MONMOUTH — Sara Porter 36, has been in the food industry for 20 years, saying it’s basically been her whole career.
Her fiancé Luke Lemmer, 39, brought to their 11-year partnership a concept from more than two decades ago that was never realized.
“Luke Town Eats started about 22 years ago. It was supposed to be a coffee shop. I never jumped on it,” Lemmer said.
Rather, he took a career path into iron working and fabrication.
Together, they’ve pooled their life experiences to chase the dream of operating a food truck. It just made sense to utilize the name of the unrealized coffee shop. Thus, Luke Town Eats food trailer made its debut this summer and found a permanent home this month as the third food truck at Dry Town Tap Station in Monmouth.
“We opened for the first time on July 4 this year,” Porter said. “We booked ourselves at events throughout the summer. But our ultimate goal was to find a spot like this so we could permanently park. Then we happened to see on Facebook, one of the owners here, Ashley, said I’m looking for a food truck. It just kinda worked out for us.”
It was actually a great amount of work to bring their comfort food to its current location.
As noted on their Facebook page, the duo built their business from the ground up. Lemmer joked he woke up one morning, decided to sell his stuff and build this, slapping the side of the Luke Town Eats trailer.
“We started with a completely gutted trailer. He built everything himself,” Porter said.
“Did it all in the backyard. In the snow and rain. Even welded outside,” Lemmer added. “I sold my Jeep, my bike, a few other things. Now we’re here.”
He figures they invested about $27,000 for the entire build and equipment.
“I learned a lot from it. The dos and don’ts,” Lemmer said. “I could save a lot of money doing it different ways. Like insulation. I went a little crazy on that. It’s not building a house. You’re building a food truck.”
The next step was developing a menu.
“It was mostly her,” Lemmer said, pointing to Porter. “I’ll add a few things that actually work out.”
“The basic idea is we want to stand out, be a little bit different, but still want it to be comfortable for people,” Porter explained. “Which is why we have burgers. But have specialty burgers also. Different sandwiches. Stick to comfort food, but a little bit different.”
Their most popular orders so far have been variations of their smoked pork sandwiches The Coolhand and The MeltDown.
“Those were our event sandwiches, actually. We weren’t supposed to do those day-to-day. But people liked them,” Lemmer said.
“Where there’s a demand,” Porter added. “We also just added the burgers and veggie burgers, too.”
“I didn’t want to do burgers, because it makes a mess,” Lemmer countered. “I was kinda staying away from them. But people wanted them. So, we’re selling more hamburgers than anything now.”
They’ve been able to keep up with demand and recommendations thanks to Porter’s flexible menu.
“We had several people ask about vegetarian options or gluten free options,” she said. “Since we moved here, there’s definitely a demographic for that kind of food. It’s one of reasons I wanted a trailer to begin with. It’s my menu, I can change it to whenever I want. Today it can be this, tomorrow it can be something else if it’s not working.”
So far, it’s mostly worked. They debuted Luke Town Eats at the July 4 Mill City Events.
“For six hours, we did 200+ tickets. It blew my mind,” Lemmer said. “I went from fabrication, building food processing equipment to this. It was weird.”
They’ve received a warm welcome now two weeks into their permanent home. Porter said the first week was really about getting set up as the community didn’t know anything about them yet. But on the second weekend business picked up, especially once word got out on social media and community boards.
“Word is definitely spreading,” Porter said.
Most new restaurateurs wait a while for success to grow before entertaining thoughts of expansion. Not for Lemmer. He’s already got plans for a second trailer sitting on his mom’s nearby ranch — one to keep rooted in the permanent location and a second to roll out to festivals and other attractions.
“The next one I build will have a deck on the beck for a smoker with a door in the back so you can walk in and out. We’re going to expand. This is just a start,” he assured.
Luke Town Eats
Located at the Dry Town Tap Station
180 Main St., Monmouth
Thursdays – Saturdays, 4-9 p.m.
Find them on Facebook and Instgram\