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Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013

Cheese on Wheels

Gouda Girls bring grilled cheese to Milwaukee streets

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Specializing in the art of grilled cheese sandwich making, Gouda Girls Cheese Truck co-owners Katherine and Tina Tonn continue to work toward establishing the mobile vendor as Milwaukee’s foremost authority in all things grilled cheese. Since launching the venture two years ago, Katherine and Tina have developed a loyal costumer following and a number of appreciative corporate clients. But as rewarding and invigorating as the journey has been, food truck ownership wasn’t always on the couple’s radar.

“We hadn’t really thought about it until I was told that I needed to change my career path because of a health issue. The doctor told me to stop stressing and do something that I would want to do for the rest of my life,” Katherine explains. “Tina and I always knew that food and service were important to us, so we went online, found our truck on eBay in Virginia, flew it out, drove it home, and we were in business.”

Now in their third season, the Gouda Girls have created a comfortable niche as business park regulars and reliable corporate caterers. “We started out with the premise of wanting to do all grilled cheese sandwiches, but as we became more popular, we found that we weren’t so much a street vendor as we were a corporate vendor,” Katherine recalls. “We were doing every Tuesday at Direct Supply, every Wednesday at the U.S. Bank building and every Thursday at the Courthouse. We knew where we were going every week and it was the same customers, so we decided to expand the menu to include the cheesesteak sandwich and some more healthy options for the corporations that were promoting healthier eating. We introduced the black bean burger and the turkey burger and they both ended up working out, improving the menu in a way that people responded to.”

The Gouda Girls mini menu, which can be downloaded from goudagirls.com, is precisely the kind of comfort food one would expect from a food truck promising cheesy “curbside comfort.” Whether you’re in search of a nostalgic pairing of Wonder Bread and American cheese, a wondrous combination of Roma tomatoes and melted Italian cheeses or an epic homemade cheesesteak topped with fresh grilled vegetables, the Gouda Girls have the perfect sandwich for every cheese lover, in addition to some lighter alternatives for those seeking healthier options. The “Fresh Spring Green Salad” made with organic spring greens, berries and toasted pecans makes for an enjoyable lunch, while the Gouda Girls homemade classic tomato soup is the perfect accompaniment to any of their grilled cheese creations.

And while the burgers and sandwiches are all grilled to order, the Gouda Girls homemade soups, sauces and macaroni and cheese are prepared in their commercial Bay View kitchen. Like other food trucks, the Gouda Girls are required to maintain a certified kitchen as their base. Katherine and Tina have been renting out space to other area food trucks, reaping the rewards of a festival-laden summer. But don’t expect the tireless Gouda Girls to close up shop just because fall has arrived and winter is looming.

“We’ve never closed in winter,” states Katherine proudly. “Well, I shouldn’t say that exactly. Two days last winter, we were doing the Holy Hill ski hill and it got so cold that the propane wouldn’t turn on, but other than that we were out all season. We’ll be out this winter too,” she continues, “our customers can count on it.”

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