While Denver has so many New York-style food halls like the Edgewater Public Market or the Zeppelin Station, these three restaurant veterans have set up their own mobile food court with the same idea. Foodhalla – a mobile food truck with three different kitchens – was officially launched in mid-October. Owners Jesus “Seus” Olaya, Nicole Zajac, and Alan Berger noted the popularity of grocery markets and ghost kitchens that were storming the Denver food scene. During the pandemic, jumping straight to a brick and mortar would be too costly and unstable. Therefore, the idea of a mobile food court for this trio was inexpensive and innovative.
While serving three different menus from one truck may seem messy, the Foodhalla team found a way to use ingredients and segment areas of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination. The truck offers three concepts from Spudnation, Bodega Cuban Kitchen to Seoul Brothas.
Currently the only concept that is fully functional is Bodega Cuban Kitchen with Spudnation, which is expected in early December, and Seoul Brothas, which will follow soon. Bodega Cuban Kitchen’s menu is inspired by Olaya’s childhood in South Florida. Though Olaya is of Colombian descent, his appreciation for Cuban culture has inspired a menu of three basic sandwiches, four snacks, and two desserts.
The sandwiches included The Cuban ($ 11) is classic slow-roasted pork, sliced ham, melted Swiss cheese on a Cuban bun Turkey midnight ($ 10) is a turkey, sliced ham, melted Swiss cheese on a sweet potato roll, and the Bread with lechon ($ 13) is slow-roasted pork, pickled onions, melted Swiss cheese, garlic and coriander crema on a Cuban bun.
In the works Spudnation is an adaptation of Potatoes USA. Originally, this potato marketing and research organization used a marketing food truck called Spudnation to promote potatoes and the over 2,500 potato growers in the United States. Foodhalla developers were given permission to use the name in full to create a potato-centric food concept. Spudnation uses Colorado-grown spuds and seasonal, locally sourced ingredients to prepare a variety of loaded potato meals. The menu has six options, three regular and three sweet potatoes with endless toppings.
While laden potatoes and Cuban food are covered by the first two concepts, Berger created Seoul Brothas based on family-inspired recipes as a nod to his Korean ancestry. This menu features a three-piece bucket of Korean fried chicken, popular Korean street food like corn cheese, veal ribs with kimchi, Korean fried chicken sandwiches, and a Texas-inspired frito cake.
Although the idea of the mobile food court offers space for constantly changing concepts, the team would like to maintain and expand these three brands.
“The feedback was phenomenal. We plan to keep the brands on the truck and develop them into a real brick in the future, ”said Olaya.
With so much uncertainty in the food industry, concepts like mobile food courts, ghost kitchens, and home grocery stores can change the face of the Denver dining scene. Starting a new business at such a time carries a high level of risk.
“As we are relatively new to the market, we hope that more entrepreneurs will take the same risks and continue to grow. With more creative business models, these new faces will go beyond the scope and really mess things up, ”said Olaya.
Foodhalla is located on 17th Street and Chestnut Place in Denver unless otherwise noted online.