East Coast Eats

Brooklyn Rolls food cart sets up shop in Whitefish, Bigfork

By Justin Franz
John Ryan, owner of Brooklyn Rolls in Whitefish. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

WHITEFISH – Last year, John Ryan noticed two deficiencies in the Flathead’s burgeoning food scene. First, there were few late-night dining options in downtown Whitefish. Second, there was no place to sink his teeth into an Italian sandwich like the ones he found in his native Brooklyn — classics like a chicken Parmesan or a saucy meatball sub.

Most people would simply go shopping to get the ingredients to fill a homesick stomach, but Ryan isn’t most people. Instead, in early 2017, he opened up Brooklyn Rolls, a food cart that specializes in late-night eats from his native New York.

“I missed the food I had back home,” Ryan, 47, said, “and so I decided to bring a little of it west. It’s all food I remember growing up as a kid in New York City.”

Ryan is no stranger to the food world, though. As a teenager, he worked in a bar and restaurant to help pay for college before graduating from New York University with a degree in marketing. After graduation, Ryan managed and marketed restaurants in New York and Costa Rica. Four years ago, Ryan moved to Whitefish to be closer to his family and established a restaurant consulting firm. Then a year ago, he decided to get back into running his own eatery and, realizing Whitefish could use more late-night options, began planning Brooklyn Rolls.

Unlike traditional food carts that set up shop on a street corner and have patrons come to them, Brooklyn Rolls delivers food right to people’s barstool. Patrons can order online, call or order directly from a roving server who hands out menus at bars. When someone orders, the server will text the order back to the cart for the chef to fill it. The server then picks up the food and delivers it.

People can also go to the cart directly behind Stumptown Marketplace, where Brooklyn Rolls is located on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

The menu includes salads, meatball subs, Philly cheese steaks, and spicy Italian sausage sandwiches.

Ryan said business has been brisk this spring, and he’s optimistic about this summer. It’s going so well that he’s decided to purchase a second cart and set up shop in downtown Bigfork.

For those who want to try Brooklyn Rolls’ fare but don’t want to stay up late, they can order a sandwich from the cart during the Whitefish Farmers Market on Tuesday evenings. The cart is also serving up eats on Saturdays at Spotted Bear Spirits in downtown Whitefish. Ryan said he’s worked with the distillery to create a entirely new menu on those days, featuring Caprese skewers, Chicken parmesan sliders and more.

“The menu is great for people who want to enjoy a cocktail and a quick snack,” he said.

While Ryan is focusing on the busy summer months, he’s also keeping an eye toward the future. Eventually, he hopes to find a more permanent home for Brooklyn Rolls so he can serve sandwiches year-round.

For more information, visit www.brooklynrolls.com.