Joelle Louisignau-Dunne and Chef Toby Dunne Open “De Food Truck” in Frankfort
In Volume VIII Issue 1, published May 23, 2019, we featured a Q&A with Joelle Louisignau-Dunne (39) and Toby Dunne (41), a young couple who boomeranged back to Michigan after living abroad.
Growing up in Frankfort and graduating from Benzie Central High School in 2002, Louisignau worked in the service industry throughout the winters in Seattle while also finding time to travel to far-flung places like Thailand and Costa Rica. By 2007, she decided to adventure in Great Britain to gain European knowledge and experience, and she remained in England for nearly a decade; this is where she met Toby, who was born and raised in the Netherlands. He had become a qualified chef in 1999 and worked for a French wine restaurant in the southern region of the Netherlands, then moved to Australia in 2003 for two years, then to the Canary Islands off the coast of northwestern Africa, before finally landing in Great Britain. In 2006, Dunne started a catering business that featured foods from his trips around the world.
Louisignau and Dunne met on a street market in 2012—Dunne says that he won the way to Louisignau’s heart with his chicken-and-waffles recipe out of one of his food trucks.
In 2016, the pair packed up their British life to travel through Asia and Australia for five months before moving back to her beloved Benzie County, where they had previously bought a small, three-acre property only about a mile from her father’s home. After three years of building a tiny home that is off-the-grid, a small farm garden, and starting their young family by getting married nine days after the birth of their daughter, Lillian (nearly 6), the couple started Muy Loco Tacos, a little red food truck—serving delicious street tacos, quesadillas, and nachos—that primarily was stationed at Stormcloud Brewing Company’s taproom facility.
Those of you who remember Muy Loco Tacos were undoubtedly as dismayed as we, the editors of The Betsie Current, when the Dunnes decided to sell the truck to Hayden Clark in 2020, due to some health concerns that Toby was facing at the time. (Shortly after the sale, Muy Loco Tacos left Benzie County permanently for Colorado. Hayden Clark is a Benzie native, and Muy Loco Tacos is doing great under his leadership in Colorado.)
Well, the good news is—not only have Toby’s health concerns cleared up, but the Dunnes are now preparing to open a new delectable food truck on July 1 at the Stormcloud Brewing Company beer garden in downtown Frankfort! (Toby also will be serving specials in memory of his fallen chef friends, Patrick Smith, Ron Gokey, and James Chiumino.)
Just like the Dunne’s previous renditions, the plan is to have the business model take after their personal lives—international cuisine that is designed around caring for the planet, starting with little things like “friendly farming,” minimizing waste, recycling, buying local via Honor Family Market and area farms, and upcycling.
“De Food Truck” will serve homemade double-cooked Belgian-style fries, fish-fry (Michigan-style, or the traditional fish’n’chips), beef croquettes, frikandel (Dutch hotdog), a “big-bite meatball” on a skewer, the “fried cheese of the day,” and they are bringing back some favorites from before, like the squid steak, perch, and falafel, but all loaded on fries this time, instead of on taco shells. Additionally, they will have wings, though “drumsticks only, because the flappers just don’t have enough actual meat on them,” according to Toby, who says that he is excited to bring some of his childhood favorites from the Dutch snackbar. As a bonus, De Food Truck will be completely gluten-free, without compromising quality or taste.
We know that you are as excited about this development as we are; we will surely see you in line at De Food Truck soon!
Check out “De Food Truck” on Facebook for more information and for a detailed sample of the menu. Send an email to DeFoodTruckUSA@gmail.com to find out if the Dunnes can cater your next event, and/or if you are looking for a fun job this summer, as they are now hiring smiling faces to take orders at the window and kitchen help.
“Dos Arboles” in Frankfort, and Something New Coming to Elberta
In Volume VII Issue 3, published June 21, 2018, we featured an article about Birch & Maple, a restaurant in downtown Frankfort that had recently opened under Natalie Niederhofer and Nick Crawford, a young couple who had boomeranged back to the Midwest after living out West.
Lifetime “lakie” Niederhofer (36) had vacationed in Frankfort throughout her childhood; she studied business administration at Oakland University before moving to Frankfort full-time as an adult to attend the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. During this time, she also gained valuable work experience at our local restaurants, such as The Mayfair Tavern, Dinghy’s, and The Cabbage Shed.
Despite both being Midwesterners, Niederhofer met Crawford (38)—originally from Dayton, Ohio, who studied business at Eastern Michigan University—in Colorado, when both were working at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park; they later helped to open two upscale restaurants in Colorado. But they dreamed about opening their own place.
When we first interviewed this couple five years ago, they had just moved back to Michigan to renovate the Frankfort space that had formerly been occupied by The Bayview Grille, and Celia’s By the Bay before that.
Praised for menu items that shook up the traditional, so too did their job titles: in a refreshing departure from the male-dominated world of chefs, Niederhofer runs the kitchen, while Crawford runs the front-of-the-house operations. Birch & Maple quickly became a fan-favorite in Frankfort, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round.
Then in May 2022, their long-awaited second restaurant, Dos Arboles – Tacos & Tequila, opened right next door, in the space formerly occupied by an antique store. The extensive renovations took over a year and included the restaurant in front and the kitchen, as well as two vital worker-housing apartments in the back. The building’s decor is bright and colorful, and there is outdoor dining available on two levels, including the rooftop deck; both have views of the Betsie Bay.
“Anytime Natalie and I are concepting a restaurant, we like to ask ourselves, ‘Is this someplace we would hang out at?’ Whenever we are traveling, we always ask the locals what the best Mexican joints are and try to seek them out,” Nick Crawford says. “Natalie always jokes around by saying she knew she was going to marry me after the first sip of a margarita I made for her. We envisioned this concept being just another asset to the community, as well as a destination restaurant for those tequila and mezcal aficionados.”
Dos Arboles offers flavors that range from Jalisco to Oaxaca to the Yucatan Peninsula using bright, adventurous flavors and locally grown ingredients. They also have more than 300 tequilas and mezcals, which is one of the largest selections in the state; cocktails consist of fresh ingredients, made from a variety of hand-squeezed juices.
Now, The Betsie Current is breaking the story that, yes, indeed, the rumors are true: the couple plan to open their third restaurant later this summer—going all the way back to Niederhofer’s culinary start, renovations are currently ongoing at the former location of The Mayfair Tavern, in Elberta, where she worked as a server and bartender during the summers of 2009 through 2011.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, The Mayfair was known for the best burgers around, “Crawford says. “We wanted to keep the nostalgia of ‘The Elberta Country Club’ and pay homage to its history. That’s why we are concepting an “elevated” fast-food restaurant—super casual environment, with a hospitality-driven mentality. The menu will consist of burgers, chicken tender sandwiches, finger-lickin’ fries, and boozy milkshakes. We will also be doing late night drinks and live entertainment throughout the summer.”
Birch & Maple is currently open Fridays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch and from 5-9 p.m. for dinner; also Thursdays and Mondays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch and from 5-9 p.m. for dinner; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Learn more BirchAnd MapleFrankfort.com online, at “Birch & Maple” on Facebook, and @BirchAndMapleRestaurant on Instagram. Dos Arboles is currently open Tuesdays through Fridays from 5-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 3-10 p.m. and Sundays from 3-9 p.m. Learn more at DosArbolesFrankfort.com online, “Dos Arboles” on Facebook, and @DosArbolesFrankfort on Instagram.