Steak with it
It’s wowed diners for more than half a century. So why not import a legendary steak sandwich to Big Sky?
At Mac’s in McCook, Neb., diners come to experience a steak sandwich so magnificent, it’s been cloned in a Big Sky food truck.
Pointing to it on the menu of her six-week-old Cosmic Café on wheels, head chef and owner Mava Hurd gets nostalgic: “This is one I had as a child in Nebraska. This place, Mac’s, has been in business for 60 years. It’s just killer. It’s always wonderful. It hangs over the bun, it’s still a little pink in the middle.”
So the last time Hurd visited McCook, she approached the owner of Mac’s: “I said, ‘I’m starting a food truck way up in Montana. Would you share the recipe with me?’ So he shared the marinade and all the aging and everything that went into that steak sandwich.”
The smell of one cooking turns the heads of drivers traveling along Lone Mountain Trail, where her food truck sits just across the parking lot from Ace Hardware.
“We lease this space because it has electrical outlets,” explains Hurd, who started her food career six years ago with a cookie business at the Farmer’s Market and other events. Hurd spent the bulk of her career as a marketing research psychologist, serving clients like Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Citi Bank and Bank of America, while living back east.
Now Hurd and her daughter Janie Izzo serve the breakfast and lunch crowd streaming past on one of Big Sky’s busiest stretches of road.
Hurd says her new venture draws more than Mac’s steak sandwich from the past. Hurd’s market research continues, only on a smaller scale, at the order window “person-to-person, not like the large-scale studies I used to do.”
Before helping get pharmaceuticals and consumer goods to market, Hurd watched her parents run “a restaurant when I was a little girl so I’ve always wanted to do this.”
Hurd and Izzo spotted their chance when the owners of Iron Star Pizza in Big Timber decided they didn’t need the Rolling Star food truck after all
“They only used it four times,” says Hurd, who decided to wrap her truck in festive colors, partly because she wants to catch the eyes of passing motorists.
Right now, the location by Ace Hardware catches uphill traffic mostly. Hurd says Cosmic Café has permission to set up at the Big Sky Medical Center on the other side of Lone Mountain Trail. So the truck will serve the medical center and anyone who’s hungry and in downhill traffic leaving Big Sky during the daily afternoon-evening exodus.
But for now, the Cosmic Café truck remains stuck in the snow by Ace: “The weather has prevented us from moving out of here. It’s kind of an awkward vehicle for moving around on icy roads.”
Inside the truck, Hurd’s menu research continues: “We keep testing out new items. We just recently introduced the ‘Dilly Dilly,’ which is a dill-pickle-marinated chicken breast coated in dill pickle chips and fried and put on a bun with dill-pickle mayonnaise. So it’s very dilly.”
Too dilly perhaps for Warren Prigge, who rolled in from Washington state in an Ace delivery truck. He strolled up to order the lunch special: A barbecue chicken sandwich.
“It’s handy,” says Prigge, praising the café’s location. The surrounding pavement accommodates all kinds of work trucks.
“I can’t get parked next to a lot of places,” says Prigge. “I’m here making a delivery so this is a natural.”
Hurd pitches her truck as both convenient and dedicated to wholesome food.
“I think it’s really important that food should be natural from scratch,” says Hurd. “But it should be fun. It shouldn’t
be hard figuring out what you want to eat.”
Izzo, an Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School graduate, enthusiastically signed on with her mom and applies her experience working at the Corral Steakhouse.
Izzo says the secrets to family harmony in business are: “Talking, being on the same page and organization.”
When it was time to submit paperwork for the delivery of food and supplies to their truck, Izzo prepared a comprehensive food service plan that earned high praise from suppliers.
“We treated it like it was classwork,” says Hurd, who fell in love with the idea of Montana as a kid, listening to her grandmother’s stories.
“My grandmother taught here when she was 16 years old and she had these stories about how great Montana was and I believed them. They were true,” says Hurd.
Hurd’s family vacationed in Big Sky in 2000 and later made it their home. In addition to the food truck, Hurd and Izzo also run the local bird rescue. They’re busy and reportedly getting busier.
On a recent Thursday morning, Cosmic Café sold out of breakfast, says Hurd, adding the steak sandwich has emerged as “the staple” of the truck.
Its recipe comes straight from Mac’s in McCook, Neb., where diners use a phone at their booth to place orders. The kids—and Hurd was once one of them—love this fun twist on the dining experience.
“Exciting and fun,” says Hurd describing what she’s going for. “That’s what we wanted to do.”