Many restaurants in the Flathead Valley boast a dedication to locally sourced ingredients from Northwest Montana’s many farms or ranches. But few can claim more direct control over their ingredient origins than the folks behind the Wagyu Wagon, a new food truck that started up last year. The truck is owned by father-and-son team Jim and Luke Cummings — owners of Columbia Falls’ Lazy K Ranch — and managed by Lydia Kimball.
“From our pasture to your plate,” Luke Cummings said. “That’s what we do.”
Wagyu is a Japanese breed of beef cattle. The meat’s marbling creates a truly memorable flavor, and health experts have found that Wagyu has a higher monounsaturated to saturated fatty acid ratio, meaning it’s also healthier for humans.
For years, Lazy K has shipped its beef to restaurants and shops throughout the Flathead Valley, including Tamarack Brewing Co. in Lakeside and M&S Meats in Kalispell and Rollins. The ranch works with Lower Valley Processing to prepare the meat. Last year, however, the family decided they wanted to get their specialty beef in front of more people and opened up the Wagyu Wagon.
“We really just wanted to find a new way to promote local meat,” Jim Cummings said.
Since last year, the Wagyu Wagon has been catering parties, weddings and other local events, as well as attending festivals and farmers markets. This summer, it will be a regular at the Whitefish Farmers Market every Tuesday night from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Kimball said the Wagyu Wagon’s menu is fairly straightforward — after all, she said, “the product speaks for itself” — and includes burgers, brats and sliders, as well as hand-cut fries and a “secret” fry sauce. The highlight, though, is the Wagyu burger, which comes with all the traditional toppings, including American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, special sauce and a side of fries.
While starting a new food truck during a pandemic presented challenges — particularly with uncertainties over community events — Kimball said that the Wagyu Wagon is ready to roll this summer and beyond. The wagon’s insulation will allow wintertime operation as well.
Luke Cummings said he’s proud to have another outlet for his family’s product, one that they’re working with long before a burger patty hits the griddle.
“Not a lot of restaurants can say they raised the beef that they serve, but we can,” he said. “It’s a full-circle thing. We raise it from a baby cow to your plate.”
Description: A Wagyu burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, special sauce and a side of hand cut fries.
Location: Whitefish Farmers Market and other events throughout the summer (see website for details)