Lulu's Local Eatery in St. Louis keeps on truckin'

News-DemocratMay 26, 2013 

— Food on the go has a different meaning to Robbie Tucker and Lauren "Lulu" Loomis. The couple own and run Lulu's Local Eatery food truck, a mobile cafe built from a used Snap-On Tool van. They pop up at hospital and company parking lots during lunch hour, as well as farmers markets, outdoor festivals and private events.

Serving solely vegan food that is locally grown and produced, their food truck sports a custom-built rooftop herb and vegetable garden that travels with them.

"We got our first harvest out of it this week," said Robbie, 29, listing Swiss chard, kale, chives, mint, rosemary ... He couldn't remember them all, then laughed about one omission. "There's no basil up there. It doesn't like the wind when we're moving."

Instead, four raised beds of vegetables at their south St. Louis home give them an added supply of tasty greens.

"Lauren is a phenomenal cook," said Robbie. This is their second season serving food from the truck in St. Louis, 27-year-old Lulu's home. Robbie is originally from Chicago, where the two met eight years ago. He gave her the nickname Lulu. They married last October.

They also lived in New Zealand and Australia, where they worked on organic farms. That experience set them on the path of looking for a way to offer food that is fresh and fast without being expensive. They buy ingredients from local farmers' markets and direct from local farms. Because all of Lulu's food is carry-out, containers are compostable.

Their menu prices go no higher than $7. Items include Spicy Chipotle Hummus ($4), Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger, Lulu's Lemonade Lavender Tea ($2.50) and Stuffed Avocado Boat ($6).

Robbie says Lulu's secret recipe keeps her black bean burger from falling apart. The homemade veggie burger patty is made of sweet potato, black beans and brown rice, then served on an organic whole-wheat bun topped with homemade vegan chipotle mayonnaise, red onion and fresh greens, served with a side of chips.

"I love their Sweet Potato Falafel. I've eaten it here and at work," said Patsy Miller, 47, of Webster Groves, Mo. It is $7 and is served with fresh greens and zesty tzatziki wrapped in a warm pita.

Miller was standing in line at the food truck at the Webster Groves Farmer's Market last week. She works at Barnes Jewish Hospital and discovered the truck setting up in the parking lot for lunch two weeks ago.

"I'm not a vegetarian or anything, but there is so much flavor in what they make that no one would miss meat," she said.

The couple's days are long: "Lunch is only 2 1/2 hours, but we're in the truck six to seven hours. We get up at 6:30 a.m. and even when we're not in the truck, we're prepping." Sunday is supposed to be a day off, said Robbie, who put "off" in quotation marks.

Who has to climb a ladder to get on the roof of the truck and tend to the portable garden?

Robbie laughed. "We rotate who waters."

Where's Lulu?

To see the weekly location schedule for Lulu's Local Eatery food truck, go to luluslocaleatery.com.

The food truck can be found:

* 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Tower Grove Farmer's Market in Tower Grove Park, west of the Whitaker Theater at the Pool Pavilion

*4 to 6:30 p.m.Thursdays (weather permitting) at the Webster Groves Farmer's Market, Gazebo Park at the intersection of Big Bend Boulevard and South Old Orchard Avenue.

The food truck is available for private events.

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