Food cart business a fixture at Loup Loup Ski Bowl
By Ashley Lodato
With its unassuming profile and low-key presence, the Mountain Meals & Catering food cart may have escaped your notice in 2020.
But for those who have spent any time at Loup Loup Ski Bowl (the Loup) this past winter, Mountain Meals has featured prominently in the quality of their experience.
With the Loup’s lodge under construction and the cafeteria closed for the season, Mountain Meals owner Levi Knox has provided a much-needed service, fueling skiers and snowboarders four days each week for much of the winter.
Knox started the food cart business almost exactly one year ago, right before the pandemic hit. “Cooking is always something I wanted to do,” he says. “I always said I was going to do it, and finally it was just time.”
The youngest of 10 children, Knox grew up in northern Nevada helping his dad in the kitchen. “We always enjoyed cooking together,” Knox says of his father, a lineman for an energy company. “We did a lot of barbeque and a lot of Italian.”
Saw a need
“I saw a need for more food options in the Methow Valley,” says Knox, who was working as a mechanic prior to founding Mountain Meals. “We needed more American food here, some quicker options — just good quality quick food.”
Knox decided to start a food cart and catering business, and it was just in the nick of time that he purchased a food cart, because they became a hotter commodity across the country as the pandemic continued and restaurants closed for indoor dining.
After acquiring the town, county, and state licenses and health department inspections required of food vendors, Knox opened up shop, launching Mountain Meals in Carlton, where he began developing a loyal local clientele. Later Knox relocated to Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp, where he began to serve more visitors than in Carlton.
Still, Knox says, “I sell to more locals than visitors. That surprised me. But the locals have been very supportive. They like my food and want me to succeed.”
From a prep kitchen at the TLC Church in Carlton and an on-site food cart, Mountain Meals serves up simple comfort food that is easy to take home or convenient to eat on the go: burgers, brats, foot-long hot dogs. Summer additions include snow cones, corn on the cob, and fresh squeezed lemonade.
Tillamook cheddar cheese and grilled onions top the burger patties, which are sourced through Hank’s meat department. “Hank has been so helpful as usual,” Knox says of Hank’s owner Hank Konrad. “I buy all my meat and produce from him.”
Mountain Meals’ modest prices and regular two-for-one family packages draw a fairly steady stream of customers. “I’ve been almost busier than I can handle,” says Knox, who got to make one lone snowboard run down the mountain his first day up at the Loup this winter, before meeting the demand for trailside meals began to consume his discretionary time.
Knox, who plans to spend next winter managing the Loup kitchen in what will be the new day lodge, explains that the Mountain Meals business name was derived by chance. “I was sitting there one day and my son was making fun of my beard,” he says. “He kept calling me a ‘mountain man.’ And suddenly my wife said, ‘What about Mountain Meals as a business name?’”
The name was solid, as was the business model: streamlined overhead, crowd-pleaser foods, generous portions, affordable prices, reliable service.
“God has had his hand in my path,” Knox says. “I’ve been so lucky to have all this support from the community. For me, this is the fulfillment of a dream.”
Learn more about Mountain Meals & Catering at www.facebook.com/MMCvalleyfoods.