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Published September 24, 2012, 11:34 PM

Food trailer not roughing it when it comes to culinary creativity

FARGO – John Mercer is used to a late night crowd. So when the former bartender opened JLM Meats, he decided to host late hours, giving metro night-lifers, third-shifters and insomniacs a place to grab good grub on their schedule.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

FARGO – John Mercer is used to a late night crowd.

So when the former bartender opened JLM Meats, he decided to host late hours, giving metro night-lifers, third-shifters and insomniacs a place to grab good grub on their schedule.

Then the opportunity arose to co-own and manage the Ruffneck Food truck – or in this case trailer – and Mercer agreed to bring his culinary crafts to the late night crowds in a new locale.

With the trailer only closed about two hours a day, hours of operation are from 5:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., the menu has a little something to offer all crowds, including breakfast pizzas and caramel rolls in the morning and chicken Alfredo sandwiches in the evening.

Mercer admits he has a soft spot for his fellow all-nighters who had little to choose from when it came to cuisine at 3 a.m.

“You could either get pizza or pizza,” Mercer said.

At Ruffneck Food, late shifters can still get pizza after Mercer turns any of the sandwiches into a pie that can feed four men. But it really is the sandwiches and Mercer’s own creations that has third-shifters and late-nighters turning to Ruffneck.

Mercer makes no apologies for his lack of “rabbit food,” a menu that is in no way vegan or vegetarian friendly. Mercer packs on the meat and whole strips of bacon he marinates in New Castle beer, honey and minced jalapenos, a taste that leaves no need for condiments.

His seasoned fries even lack a need for salt, and to switch things up just a bit, customers can exchange the fries for tater tots.

Fargoan Char King said she often stops by Ruffneck Food to see John and grab dinner. She raves about the BLTs and sandwiches she can take home.

Favorite sandwiches (which can also become pizzas) include The ReKleiner, topped with chicken Italian sausage, bacon, jalapenos, basil, garlic and cheese on a toasted bun.

“This isn’t fast food here,” Mercer said.

After requests for Philly cheesesteaks, Mercer crated the Fargo cheesesteak this week, a northern take on the East Coast favorite.

But special requests often don’t bode well outside the Ruffneck window, where Mercer isn’t afraid to decline orders from anyone with an unpalatable attitude.

“I have no problem telling someone (with a bad attitude) to go somewhere else,” Mercer said.

Passersby can swing in to pick up orders to go, or if on a rare occasion, the picnic table outside is empty; they can enjoy a park setting lunch.

Orders can also be taken inside JT Cigarro and are called in from the bar.

Mercer and his small staff also deliver. Mercer often makes the quick deliveries himself; a small sign outside the red trailer reads, “Ring bell for service” for the times no one can be seen in the window.

Ruffneck caters, including hosting bike runs and charity events in conjunction with JT Cigarro.

Despite his hectic schedule and many nights of little sleep, Mercer said he is loving Ruffneck Foods.

“I like to make food, and I like to have fun,” Mercer said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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