By Brooke Geery
For local fried chicken fans, there is a bright side to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Rollin’ Rooster food trucks have pumped out so much food for hungry Vermonters since the pandemic began in March, that owners Nicole and Scott Bower have expanded to multiple trucks, and now, a brick and mortar location in Pittsford.
“When all of the restaurants closed in March due to Covid, we were selling fried chicken out of our driveway in Rutland City, all pre-order takeout through Facebook. It was great until one Friday we had 35 cars pull up to pick up takeout and a neighbor complained,” Bower said.
In May, they moved the the trailer to Cold River Road and in June added a second trailer to do events.
“With cold weather approaching this fall and the demand for our food not going away, we started to look at restaurant spaces. Our business had grown to a point where the 16-foot trailer and storage container was just not cutting it. We needed a commercial kitchen to function as a commissary for the food trailers, especially due to the Everyone Eats program, which we have been making 450 meals a week for.”
Bower began the search for a suitable space, initially looking at the old Kelvan’s location in downtown Rutland, but it wasn’t quite right.
“We really needed a place where we could park the trailers and plug them in so they were no longer sitting in our driveway,” Bower said.
When she saw on Facebook that Harvest Moon Cafe was closing, she reached out to owners Harry and Andrea McCaulley.
“I have always loved going to the Harvest Moon and really loved the space but it was not until Harry and Andrea gave me a tour and I saw that the basement was a full commercial bakery that I really truly fell in love with the building,” Bower said. “The building just fits us and our chicken theme.”
The Cluckin’ Cafe opened for breakfast and lunch service Saturday, Dec. 12 and expanded to dinner service on Dec. 18.
“This weekend was our first two nights serving dinner and it went really well. The feedback has been great. We have already made a few adjustments to a few recipes based on customer feedback and had a very successful first weekend serving breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Bower said. “Pittsford is a very welcoming community. We have had the food trailer open in the parking lot since Nov. 1 and it has been great.”
With more space comes more options, and accordingly Bower has expanded the menu at the cafe.
“The Cafe menu is more of a reflection of my personal taste,” she said. “It is a lot of my favorite dishes and the way I like to cook at home. It is moving us beyond fried chicken. We have a global menu that we will start cooking the week after Christmas. I really want guests to come to us because we have delicious food, great service and an inviting environment. I don’t want anyone to leave disappointed. I know how much that stinks when you go out to eat and have a bad experience!”
In addition to serving hungry guests, Bower also plans to use the café as a segue to her other career as a teacher. She served as the culinary director at LiHigh School, an independent Poultney school for over four years, and for the past three years has taught art at Rutland City public schools.
The cafe will provide additional opportunities for her current and former students to work and gain experience, something they’ve already had success with running the food cart.
Currently, the Cluckin’ Cafe, located at 2044 Route 7 in Pittsford, is offering dinner Thursday-Saturday 4:30-8 p.m., and breakfast and lunch Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The Rollin’ Rooster cart has two locations, one of which will be at K-1 base area at Killington seven days a week starting Dec. 26.
“We started going up there on weekends already. They would love both trailers but I really want to keep one in Pittsford for our regular fried chicken customers,” Bower said.