Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Did you say a carrot dog? Like taking a marinated carrot and sliding it into a bun and offering all the condiments that would go with a meat in a roll?
There is a black trailer in town that has its home in the parking lot next to the RTD parking lot but might be seen now and then in other places. There is a window on the side of the trailer and two smiling faces can be seen talking to would be customers. A warm smell swirling into the cool winter air.
Kara Kessler and Jason Milner have opened the Vegan Express, a classy food truck that they had custom made for their business, which offers vegan alternatives to a community that has expressed a need for healthy alternatives to meat and dairy based food.
Kara grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Green Mountain College in Vermont after studying eco-psychology, and came to Colorado to visit a friend and get a new perspective on the world.
Jason grew up in Oklahoma City, where he was a carpenter for 12 years. He moved to Colorado because it wasn’t Oklahoma.
By this time, Kara was working at Ned’s, and one night she found that Jason had left her a tip with his phone number on it. A month later they attended a Leftover Salmon show at the Boulder Theater and have been together for the past two years.
“I became vegan three and a half years ago,” says Kara, “and was amazed how healthy I became. It is empowering to take one’s health into our own hands. After three weeks of non-dairy and non-meat, I’ll never eat them again.”
Jason always paid attention to what he ate and when he became vegan he dreamed about having a food truck, to be mobile, to bring healthy food into the music world. The couple had the trailer custom built in Florida and went to pick it up.
They say they have done a lot of homework and research to jump through all the government hoops for Nederland and Boulder County.
“The mobile food industry is exploding right now but there are a lot of specific regulations, but we did it all.”
The trailer opened on November 10, 2017, and Kara and Jason are planning to take it to Steamboat Springs and then bring it home for Frozen Dead Guy Days.
They are accumulating a fan club around town. Jason says their most popular item right now is the spring roll drenched in peanut sauce. They also offer buffalo chicken sandwiches, the “chicken” is made with chick pea flour, spices, a veggie sauce and cooked crispy.
After marinating a carrot overnight, tenderizing the root flesh, it is broiled on the grill, just like a real hot dog.
The Vegan Express will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and then 2 to 7 p.m. to catch the ski crowd.
“We are filling a void, not competing with other food vendors. People have stopped by and said they were impressed with the flavor and we even have a number of regular customers.”
Their hot chocolate will bring customers back all winter long.
Jason and Kara are grateful they have been welcomed into the community and they look forward to what will happen next.