New Scenic Cafe Hitting the Road with ‘Scenic 61’ Food Truck
Restaurant owner adds food truck to methods of staying afloat while dine-in restaurant remains closed.
DULUTH, Minn.- After months shut down due to the pandemic, food is available at New Scenic Cafe on Highway 61 again — this time on wheels, as the Scenic 61 food truck opened Wednesday.
Originally set up to carry food down to the now canceled Minnesota State Fair, Scenic 61 is now carrying the business through the summer as its dining rooms remain closed through it’s busier season.
“It’s almost like somebody turned the faucet off,” said owner Scott Graden, “but we’re grateful for this, that’s for sure.”
Grateful, he said, that the food truck was received so well on its first day open. “Life support is where we are at right now, and we’re grateful for everybody’s support but we have to have some sales and revenue.”
“And this is a good way to start it,” he said.
Sitting in the lot right next to the Cafe, the trailer brought life to the grounds of the popular North Shore restaurant again.
Customers were hungry for the food, of course. “We got two different kinds of tacos: chicken tacos and pork tacos,” said longtime customer Marius Anderson.
But they were also hungry for the atmosphere they came to love.
“We came here to the restaurant maybe every couple of months for like special occasions or maybe for birthdays or whatever,” Anderson said. “Sure, we were a bit sad that they had to close down during the pandemic.”
On New Scenic Cafe’s website, a message says dining rooms will remain closed, probably through fall and early winter, as “it simply doesn’t make sense for us as a business right now for a variety of reasons,” to open.
At first, to stay afloat the restaurant began selling meal kits customers can take home and cook themselves. They are still available to purchase online through their Mise en place Marketplace.
After the Minnesota State Fair was canceled, Graden decided to fix the trailer up for food prep — not an easy transition.
“It’s almost like being on an ocean liner and transferring into a canoe,” he said. “So tight space, lot of new variables: everything from power to air conditioning to whatever it might be.”
But with six months of interior work, polishing, and more elbow grease, Scenic 61 was born. “I think the trailer’s great,” said first time customer Scott Eirish.
“I mean to take an old Airstream like that and convert it for a food truck I think is a great idea, it looks beautiful and like I said I’ve tried the food before and I know that’s all good,” he said.
“We are both extremely careful with the pandemic,” said Anderson, “we always wear masks and I think it is great that they offer a safe solution.”
All the people showing up on opening day provided a boost for the establishment, which is normally used to long lines and hour-long waits in the summer.
“We’re used to seeing a full parking lot and just kind of an overwhelming sensation so this is wonderful,” said Graden.
Right now, according to Graden, only 9 of his usual 30 employees are back at work. But hopefully the food truck is a step to fully reopening again. “I think this is part of the plan to reopen.”
“I think that it’s difficult to use the word plan that sounds as though we have everything active,” he said. “Right now, I use the word ‘hope’.”
Scenic 61’s menu is less extensive as the full one at New Scenic Cafe. But the food truck’s menu alternates between Tacos, Burgers, Sausages and Sandwiches. A calendar can be found online.
And customers say the food works hand-in-hand with the people and the views to bring them back to the spot along the shore.
“It’s definitely special to eat up here I mean you have the incredible scenery you’re right on Lake Superior and it’s kind of nice to be outside of town a little bit and yeah,” said Anderson.
“Be outside and enjoy this really great food here,” he said.
Gaden hopes to bring Scenic 61 to local breweries around town as well as to Canal Park. He also said others have contacted him wanting the food truck set up in their neighborhoods.