POCATELLO — Asked where he got the name for his food truck, Brian Zenger replied, “Where did you always go as a kid to get the best food?”
With that, Grandma’s Pantry was born.
But before they ever served their signature “jacked-up grilled cheeses,” Brian and his wife Kimberly were selling homemade jams and jellies — specializing in the spicy-sweet. Now serving prepared food, the couple leans heavily on their specialty preserves, including peach-habanero jelly in their steak and onion grilled cheese, and triple-berry syrup on their fried pork belly — what they call belly bites.
“So many people didn’t know how to use our spicy jellies and were just like, ‘Ew, that’s nasty, I wouldn’t have that on a peanut butter-jelly sandwich’,” Kimberly told EastIdahoNews.com. “That’s when we told them, it’s for cooking. Cooking is the way to go with spicy jellies.”
In addition to showing patrons how good food can be using spicy jelly in the preparation, the Zengers are in the process of finishing a cookbook that highlights some of their recipes and offers tips on using jelly in your own recipes.
For just about five years, Brian and Kimberly have been perfecting and adding menu items, including their latest addition, the Hungry Mann — a 1/3-pound burger with huckleberry-habanero cream cheese, lettuce and tomato topped with four pieces of their signature belly bites. They now offer an assortment of cooked meals, including the grilled cheese sandwiches with meat options and, of course, spicy jellies.
In a short time, Brian and Kimberly’s jam and jelly options had grown immensely, and their menu of prepared food had mirrored that growth.
But, like many other businesses, they were placed in a difficult position in the spring of 2020, when much of the state and country was shut down due to the COVID pandemic. With options limited, as far as events in need of food trucks, Brian devised a plan and took it to fellow local food truck owners.
“All of the food truck vendors, we’re all a small community here,” he said. “All the events were being canceled and we were all worried about making it through (the shutdown). We talked to each other and we were like, ‘if we’re all in one spot, maybe we’ll all make money and we’ll be able to survive it.’ It worked out tremendously well.”
The first roundup, in 2020, featured just six food trucks. With the growing popularity, both in food trucks as a whole and in the idea of a roundup, this year’s lineup of food trucks has reached 20. So many that Brian has been forced to reimagine the Monday setup the Historic Downtown Pocatello Pavilion.
“In the next few weeks, when the weather starts turning nicer, we’re going to start having (food trucks) on both sides of the street,” Brian said.
And on Wednesdays, when the roundup is in the Chubbuck City Hall parking lot, the growing options will soon include some shopping.
“The Portneuf Valley Farmers Market is joining us as well,” Brian added. “Right now, they have a few crafters, and as soon as the weather turns and we can actually start growing produce we should have fresh produce as well.
While the options are extensive at the roundup events, what makes Grandma’s Pantry unique is their homemade jams and jellies, and the combination of sweet and spicy that using those jellies provides.
During EastIdahoNews.com’s visit, Brian and Kimberly had us try the Huck Finn burger (the Hungry Mann, minus the belly bites), the steak-and-onion grilled cheese (the sandwich that launched their food menu), and the belly bites.
While we would happily eat any of those items again, the belly bites left a lasting impression. They are perfectly cooked — roasted for several hours before getting a flash fry — and the triple-berry syrup goes with them perfectly. And the fries, made with fresh-cut potatoes from Gold Emblem Produce in Idaho Falls, are also perfectly cooked and seasoned.
The food truck roundup is in Pocatello, at the downtown pavilion, ever Monday, and in Chubbuck, at City Hall, every Wednesday. On both days, the trucks begin serving at 4 pm and stay until dark.
The daily and weekly schedules for Grandma’s Pantry are available on Facebook. And jams and jellies can be purchased online at grandmaspantrypocatello.com.
If you want to make a recommendation for the next destination to be included on East Idaho Eats, email Kalama@EastIdahoNews.com and include “EATS” in the subject line.