Little Fish Brewing Company offers brews and bites

Large Ohio cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland are known for successfully conjuring excellent craft beer (think Great Lakes and Columbus Brewing Company). Yet Athens is slowly, but surely, becoming a new hub for craft brewing. The town has long been known as being the home of Jackie O’s, but this past summer two new breweries entered the fold.

beerOne of the new establishments is Little Fish Brewing Company. The small brewery, located a short five-minute drive from campus at 8675 Armitage Road, opened in early July right before Ohio Brew Week. Athens natives Sean White and Jimmy Stockwell are the founders and owners of the operation.

The duo both started as home brewers for many years. White went on to have brewing internships and jobs in different corners of the United States but eventually came home to Athens to fulfill his dream of opening his own brewery. All of the beers served at Little Fish’s taproom are made right there at the facility. The open floor plan allows guests to see where their beer is made and stored. It’s a participatory atmosphere White and Stockwell are proud to have created.

But besides awesome beer and a unique setup, Little Fish has other special features. Currently, the brewery doesn’t yet have the ability to produce its own food. Instead, it has created partnerships with local food trucks to come to the brewery every day that it’s open. Holy Guacamole, Cajun Clucker and Mauvette’s Caribbean Fusion all make stops at Little Fish throughout the week. Having food at the brewery was always an important objective for the brewery.

“We are kind of on the outside of town, and certainly people can have food delivered here, but we thought it was important to the experience of coming to the brewery and spending the afternoon here; and if people were going to spend extended periods of time, we wanted them to have food,” Stockwell said.

Senior strategic communications student Alessa Rosa visited the brewery at the beginning of the semester with her boyfriend and his family. During her visit, she was surprised to see that one of her favorite trucks was serving food.

“Holy Guacamole was there and I almost died,” she said. “It was nice because I had been hunting Holy Guacamole down for like months and they don’t have regular times when they’re in their usual spot and I can’t find the information. So it’s nice knowing that every Thursday they’ll be there so I can go and get [it].”

Incorporating a local food truck along with the well-made craft beer made a positive impression on Rosa. She said she would like to go back sometime to try something new.

White said a long-term goal for Little Fish is to one day open an independent restaurant on site. Though the planning for this is far in the future, it’s still something he’s very excited about. Being sustainable is something the brewery is proud of and hopes to continue to improve on.

“To sort of get a real farm-to-table experience out here we can’t just have brewing ingredients out there, but maybe we’ll have a small greenhouse and some garden beds and be able to supply some of our own produce,” White said.

In the mean time, Stockwell and White are celebrating a big milestone for the company. On Oct. 24, the brewery celebrated its first bottle release of three of its brews. Stockwell said bottles are available of Saison, Woodthrush and the original version of the Reinheitsgewhat?! sour beer. Customers looking to get their hands on some brews for home can stop by the taproom or select bottle shops around town. Stockwell also said some brews are on tap at Casa Nueva, J Bar and Pigskin.

Holy Guacamole owners crash in West Virginia

Local food truck phenom Holy Guacamole was temporarily put out of commission when the Nagy family, who own and run the truck, were in a car accident in West Virginia on Oct. 14, 2015. The family reported the accident on Holy Guacamole’s Facebook page and stated that “…Everyone is banged up and recovering. [The] Van totaled…” following with a message of uncertainty with regards to their reopening.

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Rudy Nagy, owner of Holy Guacamole, with his two sons. Image taken from Holy Guacamole’s Facebook page.

Fortunately for the Nagy family and the taco fans of southeastern Ohio, just one day later on Oct. 15, Holy Guacamole reopened at Little Fish Brewery at 8675 Armitage Rd. in Athens. The truck was at the brewery from 5 to 8 p.m.

This family accident comes on the tails of another fender-bender. Earlier this month, on Oct. 3, the taco trailer crashed into the truck while the proprietors were driving down U.S. Route 33 on their way to the Fiber Faire at the Athens Community Center.

