After a topsy-turvy summer food truck season, with next to no foot traffic in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, an innovative partnership with a grocery store is taking this mobile business indoors.
Beginning today, you can find a food truck — the facade anyway — inside the deli department at the Eagan Lunds & Byerlys (1299 Promenade Pl., Eagan, 651-686-9669).
It’s a rotating pop-up called Eat Street, and O’Cheeze is moving in for the first six-week residency. After that, another food truck will take over the space.
“It’s a unique way to bring new and exciting food to our customers, while also inviting the devoted foodie followers of local food trucks to step in and discover Lunds & Byerlys,” John Stueland, deli director at Lunds & Byerlys, said in a release. “This pop-up kitchen space will allow customers to try some of the best and most innovative street food fare the Twin Cities has to offer without tracking down a food truck. Plus, the frequent rotation of food truck vendors will allow for continued discovery.”
The idea for the collaboration began well before the pandemic, but “it’s pretty lucky it landed in a time like this,” said Tony Fritz, who owns O’Cheeze with his wife, Haley. The summer of COVID-19 was bruising to an industry that relies on office workers to build its “stockpile” for the rest of the year, Fritz said. By taking up residency in the suburbs, these vendors might reconnect with former customers who now work from home.
“This is a good way for us to continue forward, to continue to touch people during hard times,” he said. “We all have to grocery shop, and this gives us an opportunity to get in front of people.”
Fritz served as a kind of “middleman,” he said, between Lunds & Byerlys and his food truck colleagues to design a one-size-fits-all kitchen and recruit the lineup. Besides O’Cheeze, other brands that have signed on include Butcher Salt, Full Belly Happy Heart, Gastrotruck, Elevation 5280 and Bark and the Bite.
The food truck-style window replaces what used to be a Big Bowl.
The long-term goal is to install an Eat Street in more stores throughout the metro, and keep participating trucks on rotation. Businesses with designs on going brick and mortar have a shot to try it out without investing more than rent.
For his part, Fritz is keeping the O’Cheeze menu simple: grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese and nachos. Eventually, he’d like to feature a local cheese or produce item on the menu “to take a product that’s on the shelf down the way and create something,” he said.
Eat Street operates daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. O’Cheeze will be on site until the end of October, with the next brand opening in early November.
Go to LundsandByerlys.com/EatStreet for more details.