Oso Loco: Girdwood’s Taste Of Mexico
By Robert Foran III
When Sean Revels met Tyler Schmitt at Alyeska Resort over ten years ago, they never realized they’d become close friends, let alone co-owners of Girdwood’s beloved authentic Mexican food cart Oso Loco.
Established in 2015, Oso Loco has been in full operation serving eager customers and roving the streets of Girdwood for three years. The history of the owners collaborating started when they were both working inside the culinary world within Alyeska Resort. Schmitt began as a prep cook at the resort and became a line cook in several of Alyeska’s restaurants. Revels started off at Alyeska as a busser and still continues to work part-time there as a server and with the banquet team at the Pond Café.
In addition to their Alyeska Resort tenure, both have gained comprehensive skills and experience working with food and beverage. Schmidt has been trained under the Holland America cruise-line and opened a restaurant in Lake Tahoe, California, the Subway in Girdwood and has managed Coast Pizza. Revels has been with Marx Bros. Café in Anchorage and Coast Pizza in Girdwood along with Tyler.
As Schmitt and Revels continued to cross paths at Alyeska, they eventually discovered they shared visions of entrepreneurship working in the food industry. They recognized that Girdwood needed real Mexican cuisine.
Originally from San Diego, Revels was surrounded by Hispanic tastes, so instantly both he and Schmitt were on board and knew Oso Loco would be a hit due to the lack of authenticity and availability of Mexican dishes on Girdwood’s restaurant menus. The next priority was finding a food cart.
That opportunity came-a-knockin’ when John O’Leary, more commonly known as Gator, was selling his mobile coffee shop trailer. Gator manages The Grind, a community coffee hub in Girdwood.
“Sean and I were looking at our investment opportunities and then the trailer came along from Gator.” Schmitt said. “We thought we could do something with that trailer—just the two of us.”
The newly formed business partners fully equipped the cart and stocked it with locally sourced ingredients until it was ready to serve food. They branded their endeavor Oso Loco, which translates into ‘crazy bear.’
Next, they scouted for the right area to introduce their food. The first location was in the Tesoro Mall off the Seward Highway entering Girdwood. It was an ideal place to gain exposure to both local residents and highway travelers. The opening was a success, serving quality food with a positive philosophy.
“We take pride in having fresh, local ingredients,” said Revels. “We prepare our meals well, slow cooking the pork and marinating the steak—we put a lot of love into our cooking.”
Once Oso Loco grew out of that spot, they searched for more traffic and clientele. They found themselves outside of Crow Creek Mercantile (The Merc), where they found more success and offered a special menu on ‘Taco Tuesdays.’ They were also invited to be a food vendor at the Girdwood Forest Fair in 2016 and have been there every year since.
Those opportunities helped Oso Loco spread the word about its cuisine and business management. Positive feedback caught the ears of Girdwood Brewing Company, and soon Oso Loco was setting up at various events, including their seasonal Oktoberfest celebrations. During Oktoberfest, Oso Loco prepares special menus that are a little less Mexico and a bit more Germany, creating beer and cheese dips, pretzels, and infusing Girdwood Brewing Company beer into their recipes.
“It’s been a real good time working with Girdwood Brewing Company.” Schmitt said, “Participating with the Oktoberfest and working with ideas from the brewers and the staff to come up with something that’s good for the folks who come out and enjoy it with us has been wonderful.”
Between special events at the brewery, Alyeska, festivals and other summer activities, Oso Loco stays busy. Schmitt also runs double-duty as Nic Petit’s Sled Dog Adventure Tour Guide and caregiver every summer, as well as Lead Handler during the mushing season.
Unlike previous years, Oso Loco will be open for business in the winter, seven days a week. The business is preparing to sign contracts to cook for their customers inside Alyeska’s Daylodge over the 2018-2019 ski season.
Revels says, “We’ll have more room to expand and have more menu options.” Oso Loco will have access to a full-sized kitchen, opposed to the compact one they’ve been using in the mobile cart.
“Up at the Daylodge, not only are we going to do our Mexican menu, but we’ll have a lot more menu options available for everybody,” Schmitt revealed. “There will be some exciting dishes.”
This news means the business will be looking to hire more help. Revels said they will need two to four more people to assist in the kitchen. At the moment however, it is difficult to say how much help they will require.
“It will all depend on the volume of customers we’ll be getting at the Daylodge.” Revels admitted.
One of the men Schmitt and Revels give credit to as being a part of their success and has provided them opportunities is Jason Porter. As the executive chef and director of Food and Beverage at Alyeska Resort, Porter has been overseeing their progress after working with them for ten years.
Porter said, “It’s great to see their growth and entrepreneurship. We look forward to the opportunity to work with local vendors. Oso Loco produces a quality product and their community involvement aligns well with Alyeska—I look forward to our future.”
Lastly, in the middle of their busy summer, Oso Loco acquired a four-legged friend courtesy of Iditarod musher Nic Petit, a close colleague to Oso Loco’s team. Since Petit is preparing for a number of races this winter, including the 2019 Iditarod, he asked Revels to care for his husky puppy aptly named Oso. The puppy that came from a litter between Petit’s dogs Raven and Beamer, is currently six months and growing rapidly. The puppy has also been a familiar face to everyone who has visited Oso Loco recently, but he will be returning to Petit after the 2019 Iditarod—which may be Petit’s year.
For more information please visit ‘Oso Loco Girdwood Mexican Food’ on Facebook and Instagram.
Robert’s work can be followed through Foran Brand Journalism on Facebook & foranbrandjournalism.com