Chad Druckenbroad didn’t set out to become a chef. But, the career that found him at a young age unintentionally stuck and turned into a lifelong aspiration.
As Druckenbroad is about to embark on his eighth season as the co-owner of EAT – a popular, Springfield-based food truck – he is also working to open a new Downtown Springfield brick and mortar restaurant.
“The idea for the restaurant came about because we had been looking for a space to call home. But a lot of spaces weren’t the right fit,” he says.
Until, Druckenbroad looked into the storefront locations along Fountain Avenue, attached to the Park at the 99 garage. The spots worked well for what he wants to achieve.
Currently being renovated to fit Druckenbroad’s vision, the two storefronts closest to Columbia Street will soon house Charlo’s Provisions & Eatery, which will include both a restaurant and a market. As long as there aren’t delays on materials, the goal is to have the café and market open this spring.
Charlo’s will serve American-heritage style cuisine, he says, and the market will feature local products, such as meats and cheeses, as well as a to-go counter.
“We want people to know where their food came from. We’re working with a lot of local farmers for meats and cheeses and dairy,” Druckenbroad says. “We want to serve it in the restaurant and make it available to sell retail in the market.
“If you like the meat in your burger, you can walk right over and buy it. Or if you loved your soup, you can pick up a quart to take home with you.”
Following the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Drukenbroad says he saw multiple restaurants selling goods they couldn’t use to cook with while things were closed down, and, especially in bigger cities, he says he’s seen many places expand on that.
“With the addition of all the condos and other residential development that has been coming Downtown, there is a lack of a market or bodega or convenience stores,” he says. “We thought that we could fill that.”
In addition to meats and cheeses, Druckenbroad says he hopes to expand to include some regional Ohio Valley and Midwest goods in the market also.
At 14, Druckenbroad got his first taste of restaurant life when he started working at the former Derr Road Inn. While he started as a dish washer, he says that within a year, he was prepping salads and appetizers and serving as a sauté cook on the line.
After high school Druckenbroad moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he worked at Five Loaves Café with professional chefs who taught him many of the skills he relies on today.
From soups to salads and pastas to dinner entrees, Druckenbroad says the restaurant was “doing gluten free and vegan before it was cool” and that it opened his eyes to new ways to be creative when making dishes.
“Some stuff works and some stuff doesn’t, but you never know until you try it,” he says.
Eventually, Druckenbroad moved back to Springfield, feeling that he’d have more opportunities to pursue his future goals back home. At the time, his mom was making plans to launch a food truck and wanted Druckenboad to tackle the challenge with her.
“We got (EAT) up and running and started doing simple stuff, and it just took off and got bigger and bigger and busier and busier,” he says.
EAT became a staple not only in Springfield and Clark County, but across the Miami Valley at food truck rallies, brewery events, and private parties.
As the pandemic hit, Druckenbroad says they started keeping EAT between Springfield and Yellow Springs, and he began looking for a good location to launch the restaurant.
For followers of EAT
, Druckenbroad says not to worry. Charlo’s won’t be taking the place of the food truck. The two will serve as separate businesses.
“The whole seven to eight years of having the truck have been a humbling experience because of how appreciative and how loving everyone is of our food,” he says, adding, “There’s so much more me and my team are able to do and want to bring people. It will be a gift to have a full kitchen to cook in.
“If you thought eat was delicious, look at what we can do now with more options of delicious entrees.”