Seasoning is secret to “best burger in St. Louis”
Ask Matt Foley about his food-truck business and prepare to get an earful.
The 39-year-old Edwardsville man will explain why he quit his corporate IT job in downtown St. Louis, how he converted a delivery truck into a mobile restaurant, where he goes to sell his burgers, fries and chili and what makes his charbroiled burgers the best in the St. Louis region.
And he will do it with great enthusiasm, particularly when talking to people who aren’t familiar with Burgers STL.
“I left a desk job for this,” Foley said last week. “I had an office with a view of the Arch and Ballpark Village. I was on the 19th floor of the old Bank of America building on Broadway. Everybody’s dream, right? But I wasn’t happy, and happiness is everything.”
Foley was flipping burgers on a steamy grill in the non-air-conditioned truck at Maryville Farmers Market, which moves to the grounds of the historic D.D. Collins house in Collinsville one day a month. He didn’t seem bothered by the 90-degree heat. Two giant fans kept a breeze flowing.
Employee Chloe Brown, 20, of Wood River, took orders at the window while George “Geo” Singleton, 72, of University City, Missouri, dressed burgers and smothered chili-cheese fries with toppings.
“I don’t like lettuce on burgers because it gets soggy and brown,” Foley said. “It just doesn’t look professional. I use spinach. The greenness makes the burgers look great.”
But it’s the taste that fans are raving about this summer. Foley gives all the credit to seasonings in his housemade meat rub.
Last week’s customers included Gabe Ridgley and his girlfriend, Julie Henze, who were eating at a picnic table next to Maryville Farmers Market.
Ridgley, 49, a Collinsville roofer, and a friend had gone to a Night Ranger concert the week before in Pontoon Beach and tried Foley’s burgers for the first time.
“It was like the best burger we had ever had,” Ridgley said. “We were both going on about how amazing it was.”
Truck travels throughout region
Burgers STL has been operating since June 1, keeping Foley and his employees very busy. He schedules 10 to 15 jobs a week with each lasting three to five hours.
The 31-foot-long truck is black with blue trim, featuring an image of the Gateway Arch and a giant photo of Foley’s 6-year-old daughter, Sophia, eating a burger.
Regular haunts include The Land of Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville; St. Clair County Courthouse and The Weingarten in Belleville; and Six Mile Bridge, Citygarden and Wells Fargo in St. Louis. The food truck also is available for catering, block parties and other private events.
“We’re bound by Madison County’s health department law, so we can only use annually permitted food trucks,” said Anne Matthews, 40, board president for Maryville Farmers Market. “That gives us about five options.”
Matthews likes the fact Foley offers a Red Barn Farm burger at the market, using 100 percent grass-fed ground beef from the Highland vendor. Last week, it was topped with Swiss cheese and fresh mushrooms from Twin Circle Farm in Edwardsville.
The Burgers STL menu only has five or six items. It always includes the original 3 1/2-ounce, smashed burger with spinach, onion, housemade pickles and garlic aioli ($8). You can add seasoned fries for $3.
Each week, Foley also whips up a burger special of some kind.
“One week, it was called ‘The Piggy’ or ‘Miss Piggy’ or something like that,” said Jean Marciak, 50, of Collinsville, who runs a Tiki Ice stand at Maryville Farmers Market. “It had barbecue beef on it. I don’t know what his special is today, but his burgers are really good.”
The special was a double burger with a maple-bacon doughnut from Strange Donuts, sliced in half, toasted and used as a bun. The meat was topped with Cheddar cheese, spinach, pickles, carmelized red onions and maple-bacon aioli.
The food truck also serves chili ($3 a cup), cheese fries ($5) and chili-cheese fries ($6).
Business supports first responders
Foley is a Granite City native who worked 23 years in the security and compliance industry, including seven years in the St. Louis offices of Nestle, a multinational food and drink conglomerate based in Switzerland. But his real dream was to own and operate a food truck.
Earlier this year, he bought a used bakery delivery truck in Ohio and had it shipped to the Washington, D.C., area for modifications.
“Everybody said, ‘You’re crazy. This is stupid. Why would you want to leave your job?’” Foley said. “There were a lot of doubters.”
In early May, Foley and his brother, Mark, flew to Washington and drove the truck back to Illinois, limited by its maximum speed of 61 miles per hour.
Today, the Burgers STL kitchen has a grill, two deep fryers, a refrigerator, freezer, sink, prep area and other equipment. Electrical appliances are powered by a generator.
Mark Foley is a retired Glen Carbon policeman who sometimes helps his brother with the business. He also serves as an inspiration for the food truck’s charitable project.
Matt Foley bottles his meat rub and seasoning for chili, fries and bloody Marys and sells it in small grocery stores. He hopes to expand to larger supermarkets soon.
“All the proceeds that I get from these, I give back to the police departments and fire departments in the cities where I sell them,” Foley said. “And whenever police officers or firefighters come up (to the window), I give them a free burger.”
The Burgers STL schedule can be found at www.burgersstl.com. In the metro-east, the food truck will be at Empire Comfort Systems, 918 Freeburg Ave. in Belleville from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday; and Maryville Farmers Market, in front of the Maryville fire station on Illinois 159, from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday.