Garden State Going on Hiatus

September 29, 2011

Kevin Sandri and GardenState

A simple Tweet a week or so ago opened the floodgates of questions for Kevin Sandri, the owner and chef behind Garden State and Burgatroyd. Kevin Tweeted that yes the cart was for sale, but not the business. I had a chance to sit down with Kevin over a beer at PROST! and get the story:
FCP: Kevin, we have learned that the Garden State cart is for sale. Are you closing?

Kevin: I'm taking a hiatus.

FCP: For how long?

Kevin: At least through the winter. I'm still doing, for sure next year, some catering and events.

FCP: How long has Garden State been around?

Kevin: Four years. Four years will be October 10th.

FCP: Where did you originally open up?

Kevin: Sellwood. 13th and Lexington. Before there was even a pod or anything. It was just me.

FCP: Do you remember your first day and what was on the menu?

Kevin: I don't know if I really remember. The only thing I remember about the first day was there was this cranky old lady who came up and, uh, we were in there prepping and nervously procrastinating actually opening the door, making sure everything was right. So, we're busy making all this food. I said I would open at 11 o'clock and it was maybe 11:20, 11:25, and this woman comes up and beats on the door of the cart, you know, the serving window of the cart, and screaming, " When is this thing gonna to open?" I went out there and it was like somebody's crazy grandma pounding on the service window and, so you know, my instinct was - "Well, right now!" And so I went back inside and opened up and she was the first customer.

FCP: I was introduced to Garden State with the famous meatball hero. Has that always been on the menu?

Kevin: You know, I really wonder what was on the menu at the beginning. I can't remember. I think the meatball and the chickpea have been there since day 1. At least the chickpea has. And the arancine I did from day 1. And the chickpea fries and, uh, I used to do these other fritters called cazilli. I was very heavy on the fritters. I was doing these chard and ricotta fritters. I had like a mixed fritter platter. But I think in the beginning I had the chickpea sandwich, sausage and peppers, I was doing half chicken and salads. I had a lot more salads in the beginning too. I think I might have had a couple of sides too. I think that was the entire menu back then. I remember doing the meatball because it was winter time and there weren't that many vegetables available, you know, from local farms, and I was like, what can I do to do something without vegetables and my wife suggested, "why don't you do a meatball hero?" And I was like, sure, and did it kind of as a joke and it ended up being the first thing that got noticed.

FCP: Care to comment on what you're going to do with all your free time in winter since you won't be at the cart?

Kevin: No. I've got a new little project planned. I cannot speak about it. I'm starting this new thing and I'm just going to dive in full force. It starts in mid October, so I don't really get any time off. I just know I won't be working in the cart.

FCP: What have you enjoyed most about being a cart chef for the last 4 years?

Kevin: You know, there's nothing that beats that total direct connection. You know, the best thing, I guess, there's a great satisfaction knowing where your food is sourced from, putting it all together, then opening up a cart and serving people what you made that morning. And right there getting feedback from people who really enjoyed it. The whole process. And doing it all in one little tiny spot. There's something satisfying about just having your hand in everything. That's the number one thing. Other than the camaraderie of all the cart people. Now there's this whole community of cart people. When I started there wasn't this community. Now, we have all these carts and I've made some friends. Its fun to be part of that community.

FCP: As you go on hiatus, do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and your fans?

Kevin: Parting thoughts? I don't know man. Thanks for all the support. This is definitely one wild ride. So much has happened in the last four years. Been truly amazing. But, you know, keep supporting the carts. There's a lot of good surprises to be had in these tiny little boxes around town. I guess even from someone who has tried to be consistent as possible - I gotta say, they're carts, so cut 'em some slack. This little thing, you know, a lot of them are just a one man show and when it's a one man show, there's nobody to cover your but. If something goes wrong and you need to skip the day or close early, that's the way it is. There's not an army of people running these things. Maybe I should start a cart worker temp agency.

FCP: Lastly, Ginger or Mary Ann. I ask all the celebrity chefs that question.

Kevin: (pondering).... Mary Ann
Kevin plans to close the cart Sunday October 9. If you've enjoyed his food over the years, come on down before then to wish Kevin well on his hiatus and tell him how much you'll miss him and his wonderful cooking. Kevin's other cart, Burgatroyd, will remain open, but under different management and ownership.

I know I'll miss having a chickpea sandwich so close this winter, but I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of Mr. Sandri. Garden State is located at Mississippi Marketplace on N Mississippi and Skidmore and is open Tues-Thurs, 11am-3pm and Fri/Sat, 11-5. If you're interested in the cart, it is indeed for sale. Contact Kevin.
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