Best Restaurants

2012 Best Restaurants: Tastemakers

Here's to four bright lights of this year's dining scenes

Photographs by Stephanie Colgan & Katherine Harris

Nate Beck/The Upstart

Nate Beck is a hospitalitarian, even without a guaranteed 15 percent gratuity. And he’s not even a famous chef. He’s just a guy with a cart selling hot dogs—great hot dogs, with sassy mustard. He does this because he loves to eat them. Of all the people who populated our sidewalks and parking spots with mobile food this year, Beck is one who stands out.

You could say we chose Natedogs as an icon for the whole mobile food movement, which blossomed this past year. You could say we chose Beck because he is a symbol of the American dream—a man who risked everything to start his own business and who works hard for the future of his five (yes, five) daughters. You could say we chose him because he’s a damn snappy dresser with a wicked condiment belt. You could say all of that, and you’d be right, but you’d be missing the mustard.

In our Minnesota Nice food truck world, there isn’t the scrapping for space and the backhanded marking of territory that we hear rumored in other cities. Supporting his street brethren, Beck’s Twitter feed is alight with retweets of other trucks’ locations, promoting events where he knows his comrades will be. His infectious humor and great personality are not an act to sell more dogs—this is the real guy, whether you’re buying from him or selling next to him.

Where can this attitude possibly lead him? “Whatever I do, I want my children to know that serving others first is always more important than their own success. If I have several carts and a whole line of Natedogs condiments, cool! But if something else comes along, I won’t hesitate to pull up stakes and do something crazy all over again.” That’s the topping on the dog.