Roaming Harvest, one of the first food trucks parked at Traverse City’s Little Fleet restaurant, now has a sister store that stays put.
Simply known as Harvest, Simon Joseph’s new venture is in a little standalone building between Front and Park streets, behind Union Street Station.
“We’re four weeks in and we couldn’t be happier,” said Joseph during a late afternoon break. “It’s allowed us to expand in a way we couldn’t with the truck.”
The truck continues to provide street food at Front and Wellington streets, while the restaurant caters to patrons a few blocks west.
Harvest’s home is a square brick building. Rather than try to make it into something it isn’t, Joseph took his cue from the surroundings and embraced the industrial aesthetic.
The interior alternates slate blue and brick on the walls, setting off the corrugated steel and plywood. The ceilings are tall and the rafters are exposed.
The dining area takes up only about a third of the building; the rest is the kitchen.
“This is functioning as a commissary for the truck,” he said.
While the menu has a few staples, others come and go. There are what Harvest dubs “Street Food Favorites” like the Korean beef tacos, Old #12 Hash, and falafel.
“People crave the Korean beef tacos, but I don’t want the menu to always be the same,” Joseph said. “People will get bored. My staff will get bored.”
The farm-to-table mantra remains, however. What is on the day’s menu depends on what ingredients are available.
“That’s 50 pounds of fish fresh from Carlson’s,” he said, motioning to a delivery that just came in. “We’ll have fish tacos, and they’ll all be gone by tomorrow.”
Some specialties are labeled “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Roaming Risotto includes rice and snap peas, pea shoots and Parmesan. Fried Green Tomatoes features Tasso ham and remoulade. And today’s noodle could be almost anything.
There are a number of vegetarian and vegan selections, too.
Joseph says one of the best things on the menu is the fresh chicharrones (pork rinds) with chili lime sauce.
He acknowledges that the trick is to get people to try them.
“Fresh pork rinds are a whole different animal,” he said. “Actually, it’s the same animal, but once people have them … it’s getting them to take that leap.”
The Summer Harvest Salad includes a variety of greens and heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and a rhubarb vinaigrette.
The Flash Fried Street Beets are cubed, roasted beets that are then fried and salted. They’re served with fresh wasabi mayo for dipping. The Korean lettuce wraps include sticky rice, sweet soy sauce, and zippy kimchi (spicy pickled vegetables). And yes, the Korean beef tacos make the “Street Food Favorites” for a reason.
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Joseph says he’s worked in the restaurant industry for years, interrupted by a stint in construction.
“I started cooking with my mom and grandma, then started in restaurants when I was 12 or 13,” he said. “I spent the better part of my adult life cooking and traveling.”
He eventually settled in Traverse City with his wife Rebecca Brown. That’s when he turned to construction. But when the bottom fell out of the economy, he turned back to his first love.
The construction experience did prove valuable, however, as he built the tables and did much of the renovation in the building.
Prior to opening, Joseph said he was interested in providing late night food for those hitting nearby nightspots like Seven Monks, Low Bar, Dillinger’s, Bootleggers and Union Street Station. He’s still interested in doing so, though he admits finding staff that want to work until the wee hours is a challenge.
“Late night is an untapped market,” he said. Also on the drawing board is the addition of beer and wine.
“I don’t want it to be a bar, but beer and tacos are like peanut butter and jelly,” he says. “I’d like to have a couple of taps, all Traverse City.”
Prices start at $4 for the snacks ($3 for a cookie). The rest of the menu starts at $7.
The restaurant is open Tues.-Sat. 11am- 9pm and Sunday 9am-2pm.
Harvest’s address is 113 E. State, though its front door actually opens onto the alley between State and Front streets. Online visit roamingharvest.com or its Facebook page. Call (231) 486-6037.