ELLSWORTH — It’s a bitter afternoon in early January, but the cold is kept at bay inside Eat at Joe’s food truck, where Joe Segari is standing over the grill. The truck is parked outside Fogtown Brewing Co., where Segari can be found six days a week, year-round.
Plucky jazz from the night’s live band wafts through the air, joining the smell of Cajun fries. Segari drapes cheese onto a sizzling Reuben and checks his phone, where orders are coming in via text from patrons cozied up to the Fogtown bar.
Between orders, the New Jersey-born Segari shows off various tubs and their contents, rattling off the names of farms and their farmers. There are the pasture-raised Meishan pigs and grass-fed beef from Roaring Lion Farm in Sedgwick for burgers and pulled-pork. Eggs and syrup from Rainbow Farm in Stockton Springs. King Hill Farm carrots and leaf lettuce, soap from Bagaduce Farm, tomatoes, blueberries and peppers from Blue Zee, breads from Tinder Hearth. The list goes on.
Segari knows every farmer by name. “I try to buy from as many farms as I can,” he says proudly. “Spread it around.”
Beer and burgers (and Reubens and salad) have turned out to be a welcome pairing for Fogtown and Segari alike.
“It’s been amazing,” said Jon Stein, the brewery’s co-owner. “We knew we needed to have something more substantial” than the popcorn they were originally offering.
There were a series of food trucks that visited in the first few months after the brewers opened their doors last year, but with an inconsistent clientele it was difficult for trucks to make money, and most had to move on.
“Joe saw where we were looking into the future,” Stein said. When Fogtown releases a new beer, Segari often comes up with a snack to match, made using Fogtown brew.
“It wound up being a really good fit,” Segari agreed.
“This place is a welcome institution,” said Gabriel Coakley, a neighbor who stopped by to pick up his order, which he had sent via text.
Segari started his food truck several years ago with the blessing and help of his wife, Nancy. The couple have been parked in various locations around the region — the Home Depot parking lot, on Main Street in Bucksport, at the Blue Hill Farmers Market. But Fogtown is proving to be their best spot yet, said Segari, whose business has picked up alongside the brewers.
Although most still come for the maple-soaked bacon and brisket he brines himself, Segari has expanded his menu recently to include salads and homemade vegetarian chili. There also are tacos, grilled balsamic chicken breast and jalapeño nachos on offer. Segari makes his own ketchup (not nearly so sticky sweet as commercial versions and spiced with clove), which he’ll dole out on request. (The chef prefers his own burgers sans condiments, which he thinks are often a cover-up. “What’re you trying to hide?”)
“People need to have real food,” said the former plumber. Most of what’s in the grocery store, laments Segari, “It’s all full of chemicals.”
The grandson of pasta makers remembers riding horses around the farmlands of New Jersey as a child. “Now it’s corporations,” he said sadly. “They’re making it impossible for small farmers to live.”
Segari shakes Cajun spice onto a basket of fries he cut himself (out of potatoes from Aroostook County). Even on the slow days, “we have fun.”
“If it’s only one person that comes to the truck all day it’s still worth it.”
Eat at Joe’s is open from 2 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at Fogtown Brewery located at 25 Pine St. in Ellsworth. For more info, call 266-6069.