Amid all the niche gourmet food carts at 11th and Duane streets, Sally and Eric Irvine are Keeping it Sweet and Simple.
The husband-and-wife owners of the new eatery, housed in Samuel Bruhn’s short-lived Half Pint Donuts cart between Pizutti’s Woodfired Pizza and Coffee OR Waffle, are targeting the more economical breakfast and lunch fare.
The parking lot at the corner has become the epicenter of Astoria’s food cart scene. Around the corner from the Irvines, the pizzeria and the waffle cart are the Surf 2 Soul cart serving soul food, Roll and Bowl doing sushi and ramen and Good Bowl serving tacos and bowls with locally sourced produce.
Sally Irvine, who largely runs the cart and has a second job as a caregiver, makes no bones about focusing on the more economical options, from breakfast burritos and biscuits and gravy to sandwiches and hot dogs. She also keeps a selection of cookies, cinnamon rolls, muffins and other pastries and coffee.
“We don’t have such an expensive menu based on what we sell,” she said. “So for some of those people that don’t have the extra $10 to put down on something, they can come over here and for $5 get a sandwich, a bag of chips and a pop.”
Eric Irvine has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, works at another restaurant and helps her prep. The couple had originally planned to open a restaurant, but found food carts a lower barrier to entry.
“Food carts tend to do better than a lot of restaurants, so … we’re doing this to get known,” he said.
They inherited Bruhn’s donut machine when they bought the cart, but found it wasn’t worth the liability and space it took to fry donuts inside. They hope to sell the machine to someone who will then sell them donuts. As the summer hits, they hope to expand their offerings and start barbecuing outside.
In the rainy season, carts focus on staying afloat and drawing in locals. Like some of their neighbors, the Irvines hope property owner Michael Bruhn will install a covered area for customers. He has resisted over fears the homeless will camp out there.
“My point of view is, they’re hanging out whether we give them a covered area or not,” Sally Irvine said. “So if they wanted to get into any of our stuff or be bad people, they’re going to do it whether there’s a covered area or not … It would sure help us business-wise.”
Keeping it Sweet and Simple isn’t the only change at the food cart pod, which recently lost Sasquatch Sandwich Shop to another pod outside Reach Break Brewing and Reveille Ciderworks farther east on Duane Street. Sasquatch took the place of Abbie and Dan Rhoads’ Hot Box Barbecue and Hong Kong Taco carts, which the couple recently closed before relocating to California.
Keeping it Sweet and Simple opens mornings and afternoons Monday through Saturday.