The fans of Marble’s Westside Taproom are a loyal bunch. Any hint of change can sometimes send them into a bit of social media panic, as some of us noticed last weekend. At issue was a rumor that food trucks were no longer going to be parking outside, or at least there would be limitations, though no one seemed to know why the change was happening. To try to quell the growing maelstrom, I sat down with Marble owner Ted Rice in advance of a chat with the staff about the upcoming eighth anniversary celebration (which will be a separate story for Wednesday).
“We love our food trucks,” Ted said. “And originally we didn’t have food trucks when we first opened on the West Side. We had our relationship with Ironwood Kitchen (next door), but we wanted to offer other food options, plus Ironwood didn’t (open) on Sundays, so we invited food trucks over. We love having a variety of food options and we like having food available during our full business hours.
“So, to provide food service for our customers on a continual basis with the expansion, because we added more space, we decided to invest in a food prep area. Our food prep area, instead of just serving chips and salsa, we decided to invite one of our strong truck partners to set up shot up in our food prep area. That way we can offer food service without any sort of unforeseen interruption on a regular basis.”
See? Nobody panic. There will still be food trucks serving the taproom on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but now one of the best food trucks will be permanently stationed inside the taproom.
“Drinking beer is amazing, but drinking beer on an empty stomach can lead to things that are unforeseen,” Ted said. “So, to provide that for our customers and to limit alcohol service liability, we decided to add this food prep area and invited Karibu Cafe to come in and serve food to our customers.
“We still have trucks, we love trucks, (and) we still are serving food from Ironwood Kitchen. We’re just adding another layer to the foundation of food service to the Westside.”
A lot has changed over the years since Ted first got into the business with Chama River, long before Marble. In a way, this might just be another path breweries can take in the future.
“I’ve talked to people about the evolution of breweries in New Mexico,” Ted said. “It used to be that every non-distributing brewery was a brewpub. Then things evolved over time where operators figured out, ‘Hey, we don’t need to have a restaurant at your brewery with its high overhead to survive as a business.’ People will show up and bring their own food and then the whole food truck revolution started.”
Breweries and food trucks have formed a wonderful symbiotic relationship, but there can be times where something can happen to a truck that can prevent it from its appointed rounds. One of the trucks serving a brewery once ended up with a mechanical problem, forcing the brewery to scramble to feed a large gathering that had been promised something to eat. (This was not necessarily an on-the-record discussion, hence leaving out the name of the brewery and the truck, though I can say it did not happen to Marble, but elsewhere.) Marble is just working to head off that sort of possibility ever happening at the Westside Taproom, particularly after the recent expansion added room for many more customers.
“We’re kind of side-stepping it, going back to that brewpub-esque model in a way, in that we have in-house food service, but we’re not operating our own kitchen,” Ted said. “We’re very passionate about brewing beer, serving beer, the atmosphere and live music. Operating a kitchen isn’t something we want to do, but we do want steady food service.
“I think people with the brewpub concept feel bound to go there and have a meal, maybe. Now, breweries and taprooms have become more of a social hub in a way, and it’s not so bound by food, but we definitely want to insure there is food service to limit liability and provide that dining option if they need it.”
Everyone good now? Cool.
Oh, and you might want to hold off on making plans between April 17-24. That will be the Marble Eighth Anniversary Celebration (yup, eight days long) and we will have all the details on that Wednesday.