A couple weeks ago, I packed my kids up in the car and headed down to Danbury, Connecticut on a mission. What would entice me to drive 50 miles one way on that bright but chilly Sunday afternoon? Burritos. But not just any burritos. The kind that are hand-made with loving care with fresh, local ingredients by people with a passion for food.
That’s right! We drove all the way to Lake Kenosia Park seeking The Green Grunion food truck.
In preparation for The Hardcore Halloweenie Burlesque and Variety Show at Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes on October 24th–which The Green Grunion will be there, ready to satisfy your hungry appetites–we wanted to see for ourselves what all the hype was about. It was my birthday weekend and since I started it with Firefly Hollow Brewing Co., it seemed fitting to close it out with burritos. Why not?
As we pulled up to the park, we saw The Green Grunion off to the side of the lot, surrounded by soccer fields and changing foliage. It was an idyllic suburban sight. There wasn’t a line when we arrived, but one quickly formed shortly thereafter, so I didn’t have much time to chat with Paul Mannion, owner of The Green Grunion. I didn’t want to hold up normal business operations, so the kids and I took our burritos to the picnic table and I promised to follow-up via email with all my questions.
My only regret is that I did not bring a knife with me.
These burritos are something else. I swear, they multiply in size as you eat them. I ordered the Cali, a San Diego-style burrito that is stuffed with marinated carne asada, cheese, cremé, pico de gallo, guacamole, AND, believe it or not, french fries. And those french fries? They make all the difference in the world! It’s a little strange at first, but once you get over the shock of it, it’s hard to imagine eating burritos without them now. WOW!
My son smartly selected the Carnitas, which was my second choice. He used to be an excellent eater, but has become a little pickier recently, so I was surprised that he was willing to take a chance. But when you combine slow-cooked, all-natural pork, cheese, cremé, and pico de gallo, you really can’t go wrong. He shared a bite with me and I loved it! I loved the Cali more, but I definitely would have been quite happy with the Carnitas, too.
My daughter decided to go vegetarian and ordered the Black Bean burrito, with fresh refried beans and cheese. It was just what she wanted–she declared it to be quite perfect.
We shared the picnic table with a couple that day who were rather accommodating of my insistence upon capturing some shots of our food and the truck. Before they left, the woman admitted she overheard that we drove an hour for that impromptu picnic. She told my kids they were very lucky that they had a mom like me who was willing to bring them there for those burritos. It was probably lost on the spawn, but I appreciated it.
Less than an hour after we arrived, we were back in the car, trekking the 50 miles north to return to our home base. Our bellies were filled. Our hearts were content. And I knew it wouldn’t be the last time we drove halfway across the state for street food. The Green Grunion has a few more fans to add to their list.
How did you start?
I’ve been in the food industry forever and it was gawl-darn time to throw my ENTIRE self into the arena! So I went for it, after jumping through lots of bureaucratic hoops, and started slinging’ July 1, 2013
Well, I’m actually a 3 generation Bethelite (Bethel, CT) and even though I lived in San Diego for 3 years, when I came back, I earned my keep on the Management side of the restaurant world and then decided it was time to go out on my own… so far so good!
What made you choose a food truck over a traditional brick-n-mortar establishment?
Money, or lack thereof, flexibility and mobility… they are still driving forces to this day. Yet, at some point, I’d LOVE to transition into a full brick-n-mortar as I’ve been a bartender for most of my time in this biz and I’d love to get that into the equation as well!
What are some challenges of operating from a food truck? Advantages?
Well, all I can really say is that it’s the MOST challenging and demanding thing I have ever done, yet the most rewarding as well 🙂
What makes your burritos so special?
Haha… nothing really, besides that I try to stay as close to the original design that I first tasted in San Diego, and we do EVERYTHING (sans tortillas, soon to come ;)) from scratch and that makes all the difference in the world… Plus lots o’ love, seriously a key ingredient in ALL really good food in my humble opinion.
I’ve heard mention of locally-sourced ingredients–is this out of convenience or a commitment to the community?
Definitely not out of convenience, yet I hope that is the case some day! The real reason is because of community and local sustainability and over all health… to us, even if it costs more and we have to sacrifice a tad because of that, so be it! At some point somebody has to flip the script or the community will think that most of the food-establishments TRULY care about what they serve when MANY restaurants say the right thing but all they serve is the crap from Sysco/US food style commodity trucks delivering to them. Also, the local farms and quality of food is soooooooo worth the “extra efforts”, especially if even one new person starts to notice!
What do you do in the winter?
Pray for a mild one, hahaha, kinda true too, but really we try to do as many things out of the box as possible i.e. corporate office drop-offs/catering (private and public) and even some possible restaurant pop-ups and beer gardens.
How do people find you?
We post everyday or in advance on FACEBOOK and TWITTER!!! It is truly our life line, and even when people say they don’t use either we just tell them to Google our name and you can still read the posts… $ for marketing and advertising is for the birds as far as we’re concerned! To each their own for sure, but we have faith that when people want it enough, they WILL find it!
Where do you see The Green Grunion in 5 years?
Oh man, you sound like my accountant/mom/biz partner and mentor all in one… let’s put it this way, we will ALL see sometime soon 😉 Cryptic as ever, haha
Which is your favorite burrito?
People ask me this everyday, and this is what I honestly say, “Well, it depends on what mood I’m in, as they all sell very evenly (thank god, haha), but if you put a gun to my head and said I could only choose one, and it’d be a Carnitas.” So, I guess there’s your answer, but truly it depends on what I’m feeling like 🙂