June 8 2011 12:00 AM

Using grass-fed beef and free-range pork and chicken, Trailer Park’d offers a classy alternative to fast food


Some restaurateurs think atmosphere first.  Others, location (location, location).  For Jesse Hahn, it’s the food that matters above all. And he knows food.

Trailer Park’d is the vehicle from which Hahn shares his knowledge and love of food done right. Literally.

A transient merchant — bureaucra-eeze for
"street vendor" — Trailer Park’d is a kitchen on wheels, housed in a
wood-sided trailer towed behind a Chevy pickup. 

Hahn now sets up daily at the corner of
Cedar and Liberty Streets, just north of Grand River Avenue, and is
looking to move into Old Town soon. Trailer Park’d appears weekly at the
Allen Street and other farmers markets, and hits occasional events: It
was at Preuss Pets during  last weekend’s Be A Tourist in Your Own Town festivities.

Hahn is delighted to be serving food on the street, but he
isn’t throwing cheap hot dogs into a murky holding tank of tepid water;
he’s doing his level best to provide a classy version of meals on
wheels. Foodies will recognize Hahn’s talent immediately — and he’s
doing it with an eye toward accessibility.

"We’re trying to give people another option besides fast
food," Hahn says. "I’ve sold food for $50 a plate, and it’s hard for me
to relate to that."

Hahn, who returned home to the Lansing area from
Fennville, where he was the chef d’ cuisine at Salt of the Earth, has a
simple mission: locally sourced street food done right.

The grass-fed beef he uses comes from Eaton Rapids; the
organic produce from Owosso; the bread is made in Holt; the free-range
pork and chicken are local, too.  

"It’s honest food," Hahn says, emphasizing his commitment to the slow food movement. "We want happy animals.  Respecting the product is what it’s all about."

Hamburgers typify street food in this country (think
drive-thru), and a Trailer Park’d beef sandwich ($7.50) should be in the
running for best in town.

It begins with a chewy, herb-encrusted focaccia that has olive halves baked into the bread.  Caramelized
red onions, cooked to a pretty purple-white-brown, are soft, mellow and
sweet while retaining a bit of crunch. A touch of balsamic vinegar adds
depth, the acidity contrasting gently with the sweetened onion.

The beef (grass-fed, remember) is draped in a blanket of
fontina cheese. A bit of fontina spilled over the edge of the tall
burger and pooled into a delicious bite-sized clump on the edge of the
focaccia, like a lifeboat  on the side of the Titanic; once it was gobbled up, the rest of the burger went down a little too quickly. 

Burgers are on the menu every day, like the
Spanish-inspired pollo torta ($7.50). A crescent-shaped, hardy bolillo
bun is split in half and stuffed with queso fresco, black beans,
avocado, chunks of tomatillo, cilantro and free-range chicken — itself
seasoned and smoked before assembly into the sandwich.  It comes with a rich, homemade dipping sauce, a stock made from chicken bones, an au jus for the people.

"We want to use the whole animal when we cook," Hahn says. "We don’t waste anything."

The Ballin’ Ass Tacos ($3.75, two for $7) deserve a bit of
description as well. They start with spicy chorizo, which Hahn makes
himself and arranges to have ground fresh.

The meat is loaded onto a pair of toasted flour tortillas
and topped with queso fresco, cilantro and wedges of lime. The effect is
a burst of heat, with the chorizo followed closely behind by the
refreshing creaminess of the cheese, the green of the cilantro and a
burst of cool citrus from the lime. 

The menu adjusts with the season; grilled asparagus with
balsamic and romano cheese is on the menu for spring, along with salads
that utilize rhubarb, baby kale and other seasonal vegetables.  Homemade soups are a daily option, too, like the smoked turkey broth with couscous, leeks and creamy goat cheese.

Trailer Park’d is a labor of love for Hahn. Family and
friends have contributed greatly, and despite some bumpiness settling
into a regular spot in the first few weeks, he’s optimistic. In the long
run, the trailer is serving as a low-overhead means to raise enough
capital for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

In the meantime, bringing culinary life to the streets of Lansing is the focus.

"It’s about how dedicated you are to the craft," Hahn says. "High standards and attention to detail."

Trailer Park’d
Corner of Cedar and Liberty Streets
(517) 303-4445
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 
Allen Street Farmers Market
2:30-7 p.m. Wednesday
South Lansing Farmers Market
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, June-September
TO, OM, $$
(517) 482-5700