re taking little bites, doing things gradually and making it work as we go along.”
They’re also part of a growing number of food truck operators to settle in a brick-and-mortar location. Jerrod Cline, the owner of Bub-B-Que Food Truck and Catering Company, moved to the former Avalon Restaurant near Walkersville this spring. Brett Novick, who runs Boxcar Burgers, moved to a space in downtown Brunswick in May.
A brick-and-mortar restaurant makes it easier to maintain quality of life, Cohen said, but — for him — it’s also a first step in his eventual plan to open a fine dining restaurant.
I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Gambrill Mt. Food Co. has some of the most creative cuisine in Frederick, and I can’t wait to see more of it.