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The little cart that could
How did David Littlefield — a/k/a the Sausage Guy — go from street meat vendor to local celebrity? Three essential ingredients: A pair of tongs, an indefatigable work ethic, and a whole lot of meat.

MOST BOSTONIANS don’t know David Littlefield by name. They know him by his meat. As the entrepreneurial proprietor of a vending cart stationed outside Fenway Park, the Foxborough native serves pepper-and-onion-slathered sausages from a portable grill parked behind the Green Monster. His cart has been in this spot since 1996 or ’97. Littlefield can’t quite remember the year; he’s often fuzzy when it comes to recalling dates, time frames, even his age. ("I think I’m 35. Want me to call my wife and check?") And in the seven or eight years since, he’s become the most famous sausage vendor in New England, if not the country.

A kind of cult celebrity for local sports nuts, Littlefield has fed his share of stars, including Tommy Lee Jones and Jerry Springer. He’s also welcomed well-known local guests like Governor Mitt Romney and chef Jasper White to work behind the cart. A few weeks ago, the Boston Herald’s gossip column blabbed that Littlefield, a married father of two, was "cozying up to Hollywood hotties Ashley Judd and Jessica Simpson at the Indy 500." He’s so recognizable in town that he regularly signs autographs for starstruck kids who’ve watched him on local television, heard his ads on the radio, or seen him in the EA Sports video game MVP Baseball 2004. But when shy sixth-graders nervously ask for his signature, Littlefield doesn’t write his own name; he scribbles what nearly everyone calls him: "The Sausage Guy."

"The parking garage where my cart is on Lansdowne Street, one of the guys always says to me, ‘So what’s this like to have your name fall into the abyss and just be known as the Sausage Guy?’" Littlefield says. "I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s weird. But it’s fun." He pauses. "Strange that I worked my way up in the world with a pair of tongs."

THE SAUSAGE GUY is a ghost of Littlefield’s past. In the early ’90s, the Curry College graduate paid his rent by selling brown-mottled sausages in the old Foxboro Stadium parking lot. He’d already tried hawking Buffalo wings and failed miserably. "It was a total bust," he says. "No one wanted them."

He’d just graduated from Curry with a business degree, surprised to discover that his pricey diploma qualified him for just one profession. "I’m like, ‘Gee, wow, what am I?’ And I’m like, ‘Hmmm, hmmm — I’m a salesman. And there was nothing else." So he sold pagers for a while, then advertising at a Cape Cod radio station. But Littlefield wanted to work for himself, even in his early 20s. "I just work too hard to work for people," he likes to say. "I’ve always been 110 percent at what I was doing."

So he settled on sausages. "The Sausage Guy" was how football tailgaters would greet the gregarious Littlefield as they passed his stand. Some hawkers might’ve smiled wanly, or maybe even growled — sausage guys tend to fall somewhere between canteen drivers and snow-cone salesmen on the street-vendor food chain, so the inexorable nickname sometimes sounds like an epithet. But Littlefield isn’t your average street vendor. "I never wanted to be the stereotypical guy you have in your head when you say a street vendor — some dirty dude with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, who’s like, ‘Whaddyawant?’" he jokes over a bowl of poblano soup at Salsa’s, the South Boston Mexican restaurant he opened in 1998. "I wanted to get away from that as far as I could."

A clean-cut father of two with thick eyebrows and an affinity for wrap-around sunglasses, Littlefield is an animated, friendly man who exudes a blithe ebullience — he comes off as the sort of guy who’d walk into a sports bar and be hugged by a drunk stranger before closing time. So he didn’t take offense at the Sausage Guy moniker — he took pride in it, made it his own.

Littlefield soon landed more locations for his cart: Downtown Crossing, a spot outside Playoffs, a now-defunct club in Weymouth, and a late-night stop outside Mary Ann’s, a Cleveland Circle bar. "It was crazy," he says. "I’d get done at Playoffs at 12:30 or one in the morning. I had a pick-up truck with this huge grill and I’d throw the thing in the back of the truck, drive to Cleveland Circle, pull it out of the truck, work another hour and a half there, put it back in the truck, and go home about 3:30 or four in the morning."

In those days, Littlefield had also picked up a job in Manchester, New Hampshire, outside another club. In the winter, he couldn’t wear gloves while counting money, so he got frostbite twice. Sometimes the mustard froze. Once, he brought along a trainee and the truck died on the way there. The trainee figured they were heading home. "I was like, ‘No, we’re not.’ He was like, ‘Whaddya mean?’ I was like, ‘The tow truck’s going to drive us to the club.’ He’s like, ‘You’re mental!’ I’m like, ‘I’ve got rent to pay. I have bills. This is what I gotta do.’" Back then, Littlefield worked pretty much around the clock. "People would be like, ‘Dude, how much do you work?’ I didn’t know. I would just never count the hours."

"He works like 100 hours week," says Dave Andelman, CEO of Phantom Gourmet, the local show on which Littlefield made his first television appearance. "The cart is almost like a part of that guy’s body."

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Issue Date: June 25 - July 1, 2004
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