Food trucks are awesome — they’re a great vehicle (pun intended) for young chefs to build a clientele. And they generally provide quick, cheap, and quirky menu selections. Added bonus, these meals on wheels scoot around town and often congregate in convenient locations.
But we suspect that most food truck owners ultimately dream of bringing their dine-and-dash menu to a permanent brick-and-mortar location. Smitten Ice Cream in San Francisco, for example, started out in the street cart community before expanding to six successful storefront venues.
So it is with Dustin and Kristin Stewart. In 2009 the pair launched a restaurant and food truck business that emphasized fresh, local, and organic food. Their first food truck popped up in Fresno, Calif., and additional vehicles expanded to the streets of San Francisco in 2014. According to TheDailyMeal, Dusty Buns remains one of the top food trucks in the nation.
And now Dustin and Kristin have morphed their venture into a full-blown full-service restaurant. The Dusty Buns Bistro (11 Division St., San Francisco, Calif. 415-895-2867) opened its doors earlier this year in the city’s bustling SoMa neighborhood. The location allows the Stewarts to expand their menu from yummy sandwiches (such as the Tri-Tip Melt) to include soups, salads, pastries, and various vegan and vegetarian offerings.
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Dustin, 31, says that his menu is filled with comfort food imbued with a fresh market-driven attitude. His culinary influences come directly from the farmers, he says. “I take what they have in peak season and that informs my menu. When it’s the height of the season, it’s the most flavorful.”
Bay Area foodies (can we still use the word “foodies”?) got a generous taste of the Bistro’s fare recently when Dustin and Kristin hosted a small dining event prepared exclusively for the newly-launched EnjoyFresh Insider program. Insider members are food lovers who are eager to explore new restaurants and “go beyond the everyday menu” to help build the EnjoyFresh restaurant network. Reports one Insider, “the food was really high level, fresh, balanced, and well worth the money.”
Highlights of the night included a bacon-wrapped Fuyu persimmon, the chefs’ winning macaroni and cheese with nettles, and Canard à l’Orange complete with crunchy greens cooked to perfection.
For inspiration, the Stewarts often play around with unique food combinations. And taking it one step further, they enjoy the challenge of making dishes with limited ingredients. Their ketchup, for example, only has five ingredients. That’s a far cry from what you’d get in an average bottle of Heinz or Del Monte.
Everything is done for the customer, says Dustin. As such, he includes a vegan almond pesto sauce on tap to make sure his “veg-forward” diners can enjoy all parts of the menu. “We want our customers to experience the ingredients and real hospitality,” says Dustin. “We want the vegetable to be the star – perfectly salted and presented simply.”
Being a chef is the greatest job in the world. But there is one downside, says Dustin: “So much food, too little time!” In fact, drawing from Kristin’s Mexican heritage, this culinary pair has another concept he’s testing out through pop-up events called La Bodega Bella.
UPDATE: If you missed the event above, now’s your chance to reserve your seat at the Chef Dustin’s Chef’s Table! The next Dusty Buns Bistro event is taking place on December 5 at 6pm. It’s a 4 course farm-to-table communal dining experience, with or without chef-selected wine pairings for each course.
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