What do you do when you run a restaurant and a winery? Launch a food truck of course

Richland’s Bookwalter Wines is expanding with a food truck focused on the foods of the South and the Pacific Northwest.

Non-Fiction Food Truck named for the winery’s restaurant, Fiction @ J Bookwalter, debuts April 1 in a new food truck pod forming in the ample parking lot of Bella Furniture, 7425 W. Clearwater Ave., Kennewick, subject to securing health district approval.

It’s the latest undertaking for John Bookwalter, president of the winery and restaurant that bear his name. The truck is run by the husband-and-wife team of chefs and operators Maigh and Will Willingham, longtime Tri-Citians.

Bella Furniture will be its permanent home, though Non-Fiction will hit the road for fairs and public gatherings as well as special events. It will serve visitors to the winery as well, after Bookwalter opens its new building on Tulip Lane this spring.

When possible, and with the right permits, it will serve Bookwalter wines, he said.

Bookwalter called the truck an extension of its culinary and wine businesses.

“It’s all part of our branding,” he said. “It’s an extended handshake for us.”

The food truck will use the winery as a commissary, though the Bella location will eventually offer one for its food truck tenants.

Bookwalter said he heard about the truck from an employee who had outfitted and operated it as a side business before securing regular employment. It sat unused for three years with new equipment.

With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing and the winery on a partial shutdown, it made sense to branch into the food truck business. He bought the truck without a firm vision of what to do next.

He met the Willinghams by chance on the patio at Fiction @ J Bookwalter. The couple were sitting at one end of a long table and Bookwalter at the other.

They struck up a conversation about food and hospitality and discovered a shared interest in operating a food truck. The conversation turned into interest and then an agreement.

“You never know who you’re going to talk to,” he said.

The truck was in good shape but was retooled to support the couple’s ambitious menu, which combines Southern staples such as grits and collard greens with Northwest ones such as salmon.

The menu offers southern hugs, wontons stuffed with collard greens and cream cheese, and grits tots, deep fried cheesy tots topped with chipotle aioli and green onion.

Courtesy Bookwalter Winery

Burger lovers can choose from a classic cheeseburger to a Bloody Mary edition topped by an egg, a dirty bleu or pimento. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available as well.

Will Willingham is a former corporate manager trainer for the Red Robin gourmet burger chain. Maigh Williingham has worked in both corporate and primary local restaurants and has helped to launch nearly a dozen new restaurants. They opened Willingham’s Grill at 335 W. Columbia Drive, across the street from Hubby’s Pizza, in 2011.

Non-Fiction Food Truck will operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays to start. Bookwalter expects to deploy it to the Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo, as well as events such as Sunsets at Southridge in Kennewick, when public gatherings resume after the pandemic.

Follow Non-Fiction on Facebook at nonfiction.bookwalter and on Instagram at nonfiction_bookwalter.

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