GTPulse: Traverse City Food Truck Moves To Storefront After Successful First Season

“I think it’s the American way to push through and do your best, you work hard and you succeed.”

Tim Bergstrom’s days spent slaving over a hot stove in a small, food truck kitchen have paid off. After a summer parked outside of Menard’s in Traverse City, he’s made a name for himself, as well as enough cash for a storefront to call his own. The wheels may be gone, but the burgers are here to stay.

Tim has had an interest in having a food venture of his own for several years now. The pandemic, while devastating for the restaurant industry, was the catalyst for him to begin working on his dream. Tim has been in Traverse City since 2003, where he graduated from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute. He continued his culinary education at the New England Culinary Institute and gained further experience through internships, including one at the Lafayette Hotel in New Orleans.

“I picked up a bit of a Cajun influence there,” he said.

He has experience with all aspects of restaurant service work and was working at Georgina’s in Traverse City when the impacts of COVID-19 hit.

“I was laid off. I worked for Tony Craig at Georgina’s, I was a server and bartender at the time. I’m not a person that just sits around. From day one I was brainstorming what to do to support my family. I knew unemployment wasn’t going to be one of those things I can rely on.”

He found support in a friend with an unused food truck sitting idle in his yard. He knew that burgers would be easy to do out of the truck. He liked the simplicity of them and keeping a small, cohesive menu of items made from locally sourced ingredients made them a hit with all who visited the truck over the summer.

“I try to be as locally sourced as possible. We get our buns from 9 Bean Rows, we get our ground beef and bacon from Louie’s. American cheese you can get from anywhere, but we get our raclette from the Leelanau Cheese Company, it keeps well as long as it’s refrigerated and vacuum sealed. I work with local purveyors and farmers’ markets. We use organic red onion, our butter bibb lettuce is from Pete’s Living. It has a slight pepperiness to it that goes great with the burgers. I’ve done my homework and worked really hard to make sure we’re locally sourced and have a symbiotic relationship with local purveyors.”

The local burgers have earned him a lot of local love. Customers raved about the taste, but also about the prompt and warm service provided by Tim and his team. He attributes the success to his team, the freshness of his food, and to the loyal customers who just kept coming back.

“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to make enough money to continue our business in a storefront after only being in the food truck for one season.”

Bergstrom’s Burgers is located at 903 US-31 in Traverse City and will be able to seat up to 40. They’ll be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will be closed Sundays. It’s a counter-service and they had their grand opening this past Friday. He was never interested in having a large restaurant with a large menu. He said the key to restaurant success is committing to simplicity, a theme, a small place, and taking care of his staff.

Menu items include specialty sliders and burgers, smoked wings with homemade sauces, a crab cake that pays homage to his time in New Orleans, fried zucchini, onion rings, sweet potato fries, and classic french fries, as well as a from-scratch vegetarian burger and gluten-free options. He also stressed that his kitchen will never have a microwave in it.

Tim is excited to see return customers, to introduce new customers to his food, and to create a sense of community around his food.

“You think back in time there was a go-to place, where you would be greeted by a local tavern innkeep who knew everybody. He welcomed everybody, got to know those people by name, and was always happy to see them. That’s what I want to establish here. The people who came to my food truck often experienced that.”

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Categories: GTPulse