The food truck serves traditional Guatemalan tacos and tamales, among other dishes. The Facebook page is filled not only with requests for new locations, but also messages of support and love in the wake of the accident. The community feels very connected to the family business with most fans calling Nagy by his first name, Rudy.

In response to concerns the family issued this response on Oct. 15, “Wow! Thanks everyone! We are touched by your kindness! We made it back yesterday. Rudy immediately started working, because that’s what Rudy does! Work! Work! Work! Nothing slows him down! He’s open today, even though his body is really hurting.”

For more information about Holy Guacamole check out this short feature from the Athens Messenger.

 

Athens’ street food: behind the mobile restaurant industry

Athens’ street food is a staple menu option for many students at OU shuttling in between classes. It’s hot, it’s quick and you can eat it while standing. But what goes into making that gyro or burrito you can grab in 5 minutes and eat out of your hand? Local vendors talk about how they got started and nature of their trade.

Nisar Shaikh spends most of his days sitting in a fold-up chair behind the counter of his food truck called Ali Babas. His business has been operated since 1988. Shaikh was born in British colonized India in 1944. He has lived in England, Italy and Libya and holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science and a master’s in industrial engineering.

Nisar Shaikh
Nisar Shaikh

“In the morning when I wake up, I pray, I make coffee and watch Russian news, Chinese news, and American news. Then I leave the house for my business,” he said on how most of his days begin.

Shaikh decided to open a food truck after seeing a man selling gyros at Ohio State fair in Columbus. At the time, he was expecting his first child and finding steady work in the U.S. wasn’t easy.

Today, the Ali Babas truck is surprisingly well equipped for such a small space. The entire back of the truck is lined by industrial stainless steel appliances. A standard sink, gas range, griddle and cooler are situated side by side.

In the beginning, his truck was nothing more than a shed.

“I only bought the shell,” he explained. To equip his food truck his wife and he used metal found in local dumpsters.

To get a license to vend in Athens City took Shaikh 8 years. Back then, Athens had two separate vending areas. There was an A and B side. The A side required a license, but B side had metered parking.

“I wasn’t sleeping much because I am a responsible person,” he said. To operate his business he said he would leave the house at 4am then wait two hours until he could park on the street.

Now, Ali Babas has become a part of Athens scenery.

“All the men if they are responsible and they are married, they should be responsible for their families,” he said. Shaikh and his wife of 33 years raised 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls.

Marla Rutter
Marla Rutter

Marla Rutter owns the Burrito Buggy, located in front of Class Gates off of Court Street. Her day starts at around 7:30 am getting the truck stocked, the water tanks and everything needed to operate the truck on a daily basis. Her day doesn’t end until 9:30 pm on a weekday. Weekends can be even longer.

On average, Rutter said she serves around 50 to 100 people, depending on the day and the weather. When there are big events, such as Homecoming Weekend, she may have as many as 500 customers a day.

When asked why she thinks people like the Burrito Buggy, Rutter said it was nostalgia.

“It takes people back. They want to relive their freshman or sophomore year,” she said. Rutter said that a lot of her customers that come during events like Homecoming Weekend even get their pictures taken with the buggy.

Rutter also felt an attachment to the buggy, which is why she purchased the brand in 2010.

“I always loved the Burrito Buggy ever since I was a freshman I had been eating here. It came up for sale in 2010 and if they didn’t find a new owner it was going to close. I thought that couldn’t happen, so we bought it in March of 2010,” she said.

For the most part, operating a food truck is like operating a small local owned business. The days are long and there are many costs involved with the day-to-day operation. Rutter explained that her yearly sales range around $200,000 but she has to pay for food, staff, insurance and propane. In addition, Rutter said that the biggest challenge was maneuvering the truck into her vendor licensed spot.

“One of my personal challenges is that I’m not really good at backing this up. We have to come in a certain order,” she explained. “There are 10 spots. We have assigned spots, but we don’t have assigned times to be here.”

Despite obstacles, Rutter has purchased another buggy in addition to helping her daughter open a restaurant which will be included into the Burrito Buggy Corporation.

For more information about Athens food truck industry check out the The Post’s article.