Real Food + Real People: Dusty Buns

Though San Francisco’s “fresh, local, seasonal” Dusty Buns started as a food truck out of pure necessity, husband-and-wife owners Dustin and Kristin Stewart recently graduated to a full brick-and-mortar café in the City by the Bay, stumbling through fate or happenstance into the perfect bright orange location. We are tickled pink that the new café finds our real-fruit, refreshing Spindrift sodas and sparkling waters worthy of serving to their many hungry customers.

At first, the Stewarts tried to launch their farm-to-table culinary empire as the aforementioned food truck in SF, but regulations forced them back to their hometown of Fresno. Undaunted, they worked their way back to the Bay, and were soon the only non-taco truck in the area. Their made-from-scratch, hyper-local menu quickly gathered ever-growing lunch lines of support. Being the first at anything isn’t without its trials.

“We were open for about a year, and had some fun issues with the city down there, because we weren’t just a taco truck going from business to business to business,” Kristin explained one afternoon in front of their SF bistro. “We would stop and park for a while, and in the laws it said that as long as you had a line you could serve your line. So we thankfully wound up being so popular we’d have a line that would wrap around the block! Then the city said our line was too long, and they sent out code enforcement to shut us down.”

But being a one-of-a-kind, popular food truck gave them some bargaining power against the powers-that-be.

“We ended up on the front page of the newspaper a bunch of times,” Stewart laughed, “and it just made our line even bigger! So we finally agreed they’d let us operate in this grey area until we figured it out, and they gave us special permits to set up.”

Soon after, in response to a rainy winter that forced them to be closed for weeks on end, the Stewarts bought a closing restaurant in Fresno, only to find that the location wouldn’t work. Harnessing that same can-do spirit that got them going the first time around, they charged forward into a new spot, opening for business in just nine days. Luckily, their clientele were more than happy to follow them, and their doors opened to yet another line of hungry customers.

Soon after, they managed to get a food truck approved for San Francisco, and became a staple at the SOMA StrEat Food Park. Kristin and Dustin, along with their new child, became full time San Francisco residents, and things were good. But then one day about a year ago, Dustin was on his way home from working the truck and stopped to get dinner at a favorite spot, only to find it had suddenly closed.

“Dustin, he’s a talker,” Kristin said. “If he can meet the owner of a business, he’s gonna meet the owner of a business. So he knew the guy that owned this place, and he called him up and asked him what happened, and he just said he didn’t want to do it anymore, and if we wanted it, it was ours.”
She gestured to the patio: “All the stuff inside–these tables, the sign, that was theirs, I painted over it. If it had gone on the market we would never have been able to afford it.”

Thought it took a few months to get ready, they opened. And the rest is history. Now there’s almost always a line of devotees waiting to dig into the 100% seasonal and California-sourced menu made of sandwiches, including a tri-tip melt, artisan grilled cheeses, and their signature sandwich, made of organic Fresno chili Chicken and Cider cabbage slaw, the namesake “Dusty Bun.”

Every since the Stewarts painted their very first food truck bright orange, every place they’ve stumbled into opening a shop has already been painted the same color.

“So now we have a rule that anywhere we go, it has to be orange.”

It’s a system as good as any, and one that seems to be working for them.