MINDEN — The nose of the food truck is splattered with lime green and purple paint with sayings like “Life is too short to be hangry” or “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hangry.”
Mongolian metal music plays through the speakers as the smell of burgers and pulled pork waft through the air.
Chad Christensen slides open the window to greet customers with a jovial grin. His arm rests on the window edge with his business’ name, Hangries, tattooed across his forearm.
Spending his days in his food truck waiting on customers is a lifestyle change for Christensen, who grew up on a farm and spent the last 25 years as a farmer near Minden.
“My dad retired. I saw how the economy was so I retired, too. I sat for a couple of weeks wondering what I was going to do. I didn’t want to have a boss because I’ve been my own boss for so long. I was like, ‘Gosh, what do I do?’” Christensen said.
One day when he was driving home from Kearney, the idea hit him to start a food truck.
Making food, such as jellies, and sharing it with others was something he had done for years. He began researching on eBay for food trucks. He made three phones calls, and on his last call, he found a location in McAllen, Texas, that would build the truck. The truck was previously a motor home. What used to be the living room is now the heart of the business where the food is cooked and served.
Hangries hit the road last fall, but when the harsh winter hit Nebraska, Christensen didn’t get back into the swing of things until mid-March. Now, Christensen and two employees are serving throughout the area on a full-time basis.
The smell of burgers and pulled pork might give the perception of an ordinary hamburger menu, but Christensen adds a little something — and often, a lot of something — extra to each item on the menu.
“My goal is to have a jelly on everything going out, not necessarily the sides but each sandwich,” he said.
Popular items on the Hangries menu is the Trainwreck, which features a hamburger with smoked Gouda cheese, bacon, sautéed onions and mango habanero jelly on a marbled rye bun. The juicy burger mingles with the sweet onions and jelly that gives the sandwich a spicy kick.
If customers don’t want a sandwich, they can try the Pig Chips that have white tortilla chips, pico de gallo, nacho cheese, pinto beans, bacon, pulled pork, pepper bacon jam and sour cream. The most unique item on the food truck’s menu is the Hangriest Burger, which is a cheeseburger with peanut butter, peach habanero jelly, pulled pork, sautéed onions and a scotcharoo on a croissant bun.
Christensen doesn’t have any professional training in cooking. He currently is taking an online course through Chef Todd Mohr’s online cooking classes to learn more about the craft. The kitchen in his Minden house has become the place where all the food is prepped before going on the food truck. Everything is made fresh and from scratch, except for the hot dogs.
“It’s fresh pasta salad, fresh coleslaw, pulled pork. I make all the pulled pork, the baked beans,” Christensen said.
Christensen’s week kicks off on Mondays when he preps all the food, and he heads out Monday evening to serve supper at Mason’s Market parking lot in Minden. Throughout the week, he travels to Kearney, Holdrege and Hastings to serve lunch and/or supper. He’s also taken the food truck to events such as Celebrate Kearney and Kearney Raceway Park. Hangries will travel outside the region this summer to set up at county fairs in Beloit, Kan., and Hastings. Christensen also will be taking the truck to an event in Alliance and for the Junk Jaunt in Wellfleet.
Business has grown steadily for the food truck, and Christensen is pleased with how successful it’s been so far. He prides himself on providing delicious, high-quality food.
“The food goes out the same every time, I’m happy. I just don’t want to put out crap food,” he said. “If it takes another minute, I’m willing to take a minute to make it good. I’m not willing to risk it.”
Christensen may not be farming anymore, but the agricultural community always will be a part of his life. During harvest season, he hopes to set up at different elevators to feed the farmers.
“I used to supply the food for the people. Now I’m going to serve the people. Farming still takes priority,” he said. “I just love to take care of the farmers. That’s where I got to be this day.”