When Keith and Katie Poe contemplated the best way to make a living that allowed them to raise their family on Katie’s great-grandfather’s homestead in Trego, sausage became their savior.
The Poes are in the fourth summer of taking their Saucy Dogs food truck on the road. The popular food trailer is a staple at area farmers markets where they serve up locally made gourmet sausages and bratwurst.
Their weekly route includes the Whitefish Farmers Market on Tuesday evenings, Eureka on Wednesdays and the Columbia Falls Community Market on Thursdays.
Locally sourced products figure heavily into Saucy Dogs’ menu. The sausage is made by Perfect Cuts in Columbia Falls; hoagie buns come from Ceres Bakery in Kalispell and Wheat Montana supplies the hot-dog buns.
Their draft root beer is from Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish, and is paired with local Sweet Peaks ice cream for root-beer floats.
“Local is our thing,” Keith said. He makes all of his condiments from scratch.
Katie works the food truck alongside Keith on the farmers market circuit and at other events. Fortuitously, her mother, Melanie Chinn, lives next door in Trego in the original log cabin in which five generations of the Vizzutti family have lived. The Poes are able to drop their young son and daughter off at grandma’s as they head down the road to their next event.
Larger special events such as the Montana Dragon Boat Festival, Spartan Race, Bigfork Whitewater Festival, The Event at Rebecca Farm and the Craft Beer Relay in Bigfork also help the couple keep their business going. During the winter months, Keith is a ski instructor at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
It was perhaps inevitable that the Poes would wind up in the food business in a place like Trego, in close proximity to a ski resort.
Keith grew up in Ellensburg, Washington, and was well-versed in restaurant work before he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in restaurant supervision from the Maui Culinary Academy.
“I’ve been working in [restaurant] kitchens since I was 15,” he said.
Keith met Katie, of Enumclaw, Washington, at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort where they were both employed in a fine-dining restaurant. Katie, who attended the University of Montana, had fond memories of spending time in Trego during her childhood when her grandfather lived on the property that at one time included hundreds of acres where Christmas trees were harvested.
When it came time to find a place to put down roots, they moved to Trego 10 years ago, first living in the original log cabin before building their own home four years ago.
“It was always a magical place to me growing up,” Katie said, surveying the open meadows surrounded by forestland.
The challenge was finding a way to make a living and be able to live in Trego, about 37 miles northwest of Whitefish. Driving to Whitefish for a $12-an-hour restaurant job just wasn’t cutting it, Keith said.
“On a Sunday drive we tried to come up with a concept of what would be profitable,” he recalled.
Saucy Dogs is what emerged from that Sunday afternoon contemplation. The couple started their mobile food truck at nearby HA Brewing Co. before taking the gourmet dogs on the road.
The Poes have been working together ever since they met 12 years ago and married seven years ago. The teamwork has created a viable business that enables them to live in the rural setting they cherish.
As Keith simply puts it: “We jive.”
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.