New food cart Native Eats has practically been in motion since Founder Alyssa Block was born.
“Ever since I was little I’ve been obsessed with cooking,” she says. Days were spent religiously watching the Food Network with her mom – a hobby she can’t say her friends were always enthused about.
“I always had this dream of cooking for people,” Block continues. She loved the way food could do so many things – make people happy, start conversations and bring everyone together.
A life-changing event would play a role in Block’s food dreams. When her father passed away when she was nine, he left her and her two siblings money. She saved the money until about a year ago, deciding to invest it in her dream. It was time to turn her love into a business.
The goal started with a restaurant, but as Block discovered her love for travel and the outdoors, morphed the plan to a food cart. It was one of many factors that would steer her to a mobile location.
“I think the reason I went with a food cart instead of a food truck is because in college I took some ecology courses and was just really mesmerized by the sustainability piece and having less of a footprint,” Block says.
Sustainability became a cornerstone of Native Eats, along with community and better-for-you food.
The cart’s menu appeals to most eaters. Outside of traditional carnivore options, Block always tries to incorporate a gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian dish.
“Our menu is classic American with a southwestern spin,” she says. Grass-fed meats, local produce and breads from local bakers like Majita and Omega go into dishes like the barbacoa breakfast torta. Braised beef, jack cheese, local fried egg, fresh-made smoked tomatillo salsa, caramelized peppers and onions and cilantro perch on top a ciabatta bun. Homemade pickles add pop to the Cuban, and smoky chipotle pork is standing out as a crowd favorite.
For taking the cart on its first spin about a month and a half ago, Native Eats has already lined up some prime spots for the summer season. They’ll be stationed at Seventh Sun on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and The Ohio Taproom on Fridays from about 4:00 – 10:00 p.m. Block is also taking advantage of the city’s new food truck program and updates on social media track the truck the rest of the time.
Reception to the cart has been positive, with eaters taking note of the principles Block wanted to highlight with her business.
“People appreciate the fact it’s fresh-made,” she says. “People appreciate the fact we support community by sourcing everything locally.”
Supporting community goes a step beyond food for Native Eats. Block is using her cart and her business to become a positive role model for young, female entrepreneurs in Columbus.
Block’s own mother is an entrepreneur. With no college education, she started a position as a receptionist at a company. Now, she owns the company.
“I’ve really looked up to her in that way,” Block says.
She’s now decided it’s her turn to make a mark. Block met a young girl about a year ago. Funny, smart and ambitious, this ten-year-old was already sharing college dreams with Block, despite a rough upbringing. So, she decided to give the girl an all-access, day-in-the-life pass to Native Eats to show her dreams really are within reach.
“Having that one good influence in your life can really turn things around for you,” she says.
She’s hoping this will be the first of what will become at least an annual event.
Also, in an industry that can be largely dominated by men, “Woman empowerment is also really important to me,” Block says. She hopes to inspire a younger generation of women to follow their dreams.
For more information, visit nativeeats.com.