Gourmet food trucks bring cof­fee and South­ern Mary­land cui­sine to In­dian Head, La Plata

Zon­ing, per­mit­ting is­sues to al­low trucks a wider au­di­ence on May 2 plan­ning agenda

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @somd _biz ed­i­tor

A cou­ple of gourmet food trucks — one’s a trailer — have been bring­ing smokey bar­be­cue and fresh roasted cof­fee to the La Plata Farm­ers’ Mar­ket and the Vil­lage Green and Pav­il­ion in In­dian Head the last cou­ple of weeks. The en­trepreneurs be­hind them are hop­ing county reg­u­la­tions are set soon to al­low them to set up in pub­lic spa­ces around the county.

“We wanted to go brick and mor­tar but we just didn’t have the cap­i­tal,” said Damian Tar­lecki, who put the County Man­ners food truck in gear last week with busi­ness part­ner Jeremy Ple­mons and a silent part­ner. “We just wanted to work for our­selves. With our love of food and peo­ple, this was the eas­i­est av­enue for us. It’s go­ing to gain us ex­po­sure and al­low us to build a rep­u­ta­tion.”

Their first cus­tomer on an un­usu­ally cool April morn­ing last week on the Green agreed.

“Damian’s an en­tre­pre­neur. He can’t af­ford a brick and mor­tar spot,” said Char­lotte Hall na­tive and self-de­scribed foodie Nick Van Dalen while hold­ing a smoked whiskey brisket sand­wich in­tended for his wife. “You can do it with a food truck and ex­pose your culi­nary de­lights. This is per­fect for a young guy, or any­body, who wants to start a busi­ness. I think it’s fan­tas­tic.”

Van Dalen gave an en­thu­si­as­tic thumbs up on the food af­ter tak­ing a bite out of his wife’s sand­wich. “It’s good. Oh man, that is good,” he said.

Erich Her­rmann of La Plata hit the road with his cof­fee roast­ing and pas­try trailer in tow a year ago.

“It’s been good. The [farm­ers’] mar­kets are a re­ally good spot for me,” the Wee Bean trailer owner said. “We’re grow­ing [the Vil­lage Green] out here to­gether,” he added, talk­ing about the new County Man­ners truck.

“We parked next to each other at the farm­ers’ mar­ket on Satur­day,” Tar­lecki said. “It’s just a good re­la­tion­ship be­cause busi­ness breeds busi­ness. If you have four or five food trucks out here it of­fers va­ri­ety. I think that’s a good thing.”

Her­rmann en­vi­sions de­vel­op­ing a “food court” in In­dian Head and is work­ing on get­ting a town per­mit­ting process in place.

Town of In­dian Head Mayor Bran­don Paulin said the zon­ing and per­mit­ting lan­guage has been put in a larger plan­ning doc­u­ment that he hopes will be fin­ished, re­viewed and passed by year’s end. Un­til then, he said they can con­tinue set­ting up on the Vil­lage Green.

“We love them in town,” Paulin said. “I’m not a cof­fee drinker my­self but he has some re­ally good hot choco­late.”

Her­rmann is also work­ing on pro­mot­ing more use of the Green for com­mu­nity events and gath­er­ings that could in­clude food trucks.

“The Green is a per­fect spot. It’s a com­mu­nity open space that I want to uti­lize,” he said. “Hope­fully we can get some mu­sic go­ing, set up some lit­tle fes­ti­vals and com­mu­nity gath­er­ings out here, and bring peo­ple to­gether.”

As for the rest of Charles County, Tar­lecki and Ple­mons are hop­ing reg­u­la­tions change to al­low freer move­ment around the area. Cur­rently, they can set up in pri­vate park­ing lots when in­vited, the Vil­lage Green in In­dian Head and at or­ga­nized events such as the farm­ers’ mar­ket in La Plata. “You can’t do it un­less it’s pri­vate prop­erty, if I’m not mis­taken,” Tar­lecki said.

The Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion in­tends to dis­cuss a draft of a not-yet-fin­ished zon­ing text amend­ment at its May 2 meet­ing which deals with the food truck is­sue po­ten­tially set­ting up a per­mit­ting and zon­ing process. The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers would have the fi­nal say if the plan­ning com­mis­sion de­cides to rec­om­mend a zon­ing change.

“The draft is not yet com­plete. It will be made pub­lic a week prior to the hear­ing,” Chief of Plan­ning Steve Ball said in an email.

While Her­rmann fea­tures cof­fee made from fresh roasted “or­ganic, fairly traded” cof­fee beans, he also sells pas­tries made by Michelle’s Cakes in In­dian Head and a few by his own hand. He’s worked out a deal with Michelle’s to use the bak­ing busi­ness’ kitchen in the evenings.

County Man­ners, on the other hand, has a menu filled with smoked meat sand­wiches, handmade ket­tle chips — “Truck Chips” — and other South­ern Mary­land-ori­ented fare, in­clud­ing a stuffed ham Cuban sand­wich with “beer mus­tard.”

“We smoke every­thing our­selves,” Jeremy Ple­mons said. “The whiskey brisket smokes for 14, 15 hours; the pulled pork smokes for about 12 hours. We use all ap­ple wood and mesquite wood chips. We make our own whiskey glaze.”

Ple­mons and Tar­lecki have been cook­ing to­gether pro­fes­sion­ally off and on for the last nine years, mostly in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Ple­mons lives in In­dian Head and Tar­lecki cur­rently lives in the District but spent part of his child­hood in La Plata.

“We used our per­sonal way about do­ing things and called [the truck] County Man­ners,” Ple­mons said.

“Our goal is to fea­ture South­ern Mary­land with a twist,” Tar­lecki said, “try to el­e­vate the things that we’ve known and grown to love.”

For now, County Man­ners and Wee Bean can be found at the La Plata Farm­ers’ Mar­ket on Wed­nes­days and Satur­days and at the Vil­lage Green on Tues­days and Thurs­days.

STAFF PHOTO BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

Jeremy Ple­mons, left, of In­dian Head and Damian Tar­lecki of D.C., who grew up in La Plata, revved up their County Man­ners food truck in late March and have been serv­ing up smoked bar­be­cue in In­dian Head and at the La Plata Farmer’s Mar­ket.

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