Compliments to the Chef: Lucy’s Original

7 Feb

Meet Lucy. She’s the other woman. She’s a smooth talking, show-stopping beauty that first introduced herself to my husband back in the fall of 2010. She came across as a reliable and trustworthy (albeit old-fashioned) kind of gal, beaming with a heart of stainless steel. Since that fateful meeting, my husband has devoted the past 21 weeks to her.

I miss my husband. I miss the softness of his hands. I miss our evening chats on the couch, legs draped across his, slurping whiskey and dreaming about the future. These days, we’re lying somewhere in between “what needs to be done” and “what’s gone missing from the fridge.” These days are all about Lucy. Whatever Lucy wants, Lucy gets. They/we could practically rename the song. I can’t blame him. Looking back on it now, I’d say we were equally foolish to think we could allow this woman into our home without disrupting the equilibrium in our relationship. Besides, even I can admit to falling for her beauty and to being intoxicated by her charm. She’s a few years younger than me. Usually, my husband and I have the same taste in women but I’ll have you know better; I am not the kind of gal who says one thing and does the other. On the contrary, I may be shy, but I am upfront and honest (sometimes a little too honest). Lucy is different. She’s flashy, and smells delicious and gives the impression of being wise with her sturdy and gorgeous, vintage exterior. And oh, how she tugs at your heart-strings with her charming family history, her seemingly innocent remarks and passive mannerisms. Most of the time, she’s got you convinced she’s the one doing you the favor. Not knowing any better, she had us believing we were taking advantage of her. As you very well know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and let me tell you, on the inside, Lucy is no gem.

Huh. Funny how we can look back on life and can pick the exact moment when we wished we would would’ve chosen differently–how we can pin point the exact second when our lives are destined to become irrevocably changed. For us, it was the moment my husband ever laid eyes on Lucy. He came home that day and said to me, “I’m going to buy that food truck.”

If I haven’t been clear enough, Lucy is our food truck. Or to be more concise, Lucy is my husband’s 1986 Chevy Step-Van converted into a food truck, out of which he sells cheeseburgers. And to be even more concise, out of which he sells inside-out cheeseburgers, like the Jucy Lucy cheeseburger out of South Minneapolis, MN, which is how the truck got her name. How we came to this point is debated. I can recall a road trip in which the existence of such a cheeseburger was discussed, though the destination of this particular road trip has yet to be confirmed. The facts we do know are as follows:

  1. We purchased the vehicle back in September of 2010 under the assumption it would be a perfect distraction from the closing of our cafe in June 2010
  2. It was known from the beginning (and from past experience) that this operation would be best operated by Evan
  3. It was known from the beginning (and from past experience) that this operation would be heavily meddled in by myself
  4. It was important to us to own the real estate that houses our business (even if that business is mobile)
  5. He wanted to serve burgers

As I mentioned before, I’m a meddler. My euphemism for this plaguing addiction is: I cannot contain myself. Despite my skepticism for Evan’s latest obsession, that is, the launching of a food truck serving burgers in the unforgiving freezing cold, over saturated economy, I insisted on being part of the process. I was admittedly nervous about spending our entire savings (and then some) on a food truck, and attempting to join the ranks and earn the respect of Portland’s so called “Food Cart Mafia.” Fortunately for me, I married a patient and loyal partner who is open, patient and kind and loving, and have mentioned patient? Throughout our years together, he calmly puts up with my antics, and our (ad)venture of Lucy’s Original stands testament to his strength and devotion.

Lord knows, we have both struggled with our decisions when it comes to our dealings with Lucy (like the time I bought a busted/over-sized soft serve machine off the internet we couldn’t squeeze through Lucy’s door). Mechanically there have also been issues. So far, we’ve replaced the alternator, battery (+external batteries), electrical wiring, fan belt, gas line, interior lighting, soft plug, starter and a window. That’s just the beginning of the amount of work that has gone into turning this 1986 Chevy Step-Van into a woman named Lucy. My early skepticism did not originate from questioning my husband’s integrity towards the project. Everyone who knows him agrees you cannot doubt his ability, determination, creativity or passion. Therefore, it came as no surprise that he would insist upon seeing this project through and with his own flair. From the beginning, he insisted upon coming up with a special blend of beef that he would grind fresh, himself, and hand-form into patties to grill (on a flat-top, “has to be a flat-top”) to eventually combine with his own condiments on a (soft) toasted potato bun. He owes this passion to few places and people (namely, Chef Frank Castronovo who turned us on to Burger Bar in Amsterdam, Portland’s Little Big Burger, Chef John Gorham and dear friends Lynn, Ben and Liam Russell,) Evan would also attempt to make Portland’s headiest vegan burger, packed full of sunflower seeds and topped with locally grown sprouts, inspired by our favorite all-vegan fast food chain and our favorite vegan band. Oh, yes. We do have a favorite vegan fast food chain. #OnlyinLosAngeles. And hell yes we have a favorite vegan band. #OnlyinPortland

Finally, once December hit, he got the truck mobile enough to move in to a super supportive farmer’s lot in our neighborhood, and was able to gain some experience behind the grill and say hello to a lot of (familiar) friendly faces. At the close of the month, he even hit up a couple of Blazer games outside of the Leftbank Building. He still talks about those (cold) adrenaline-filled nights. He loved loves every minute of it. The month of January granted us another opportune move to a popular North Portland avenue known as Mississippi. Parked in the lot of a friendly and locally owned gallery and gift shop, our neighbors at Land have taken good care of us.

The menu is good and simple. Perhaps it’s so good because it’s so simple, this ensures that we literally have our hand in every item. Currently we have eight (cheese)burgers, Tim’s (lightly salted) potato chips and Mexican coke. That’s it. We make our own pickles, jams, sauces and confit. Er, or if you really want to be specific, Little Branch makes all the pickles, jams, sauces and confit. Evan grinds the (locally raised and ethically responsible) meat, stuffs all the patties and does all the grunt work. Together, we’ve found a way to make this dream of ours work.

As difficult as it’s been to adjust to a life walking the dogs without Evan and his silly dog voices, mad scientist-like coffee-making skills and shared Blazer fanaticism, I’m proud of him. My heart exceedingly gushes pride (and joy!) at his successes both internally and externally. Trust me, this is a man you want to know. At the very least, it’s a guy worth buying a burger from.

Beginning February 10th and through the end of the month he’ll be parked at:

3925 North Mississippi Ave
Portland, Oregon 97227
MAP

For the latest news and updates, find him on Twitter at twitter.com/LucysOriginal. Tell him his wife sent you.

5 Responses to “Compliments to the Chef: Lucy’s Original”

  1. Tim Roth February 8, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    God, if I had all the time and money in the world I would commit suicide at the hand of as many Lucy burgers as it would take to do so.

    • footbridgetothefeast February 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

      Tim, No need to commit suicide or eat your budget. That said, let’s do a Lucy Burger-Off together and see how many we can put down.

      • Tim Roth February 12, 2011 at 6:26 am #

        Showdown at the Lucy Corral!

  2. Allison Jones February 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    Oh, Ali, this is wonderful. I’m so proud of both of you, and I know this is an amazing and worthwhile, if hectic, chapter of your lives. You’re wonderful, both of you, and the whole city is cheering you on.

    Besides, Lucy ain’t got nothin’ on you, good lookin’.

    We should go to a Blazers’ game sometime!

    xoxo
    Allison

    • footbridgetothefeast February 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Allison, Thank you so much for the kind and encouraging words. We feel so grateful to have the support from people like you in the Portland food community. We should definitely catch up…over a Blazers game…with the remnants of Jucy Lucys in our bellies.

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