San Diego is on the cusp of welcoming Liberty Public Market, a 22,000-square-foot behemoth bursting with local flavor, where visitors will be able to grab a hot bite for lunch, buy fresh ingredients for dinner, and stock up on more handcrafted goods ranging from coffee to confections and some retail - all with beer or wine in hand, if you're into that sort of thing.
Slated for October 2015, Blue Bridge Hospitality Group's $3 million food hall and market build-out recently revealed the first round of vendors that will comprise a roughly 30-stall setup. Among them is Mastiff Sausage Co., whose owners Eric Gallerstein and Jacob Bartlett are busy gearing up to take their popular food truck concept to the next level.
"This project is a good stepping stone for us," said Gallerstein, Mastiff's chef. "We're not masters of the restaurant industry, so this isn't like us opening up a big restaurant. It's just an extension of what we already do, so I think it'll be natural."
Bartlett added, "Some of it will be easier, too. We do a lot of bouncing around on the truck with constantly changing menus, whereas the market will have set hours, with the same food offerings, plus any market specials we work in."
Gallerstein's old school approach to sausage starts by processing the cuts of humanely raised animals; then, using seasonal ingredients - including from Mastiff's own garden whenever possible-- the link fillings get a fresh twist. Gallerstein uses the same seasonal approach with ingredients for his pickled veggies, sauerkraut, whole grain mustard and other preserves.
Once Liberty Public Market opens on Historic Decatur Road in Liberty Station, the Mastiff Sausage stall will offer a variety of sausage sandwiches, and a deli case packed with meaty options to take home, like classic bratwurst and spicy Italian, plus all the fixings.
"The cool thing about the market is there will be tables for people to sit down and eat the food they just bought," said Gallerstein, who began cooking in San Francisco while attending college there. "In San Francisco we had the Ferry Building. It's rad what it does for the community, and how things should be done - there needs to be a spot where you can get lunch to eat right there and then get shopping done for later."
The Mastiff Sausage truck first hit the streets in 2013 and has garnered a following thanks in part to its twice monthly gigs at both Fall Brewing Co. (first and third Friday) and Thorn Street Brewing (second and fourth). You can also find the truck this football season at Qualcomm Stadium, where Gallerstein will be stuffing crazed tailgaters with sausages for the second year in a row at the Bud Light Power Zone. The company also has a busy catering schedule.
Bartlett and Gallerstein are lifelong friends who, since their teenage years growing up in Escondido, had always talked about opening a business together. After attending San Francisco State - where they basked in the food scene, and found inspiration in Haight Street sausage legend Rosamunde - the two embarked on a three-week backpacking adventure on the John Muir Trail, a sort of vision quest to figure out their eventual Mastiff Sausage Co. "We still relate our business and the lessons we've learned back to that trail," Bartlett said.
As for the name Mastiff, including the dog's trademark huge head painted on the side of their food truck, Bartlett - who oversees sales and marketing operations - said that its strong image has always stuck out among the partners.
"Mastiff is actually named after a tug boat that someone converted into a refined yatch," explained Gallerstein, saying that it reminded them of their own fully equipped mobile kitchen and its past life as a junky tool truck.
"So it has those parallels too," Bartlett added.
"And mastiffs are just big burly dogs," Gallerstein said. "This is not some poodle sort of sausage company."
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.