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Chasteen’s making a come-back

With a custom-made food truck, Chasteen’s of Lake City is taking it on the road. ‘Still Truckin’ since 1978. -Courtesy Photo

By Tami Stevenson

Restaurants come and go through the years but a good one – one with good food and a friendly atmosphere – a restaurant where customers remember eating there when they were a kid and then bringing their kids – that kind of a restaurant is sorely missed. Chasteen’s, since 1978, of Lake City at the Blanche Hotel was one of those restaurants.

When renovation plans to the Blanche began a couple of years ago, Chasteen’s owners Robert and Emmie Chasteen decided, after being at that location for 20 years, and raising three daughters through it all, to try their hand at retirement. They closed the restaurant, much to the dismay of loyal, daily customers. After almost two years of relaxation, rest and monotony they realized they missed their customers and the hustle and bustle of the restaurant business. They decided to go back into business but with a twist, only working two to three days a week using a food truck instead of a brick and mortar building and they are loving it.

“Retirement just wasn’t for us,” Robert Chasteen told the Suwannee Valley Times. They researched everything, made their plans and ordered their food truck custom made from Georgia and opened in late October of this year. Not having the luxury of a large kitchen, they decided to downsize their menu to their very popular Buffalo Bites with a couple of sides for customers to choose from and offer dessert. After a little tweaking and getting used to the compact size, they are doing well.

“Five to ten minutes is now the longest customers have to wait for their food,” he added.

Loyal customers, old and new, are lining up for their exceptional home-cooked flare once again. Namely, their made-to-order, hand battered and breaded buffalo chicken bites tossed in their homemade specialty sauces. As for sides, their mac & cheese or broccoli casserole are highly sought after as well as their sweet potato patties. Emmie’s Homemade Desserts (as they call them) are so good, they immediately bring one back to Mom’s or Grandma’s kitchen, with desserts like homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, homemade strawberry cake and homemade hummingbird cake, to name a few.

“My wife is a wonderful baker and always bakes all the desserts,” he added. They plan to add more of them to the 2020 menu.

Within the first few days of opening, people waited in line nearly through their entire lunch hour just to wrap their tastebuds around those mouthwatering buffalo bites once again. They lit up Chasteen’s Facebook page talking about it. One customer commented saying he missed out the first day he waited in line so went back the second day to get the buffalo bites and said it was well worth the wait, although they were gone in less than five minutes.

They are calling the new business “Chasteen’s Still - Truckin’,” and giving some thought to franchising down the road.

Chasteen’s coveted buffalo bites tossed in their homemade sauce! -Courtesy Photo

“Everywhere we went people would ask us about our buffalo bites. They were very popular, so we went with the buffalo bites as our main dish with the food truck,” he said. While they continue tweaking and tailoring their menu to be manageable within the confines of the food truck they are thinking shrimp would be the next best menu item to add after the first of the year. Since Robert loves making soup in the colder months, he may try adding that to the menu as well.

Locations will vary. So far they have and will be again at TD Bank, First Federal Bank, behind Brown Vann Carpet One, Drummond Bank, the Rountree Moore dealerships and other locations in Lake City.

They love the low overhead and flexibility of the food truck. If they want to take a day off, now they can. The mobility is a great plus as well. They had the opportunity to set up at one of the businesses on the west side of town and met an entirely new group of customers.

He commented, “You can’t do that in a building.” They went through 120 pounds of chicken that day (in just three hours).

They will be taking some time off enjoying the holidays through the new year and plan their first day back in 2020 at the Rountree Moore Ford Dealership on Saturday, January 4.

Follow them on Facebook to see their posts each day – when and where they will be, and their menu for that day. They are normally open from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Robert Chasteen with one of his favorite customers, Darby Pearson Smith. -Courtesy Photo