Hot dogs by Jailhouse Rock. Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Truck to Table

It’s only natural that the next wave of the food truck revolution would see our catch-me-if-you-can culinary artists find a place to set up shop in perpetuity. The food is too good not to set down some roots.

Three Columbus mobile menus now have traditional in-house counterparts, but per usual, the food is anything but ordinary.

Jailhouse Rock
Truck: The Paddy Wagon (Zach James)
Table: Little Rock Bar, 944 N Fourth St.

Looking to push past his boundaries in the food service industry, Zach James launched burger-based Paddy Wagon in 2010. Armed with pointers from Fusion Café mentor J.P. Potter, he aimed to dispel the roach-coach myth with vibrant, clever branding. He soon shifted from burger to brisket, and after a series of quick sell-outs began to seek a permanent spot to sling. He probably wasn’t dreaming of the 150-square-foot cell awaiting him at Italian Village’s Little Rock, but James saw the limited space as an opportunity, opting for a creative hot dog menu. Brisket makes its way onto some of the dogs, and also atop some of the best bar nachos you’re gonna find within the outerbelt.  Jailhouse Rock has also taken a cue from Late Night Slice with some signature (and very, very tasty) sauces to slather on whatever fills your plate, and have added Sophie’s Gourmet Pierogi (a truck-turned-cart) to the menu to mix up things even more.

Bebe/Swoop Takeover
Truck: Swoop (Matthew Heaggans)
Table: The Hey Hey, 361 E Whittier St.
Table: Ace of Cups, 2619 N High St.

Matt Heaggans is damn fun to watch in action. In the kitchen, he approaches his menu with the mental intensity of an Olympic athlete. And now, with two permanent spots to showcase his skills, Heaggans is embossing his style on Columbus food. The local native practiced his craft for a few years in a French restaurant in Washington D.C., where he learned there was “no way to learn it all.” That still serves as his daily inspiration in the food truck business, where flexibility keeps operations afloat. Almost everything from Swoop is served fresh, which keeps him on his toes in the truck, and now, at The Hey Hey (Bebe) and Ace of Cups (Swoop Takeover). Catering to a diverse clientele in two different areas of the city has also been a lesson in adaptation. He had to create a menu that will connect with people with at any level.

While The Hey Hey leans towards comfort, the menu at Ace of Cups plays out as classic bar food for sharing between beers or bands. While it may be impossible for Heaggans to be in three places at once, his influence has certainly expanded rapidly.

Tatoheads Public House (Daniel McCarthy)
Truck: Tatoheads
Table: Formerly Hal & Al’s, 1297 Parsons Ave.

PBS and necessity drove Daniel McCarthy to his career in the food industry. His single mothers always worked so he had a choice between TV dinners and making something that he wanted, and the Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child became his entertainment and instruction. As a teenager he would cut school and make everyone food when they snuck home.

Now, he’s playing meal supplier again, taking the biggest swing of any in the food truck scene by not just carving out a corner of a bar – but taking over the whole thing.

The sudden closing of Hal and Al’s on the South Side presented an opportunity McCarthy couldn’t pass up, although it’s meant moving into a new house, opening a new restaurant, and changing the home base over the course of a crazy 10 days during peak food truck season.

Running the Tatoheads truck (with its unmatched French fries) for the last five years, McCarthy is excited to have the elbow room to flex his cooking muscles, showcasing a diverse menu too difficult for the limited, sweltering space of the truck. His girlfriend will be using her horticulture skills to create and expand a community garden for the restaurant and the neighborhood, where McCarthy has also now planted roots. Public House plans to add dishes like Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken and Potato Pot Pie, and more. And those fries, of course.