5280 Bistro Expands Their Food Truck Empire with the Cosmic Chrome Trailer

5280 Bistro Expands Their Food Truck Empire with the Cosmic Chrome Trailer

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Food trucks had a rough time of it in the middle 2010s; several closed and others, like Spice Box and Scratch, became brick and mortar restaurants (both are closed now). It seems that revenue eventually hits a ceiling for food trucks and decisions have to be made – expand, turn to a permanent location, or close. The weather in Indianapolis seems to have a lot to do with it. No matter how they try, a food truck here is mostly a seasonal business.

For a while there it was hard to find many trucks for events or to commit to a Friday or Saturday evening at a brewery. Luckily, trucks have made a resurgence as the number of breweries continues to increase in the state and in Indianapolis particularly. The use of food trucks to increase beer sales by keeping people on site for well-cooked meals is a no brainer and benefits both the truck and the brewery.

Some do cold food, some do hot, and some have developed permanent relationships with a single location. This seems to be a good idea because it gives customers confidence that food will be available when they show up at a particular brewery and it gives the truck a steady revenue stream without having to move (with all the costs and hassles of that). One recent example is Old Gold Barbecue at Metazoa Brewing (more on them in the near future), and just recently 5280 Bistro has partnered with Pax Verum Brewing in Lapel to have their new food trailer on hand nearly every Thursday-Sunday.

image credit: 5280 Bistro

We have previously done a profile of 5280 Bistro and its owner/chef Joe Hsu (see article here), but that was a couple of years ago and their equipment and reach have expanded greatly in the time since opening. Some of the new things are subtle, like where you can find them, but some are big, like the Cosmic Chrome trailer that has taken up residence outside Pax Verum. Then again, maybe it’s a bigger deal that Joe is serving both beer and food form the original 5280 Bistro truck.

Several trailers and trucks exist that can serve draft beer from taps. Tin Man Kokomo has one with artwork from MuckRock, there is Indy Beer Taps that has been serving from their trailer for more than a year now, and even Ale Force One from Indiana On Tap that can be rented has both internal and external taps. But 5280 Truck is probably the first food truck that is capable of serving both hot and cold entrees, and craft beer on draft. Not a small thing when looking for a good beer at a concert or other event.

The 5280 Food Truck. Joe made a splash a little over a year ago when they added four craft beer taps to their food truck – Joe calls it the OG now that they have Cosmic Chrome (see below and banner image). In many states, having a food truck serve beer is not allowed, and there are a few requirements that must be navigated, but Joe now has Pax Verum and MashCraft beers served from the OG.

Packaged beers are also possible, but it’s the ability to have a draft from a food truck that is most appealing. Because the OG is a truck and not a trailer, it spends most of its time going from place to place, from Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville (doesn’t serve beer there since it is a third party vendor), to White River State Park in Indianapolis, to the Nickel Plate venue in Fishers, the Fishers Farmers’ Markets and the random beer or food event. At all these venues they serve up hot entrees and snacks, including the totchos that Walter always orders.

image credit: restaurantguru.com

But having this successful truck wasn’t enough for Joe; he had his eyes set on doing more. With one truck, you can’t be everywhere, but with two vehicles……. So it was time to get another mobile kitchen, but not just any other food truck.

Cosmic Chrome. That trailer of 5280 Bistro’s is getting some well-deserved attention, and why shouldn’t it, it’s gorgeous. Joe said, “The ‘new’ trailer is a beauty, I knew she’s special the first time I laid my eyes on her! She’s 1948 Spartan Manor.” The Manors were a product of the Spartan Aircraft Company of Tulsa, OK, founded in 1928. It expanded greatly under J. Paul Getty during WWII, but afterward had to move to making more than planes in all those factories.

They moved to trailers to help alleviate the housing shortage after the war, and built them as sleek as their aircraft. The Manors went for about $4000, at a time when a new house could be just $8000. The 5280 Bistro Spartan Manor is 26 feet long, but the largest of the Spartans were more than 35 feet! As more companies started making trailers, Spartan introduced more styles, cheaper models, and they slowly lost market share. The last year of production was 1962.

Over the lifetime, Spartan made more than 40,000 Manors from 1945 to 1961, so Joe’s is a very early edition. They were so sleek and had such high-end amenities, they were (and still are) coveted. Joe said, “I wanted something differently than traditional look, and have some sort of personality, and then I found her. She may not have the most up to date cooking equipment/storage until we get the 24 inch door widened, but she’s got plenty of fire power to handle the number of entrees we need to feed the good people of Lapel.”

image credit: 5280 Bistro

The reference to Lapel is because 5280 Bistro has found a permanent weekend home for Cosmic Chrome at Pax Verum Brewing in bustling downtown of that community. It serves a full menu on select Thursdays and the majority of Fridays and Saturdays. Joe told me, “I’ve always found our food paired well with great craft beer – Pax Verum for example.  The folks there are specialized in brewing great beers, and have given me the opportunity to bring the ‘kitchen’ to them. It’s a perfect marriage in my opinion.”

To handle the extra work, Joe has added more cooks and serving staff, but they will still be a bit stressed inside the Cosmic Chrome until they get the kitchen refitted. They’re planning on putting in new preparation coolers, and new flat top grill and oven, and they hop to start by early spring 2020 on this work. But one thing they won’t be able to change is the height – 6 ft. 3 in. This is an issue because on of the new employees is 6 ft. 5 in! Maybe they can find him another position, after all 5280 Bistro is everywhere now.

Other Places to find 5280. If you are out and about and are looking for 5280 food and local craft beer, there are a few possibilities. Go to Pax Verum for Cosmic Chrome or hunt down the OG truck wherever it might be. Or, you can go to the Indy Fuel Tank, a hockey rink located at 9022 E. 126th Street. 5280 Bistro runs the concessions there.

Joe has six taps at the Fuel Tank serving both MashCraft Brewing and Pax Verum beers, as well as having many other craft beers in cans. He also has food, but adult hockey league players and parents of kids playing hockey really seem to gravitate toward the beer. The beer and food is a combination that Joe really wants to take advantage of.

image credits: MashCraft and Pax Verum

As evidence of this, both MashCraft Brewing off-site locations (Delaware and Fishers) use 5280 Bistro as a consulting kitchen on preparation and menu development. Joe noted, “I’m looking at this as an opportunity to align ourselves with great breweries like Pax  Verum and MashCraft, to promote and gain more exposure, and the breweries get food to feed their guests, it works for everyone.  I was very fortunate to paired up with folks from MashCraft and Pax Verum, they’ve been great folks to work with.”

To this point of craft beer and 5280, there are 5280 snacks at Pax Verum Brewing even when Cosmic Chrome isn’t open, and additionally, you can get 5280 soft pretzels at Creatures of Habit Brewing in Anderson. It’s a burgeoning empire using craft beer to support its food and vice versa.

Lastly, you can get 5280 Bistro food for your event, wedding, or home even if you don’t frequent a brewery, concert venue, or hockey rink. There is 5280 Bistro catering available here, and you can even take cooking lessons from Joe and his team so your home can be the next 5280 Bistro location.

Conclusion. The point is clear, Joe Hsu is working hard to increase the link between mobile food and Indiana craft breweries, and he has been able to bridge the gap between permanent locations and mobile locations. Indiana craft beer drinkers are fortunate that 5280 Bistro has decided to create this bond with Indiana breweries. Make sure to seek out 5280 when at events and other places where they sell their wares. A dollar spent at 5280 is a dollar spent on good food, and a dollar spent to support Indiana craft beer.


banner image credit: 5280 Bistro

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