WILMINGTON — The city’s newest food truck drives a bit under the radar for now — painted in black matte with the words ‘MENU’ in large chrome blocks mounted on one side and ‘Food Truck’ on the other, it’s hard to tell that it’s downtown’s Platypus and Gnome on wheels.
While the initial menu doesn’t yet include some of the restaurant’s trademark meats that many in Wilmington have probably never tasted — wild boar, camel, Australian ostrich and kangaroo, elk raised on an Asheville ranch alongside Ankole-Watusi cattle and Himalayan yak — owner Matt Danylec said that day will come, although on a simplified menu. (Last weekend he was serving a deer sausage sandwich with beer cheese, but mainly stuck to dishes he and his staff could handle during the current start-up phase, like ‘Platyburgers’ and seared tuna sandwiches.)
“One of the reasons I really love getting into wild game and exotic meats is — I love the flavor, because it’s so much more rich than your normal cattle that we’ve all pretty much grown up on,” Danylec said. “And they’re really healthy as far as meats go; most of them are lower in fat and higher in protein than chicken.”
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But no worries for those who may hesitate to order something like Himalayan yak — which he said tastes “delicious, like really high-powered meat” — what he officially calls the Chrome Gnome serves burgers made of 100% beef, vegetarian black bean burgers, and flatbreads with melted goat cheese and house-made pimento cheese, bacon, and avocado.
Like the kitchen at Platypus and Gnome, the food truck will also use seasonal flavor profiles from around the world, including South America, South Africa, Morocco, and Sweden. Danylec said the summer menu, more citrus- and spice-based, will begin transitioning into a fall-winter menu that is more European-based, using ingredients like squash and pumpkin. Asked what defines a Swedish fall dish, he said to think of it as similar to what you may find in the U.S., but more savory than sweet.
“Things I’ve found in Sweden through my research: You’ll use things like cinnamon and nutmeg but they’re more in a savory base. Sometimes we’ll make Swedish meatballs with a decent amount of nutmeg, but you’re not backing it up with brown sugar and all that stuff, so it keeps it more savory and less sweet.”
He said he’s currently working on a South African-style ostrich steak sandwich for next summer using a spicy base of chimichurri (a specialty of Argentina and Uruguay) balanced with Greek yogurt sauce and avocado — “Things that are around here for sure, just put together when they normally aren’t in this area.” But this will likely stay at the restaurant. For the food truck menu, he’s planning to introduce an elk burger and perhaps a bison short-rib sandwich.
A way to keep serving during the pandemic
If you asked Danylec 10 or 15 years ago if he could ever see himself throwing tuna steaks on a grill inside a food truck, he likely would’ve called you crazy.
“I was never a big food truck guy. I thought it was a fad. I thought it was going to fizzle out a decade ago. And I’m wrong. I’m real wrong,” he admitted with a laugh.
When the coronavirus shutdowns rocked the restaurant industry in mid-March, like so many other restaurateurs he began asking himself, “What are we going to do? How long is this gonna go? How are we going to do what we do? What happens if it gets so bad that the restaurant can’t reopen, or when it does reopen, it can’t reproduce the same numbers?”
He understood making quality, safe food from inside food trucks was much more viable than it was a decade ago, with confined layouts perfected over the years and equipment manufactured to fit those layouts, so he saw his chance to continue “doing what we do and still be viable — and do it well.”
Soon he bought a black and gold truck from a local Pittsburgh Steelers fan, mostly decked out with the equipment he needed, painted over the gold with metallic silver, and got ready to hit the streets. Last Saturday he set up at the old Belvedere Country Club in Hampstead, which is now being remodeled as a causal beer-focused golf course by Wilmington’s Ironclad Brewery, and on Sunday parked in the gravel lot next to the Outpost in the Cargo District.
According to Danylec, the Chrome Gnome will be parked at the Outpost (348 S. 16th St.) every Sunday from around 12 noon to 3 p.m. For those who want to keep up with the truck’s schedule, he said they can check out the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
- Candied Bacon ($8) sweet, smoky bourbon-glazed bacon topped with pecans
- Melt McMeltface ($10) flatbread layered with house-made pimento cheese and smoked goat cheese, bacon, and avocado
- Bacon Bacon Burger ($12) top your Platyburger with smoked gouda, house bacon jam, applewood bacon, and LTO
- Platyburger ($10) 100% beef burger (ground brisket, short-rib, and chuck), comes with LTO and garlic-herb aioli
- Vegetarian Black Bean Burger ($12) with avocado pico de gallo, sour cream, lettuce, and pepper jack cheese
- Venison Sausage Sandwich ($10) with onions, peppers, mushrooms, and beer cheese
- Seared Tuna Sandwich ($14) with avocado pico de gallo, pickled onions, lettuce, and sriracha aioli on flatbread
- Hand Cut Fries ($4)
- Add Egg (+ $2)
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