Whether it’s out of a cart, stand, trailer or truck, the mobile food trend has arrived in Edmonton with vigour.
In the past year, at least nine new independent mobile restaurants have hit the streets, hawking everything from Filipino adobo curry to Carolina barbecue pork ribs.
Dishes are often made from scratch using local ingredients, and are as good as a dine-in meal at half the price. For the vendors, it’s a low-cost entry to the industry, where marketing is free thanks to social media like Twitter and iPhone apps Eat St. and Roaming Hunger, which also make tracking them down quite easy.
But it’s about more than just good food. Street-side dining is part of a broader trend to reclaim public spaces with pop-ups, flash mobs and festivals that re-activate streets and create shared experiences. And just as Edmontonians have embraced farmers’ markets (15 and growing) to meet food producers, curbside dining lets them connect with the people cooking their meals. So the next time you want fast food, head outside. You’ll find there’s plenty to lunch on.
Husband-and-wife duo Nevin and Kara Fenske serve up craft sandwiches influenced by their travels, such as braised pork belly, which is Drift’s take on a Vietnamese bnh m sandwich. It’s moist sliced pork, hoisin glaze, chili mayo, pickled carrots and daikon inside a big Portuguese water bun. “It’s been on the menu from day one and has been our biggest seller,” says Nevin. Another favourite, the jerk chicken sandwich, is like a passport to Jamaica. Grilled chicken pulled off the bone gets a big hug of its special jerk marinade with Scotch bonnet, dressed with lime cabbage slaw and grilled pineapple. Leave room for the hand-cut fries spiced with cumin, mustard, fennel seeds and chilies, which comes with homemade ketchup that’s simmered for three hours finished with cardamom. It’s deliciously rebellious.
In 2010, three high school friends bought the beloved Whyte Avenue pub, and this summer they set it on wheels. The Next Act’s food truck has four regular and two rotating sandwiches and three sides that have long been favourites. The fish sandwich (seared halibut, caper coleslaw with cilantro aioli on a brioche bun) is the most coveted, but you can’t ignore the Cameo Burger. This hand-formed patty has quite the supporting cast, including bacon jam and crunchy peanut butter. It’s only available at the truckand only on selected days.
Most weekdays: 102nd Avenue and104th Street, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Battista’s Calzone Company
Battista Vecchio started the business with his mom’s Italian meatball recipe. “It’s not complex,” he says. “It’s delicious in its simplicity.” The aptly named Mama Mia Calzone is stuffed with mom’s hand rolled meatballs, homemade tomato sauce, spices and mozzarella. The Calzones were so delicious to Liv Vors, a regular, that she ditched her PhD in wildlife biology to help run the restaurant and the new “calzone mobile,” which hits the streets this summer at festivals and private events. The truck serves three calzones, one vegetarian and two meat, lovingly made by Vors and Vecchio. The savoury roasted chicken pesto and spicy Italian sausage with basil are the most popular. Craving something sweet? Try the Nutella and strawberry version.
Indoors: 11745 84 St., Tues. to Sat, 9 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
This rookie food truck is the creation of sisters Danielle and Catherine Cameron. Bestowed with their late mother’s nickname, the comfort food truck rolls out for weekends and festivals only. The large menu is loaded with gluten-free options, including wings, ribs and deep-fried B.C. oysters battered in corn flour and corn meal. Crispy skinned baked potatoes with all the fixings pair nicely with burgers or hot dogs, tucked in gluten-free buns or lettuce wraps.
In a dusty south side field, walk up three wood steps to the window of a bland white trailer and there’s Rand “Bubba” Petersen, single-handedly serving up southern barbecue that’s anything but bland. To secure the massive portions of smoky, juicy meat, you must get there early (he often sells out by 1 p.m.), endure the 30-person lineup, dress for the weather and be patient – Bubba’s been up since 5 a.m. rubbing, marinating and smoking the meat you’re about to enjoy. There’s a different smoked meat and side dish on offer every weekday, including pulled pork, barbecued chicken and ribs. Thursday, or Beef Brisket Day, is busiest, but Fridays for pork ribs with Cajun shrimp fried rice might be the best.
Weekdays: 4710 Gateway Blvd., 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.,or until food runs out
Upping the ante for food trucks, red seal chef Dean Gossen is taking what he learned cooking at hotels and moving it to the streets. His high tastes are coupled with his creativity, evident in “Chicken-X,” a chicken breast served on seven-grain rice and topped with hollandaise sauce. There’s also a whisky and pecan grilled pork served atop cornbread stuffing. –Avenue staff
Wednesdays to Fridays: Churchill Square,11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays:Jasper Avenue and 104th Street,5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Eva Sweet’s signature waffle topped with strawberries and whipped-cream.
