A few years ago, Rich Ellsworth decided it was time for a career change. After decades as a professional carpenter and floor sander, he traded in his tools for a mobile meal machine, hitting the roads in the Ate.O.Ate Food Truck in early 2012. When asked what inspired the change, Ellsworth says, “I think it was the fun of the truck coupled with being able to go where the business is instead of waiting for it to come to you.”
Nowadays, Ellsworth is either at the stove, behind the wheel, or leaning out the window to fill orders. On Tuesday evenings, he parks at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets in Roxbury to hand dinner to a grateful mix of locals, second homeowners and guests at the Roxbury Motel just down the street.
Ellsworth delights in putting unusual twists on traditional comfort food like the pork tenderloin sliders with maple bacon bourbon jam and homemade sauerkraut or the creamy Reuben soup — a hit during the winter months. He also loves the freedom and creativity of fritters, using whatever is in season: pancetta and mushroom in the winter, corn and basil in the summer, or butternut squash and risotto in the fall. There are five to seven different dishes on the menu on any given day with prices with prices ranging from $6-$12.
The ladies of Ate.O.Ate
Ellsworth’s wife, Peg, jokes that they practice “farm-to-truck” dining and the ever-changing menu bears witness to their commitment to supporting local farms. Dishes feature produce, meats, and dairy from the area’s many small farms, including Betty Acres Farms, Sap Hollow Bush Farms, Stone ’n Thistle Farms, Harpersfield Cheese, Heller Farms, Lucky Dog Farms, and Straight from the Ground. In addition to the hearty meat dishes, there’s always something vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) on the menu.
Everything that comes out of the truck is 100% compostable and there’s no use trying to buy a plastic bottle of water — they don’t sell ’em. But they will give you a free, compostable cup of spring water with ice — a trade with Vly Mountain Spring Water in exchange for Ate.O.Ate’s used fryer oil, which is used to power the water company’s biodiesel trucks.
In addition to Tuesday nights in Roxbury, Ellsworth also makes regular visits to area farmers’ markets, festivals and special events. Ate.O.Ate has no fixed route, relying on Facebook and their Web site to spread the word about their whereabouts and what’s on the menu on any given day. “That’s the beauty of the truck, you can go where the business is,” says Ellsworth.
And what on earth does the name mean? It’s a play on words (or numbers, really) for 808, the area code for the state of Hawaii, where Rich and Peg hope to retire someday. “We just fell in love with the whole place — the beauty, the laid-back attitude and the self-sufficiency,” says Peg.
If you go…
Ate.O.Ate Food Truck & Catering
5030 Vega Mountain Rd., Roxbury