Nomadic restaurant finds a home: TaTu BBQ opens brick-and-mortar eatery in east Dickinson
The SUV and catering truck with the TaTu BBQ logo have been seen all around Dickinson and southwest North Dakota, but the business recently took up permanent residence at 1223 Interstate-94 Business Loop East in Dickinson, which is something owner Patrick Momany swore he would never do.
"I vowed I would never be in a restaurant," he said. "I never wanted a restaurant. Since being out here I've learned to never say never."
The change of mind came after the Washington State native spent last winter, which was relatively mild for North Dakota, working out of his truck.
"I knew there's no way I could get through a winter in a mobile unit," he said. "It just wouldn't happen."
He plans to use the truck for catering, and wants to train someone so the business can be in two places at once.
"I've never worked in the restaurant business before," said cook Linda Koller, a Grassy Butte native who lived all over the country with her Navy husband. "It's all new and unique to me."
The restaurant, which was previously the Hollywood Theater, isn't fancy, but Momany doesn't want fancy -- he wants the best.
"I don't want to have a big menu, I just want to be known for really good barbecue," he said. "We do a meatloaf. I want it to be the best meatloaf in town."
Kevin Maxwell was there for the first time on Thursday. He was back again Friday, and he brought a friend.
"There's nothing better than eating food that someone's passionate about making," he said.
TaTu's menu is simple and because of the nature of barbecue, once something is gone, it's gone for the day.
"I can't just make more," Momany said. "So sometimes we run out. We try not to." Which is why his hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.-ish, breakfast to early dinner.
Momany, like many others, moved from Washington to the Oil Patch to find his fortune. His fortune, however, is put back into BBQ4Wounded, a bi-yearly event to feed wounded troops and their families at the Fisher House in Landstuhl, Germany, the Army hospital base where Momany grew up in the 1960s.
"It was so surreal because the Fisher House is in an area that I used to play at for five years when we were stationed there," he said. "And then I saw these kids playing the exact same games my brother and I played in the exact same way against the exact same buildings."
His father was in the Army and his mother was German. Momany started to learn to cook from his maternal grandmother when he was about 10 years old.
"Just in the kitchen, I started hanging out with her and learning and that's how I first got into food," he said.
He believes he gets his generosity from his mother and especially his grandmother, who was always giving him a mark (German currency) whenever she saw him.
"Which, back then, was worth a quarter, to the last day that I saw her," he said. "I think that's probably why I give, my mom gives. I mean, my mom lives to give. I live to give. My son, now, is doing the same thing."
From his childhood in Germany, food stayed with Momany, but was not a career until more recently. He spent time in the military himself, worked as an engineer and dabbled in computers. He rediscovered food later in life, and it was while being trained as a French chef that he found barbecue.
"That type of restaurant work wasn't real conducive to my personality," he said. "So I got into smoking (meat) about 10 years ago."
He worked out of a truck in Washington for several years, and came to Dickinson after a friend coaxed him into moving here. He saw an opportunity to both fill a void in the community and raise money for his trips to Germany.
"I really want to come out here and make money -- I'm going to have to live -- but more so is to give more," Momany said. "In order to give more you have to get more."
North Dakota has treated him well in the year or so that he's been here.
"I don't think the community here really knows how good they are, and how patriotic they are compared to a lot of other places in the country," Momany said. "Because it's just been a way of life for people here, but it's not like that all over."
He plans to get a beer and wine liquor license and, if a friend follows through with her own plans to move to North Dakota, add a bakery with both breads and sweets.
"That's what I want to bring here, not just good food," Momany said. "But great food at a reasonable cost that will enhance the community spirit that's already here."
TaTu BBQ is at 1223 Interstate-94 Business Loop East in Dickinson. Check them out on the web at tatubbq.com or call 206-979-4686.
TaTu is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.-ish Tuesday through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.-ish on Saturday.