Just try resisting the seductive aroma of Eva Sweet’s Lige Belgian waffles wafting out of one of the company’s four vehicles. The secret? Imported butter, the right yeast and Belgian pearl sugar. As the pea-sized granules caramelize inside the dough, you’re rewarded with its sweet scent and famous crunchy, chewy texture. The waffles are so good they’ve become seasonal fixtures at the University of Alberta CAB food court, from September to April. Waffles come in vanilla, matcha green tea, cinnamon or vanilla half-dipped in Belgian chocolate (white, milk or dark). Purists go plain vanilla, because it’s sweet enough on its own. But if you must embellish, maple syrup, whipped cream or a drizzle of condensed milk with fresh strawberries will do.
Within the last year, this authentic Filipino menu has rescued hungry students and staff from bland campus food. “It can be done,” declares owner Ariel del Rosario, who’s on a mission with his cousin, Roel Caafranca, to change the corporate food culture at local universities. The lineups are proof enough that it’s working. Filistix’s weekly-changing menu has a grilled meat, a sandwich and a vegetarian entree. Fili-Pulled Pork Buns are popular, but don’t overlook the fiery flavours of sisig. Served over rice and slaw, this roasted lechn pork belly is sauted with six sweet, sour and savoury ingredients and finished with a squeeze of calamansi, a citrus fruit similar to oranges.
Weekdays: U of A’s Quad courtyard, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Indoors (Sept. to Apr.): U of A CAB and MacEwan UniversityRobbins Health Learning Centre food courts,Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fork and Spoon Brigade
For all you sleep-in-on-Saturday types, the Brigade has you covered. It serves eggs until 3 p.m. Get a hearty bowl of three eggs, market potatoes, bell peppers, green onions, sun-dried tomatoes and Irvings gluten-free sausage topped with cheese and salsa. Or get your fix in an eggs-and-bacon crepe wrap. Yes, you can get soups, muffins and chili here, but the breakfast dishes are the draw – just ask the downtown farmers’ market vendors who break fast here before opening.
Saturdays: City Market Downtown
Brunei native Susan Chin ditched both her fine arts and science degrees to serve exotic street food from around the world, such as cumin-scented bara, also known as a Trinidadian Double. This leavened naan-like bread is stuffed with curried chickpeas and cucumber and mango chutneys. There’s also Uruguay’s national sandwich, the chivito, stacks of sliced steak, bacon, ham, caramelized onions, mozza, roasted pepper sauce, heirloom tomatoes and mayo, all capped with a fried egg. Closer to home, Chin has perfected the bacon mac-and-cheese melt, complete with a layer of slow-roasted pork on potato Pullman bread. Pair it with her genius russet-sweet-potato-fries, which are fried with an herb medley, to satisfy both your sweet and savoury tendencies.
Most Thursdays: Churchill Square, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturdays: St. Albert Farmers’ Market 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Owner Mike Scorgie and chef Allan Suddaby describe their sandwiches-and-sides menu as “simple comfort food,” but there’s nothing simplistic about their tested-till-perfected dishes. Case in point: Nomad’s Vegreville Kubasa, a juicy sausage that’s not just made from scratch and smoked in-house, but the Irvings Berkshire pig is actually butchered by Suddaby himself. It’s served with sauerkraut, crispy beet chips and Boston baked beans spiked with whiskey and molasses and then slow-cooked to a friendlier flavour. What’s more, Nomad’s “Give a F*ck, Save a Buck” program means you’ll get a dollar off your order for bringing your own container or plate
Weekdays: Rice Howard Way 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thursday nights: 124 Street Grand Market
If you can’t catch up with the Smokehouse BBQ truck, don’t panic. Husband-and-wife owners Terry and Sherry Sept have converted their Leduc Italian restaurant, La Pisana, into the Smokehouse BBQ because their southern-style barbecue truck was so popular. They make their own sauces and rubs and, after much experimenting, settled on using a mixture of apple, pecan and alder wood, for a mildly sweet smoke that doesn’t overpower the meat. Whether from the truck or restaurant, the Bacon Bomb is unavoidable. Who wouldn’t fall for a bacon-wrapped sausage-filled meat loaf, smoked for four hours, and served on a bun with caramelized onions, coleslaw and chipotle cranberry BBQ sauce?