New food truck enters Canal Park – Duluth News Tribune

Duluth – It’s hot in the food cart.

Heat radiates from the grills, and when Paul Sapyta adds modest piles of ground beef, the grease dances and bubbles rise with a puff of steam over the top.

Crush burgers cook on a griddle in the room at the food truck on June 28 in Canal Park.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

Sapyta presses with both hands on the hamburger press, flattening the domes in the meat patties. “After we smash, then we season,” he said.

This is his happy place.

Sapyta is the co-owner of Room at the Table, a Cloquet-based catering company, which is now operating a food truck this summer in Canal Park, 425 S. Lake Ave.

Chef preparing hamburgers
Paul Sapyta carries a freshly crushed burger he created into the dining room of his food truck at the Grandma’s Event Center on June 28 in Duluth.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

It’s a side hustle for Sapyta, who started his business in 2018 and has watched it grow more than expected. “We have gone from a small caterer operating out of the church (and) VFW kitchen to a facility that feeds 100 people a day, plus two food trucks,” he said.

Chef preparing hamburgers
Paul Sabita makes a burger smash in the dining room of his food truck on June 28.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

Sapyta the “creative muse” and son-in-law and partner, Kevin Peterson, run the catering and behind the scenes out of the commercial kitchen Cloquet Forestry Center.

They relied on word of mouth and did not intentionally have a website in order to keep the business running. But, at the urging of their younger employees, they launched a Facebook page.

“It’s hard work. We’ve been lucky,” Peterson said. “We also know that people try this and they don’t always succeed. It’s a lot of work.”

Chef preparing hamburgers
Signs indicate the room in the food cart located at the Grandma Events Center on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in the Canal Park neighborhood of Duluth.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

They aim for good, clean, and easy presentation, so Sapyta has created a variety of pancakes, which he can get into someone’s hand in two minutes.

There are also tacos, grilled cheese, and a veggie pie and they recently sold out pulled pork within two hours at the Rhubarb Festival. Their menu is more upscale and veggie.

During a call with the News Tribune, Peterson prepared strawberries for upcoming desserts and breakfast toppings. They don’t have a set menu, but on the deck that day were bison, vegetable kebabs, wild rice and roast turkey.

Everything is gluten free except for the bread. (They also have it on request.) It was significant for the couple, whose immediate families have dietary restrictions.

Chef preparing hamburgers
Corey Holst, left, and Paul Sabita talk at a picnic table near the room at the table food truck on June 28.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

Sapyta and Peterson wanted everyone to be able to eat the same food and share the same way, which led to the brand name.

Chef preparing hamburgers
A smash burger created by Paul Sabita in the room’s food truck at the table on June 28.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

The notes on the blue ribbon line the food truck prep area – “You’re a superstar!” “Thank you!” “Keep up the good work” – next to a hand drawing of how to stack an onion burger.

Lori Hoyum, of Duluth, does a lot of writing for her professional job, so she loves that working in a food truck offers a stark change. “I learn from Paul and I’m around the food, I get paid well and I have fun,” she said.

Along with Hoyum, Corey Holst works with Sapyta both front and backstage.

Chef preparing hamburgers
Whiteboard menu for Room at the Table.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

“Watching how people treat him makes me likable,” said Corey Holst. “Where his heart is: Just let me feed the people.” That’s what I grew up with, too.”

After serving in Afghanistan, Sabita moved to Clukett with his family in 2007. He began helping with church meals, then catering to parties, weddings, and jazz nights at Carlton Oldenburg House.

From the VFW parking lot, Sapyta and Peterson were cooking, serving and selling burgers even during the winter.

They began developing their menu as “tramps”, preparing food in the various kitchens of the church, always looking for something permanent.

Jim Fnock.  jpg
Jim Grandson.

Contribute / Jim Fnock

Then, at a food fair, Jim Vnuk sampled the Sapyta cauliflower entree, and loved what it tasted like.

“I said, ‘Where do you work… would you like a full-time kitchen?’” Vnuk remembers. Vnuk, of Jim N’ Jo’s Katering, was actively looking for someone who could take over the business.

“Paul is really creative. He’s not afraid to take risks…and bring it into menus so people can try new things,” said Fnock.

Chef preparing hamburgers
Paul Sabita smiles in the room at the truck dining table June 28.

Clint Austin / The Duluth News Tribune

Two years later, Fnock works closely with Peterson at the Forest Center, preparing them to take on his customers, while Sabita drives food trucks.

Peterson said they learn a lot about catering, food, and business, and they are able to inspire each other in certain areas.

Fnock feels secure in the partnership and what’s next. “The only alternative before this point was to shut it down. With their skill set and drive, I see them following in their footsteps,” he said. They will walk right beside me.”

The room at the food truck counter

  • where: Plot next to Canal Waterpark 425 S. Lake Ave., Duluth
  • When: Daily from 11 am to 7 pm
  • More information:

    facebook.com/RoomatTable

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