City Bites

FOOD BUZZ: Pedestrian snacking on Scott Street ushers us into the world of better food truck fare

Along with hot dogs and poutine, the Bite This truck on Scott Street serves up pad thai and butter chicken.

Food truck fever is everywhere these days and by all accounts Canada is lagging behind. In Toronto, many are lamenting the failure of the “A la Carte” program that was designed to broaden the variety of food cart options (read: hot dog fatigue) on Hogtown streets. A decided lack of choice is said to define Vancouver’s vendor scene as well. In Ottawa things are equally dire; the number of food carts has dwindled in recent years and most of them serve only fries and/or hot dogs.

Meanwhile, cross the border and you’ll find fewer wieners and an astounding array of authentic multi-ethnic and even health-conscious menu options being served out of the windows of vehicles. In fact, the trend towards culinary-genius-in-a-parking-lot has reached fever pitch. Places like Portland, New York, and San Francisco are being celebrated as pioneers in a brave new world of mobile eats — offering everything from cupcakes and waffles to bulgogi and fish tacos. Street food festivals and culinary cart tours in these cities are bringing street culture to the forefront. It has even spawned a Food Network show, The Great Food Truck Race, hosted by celebrity chef Tyler Florence in which America’s best food trucks cook their way across the country to compete for the $50,000 grand prize. Even more delicious were the rumours that Friends actress Courtney Cox-Arquette and hubby David Arquette were developing a show about food trucks in New York called Eat Street. Fans were devastated when that news was eclipsed by the announcement this week that the couple has split. But I digress…

Finally — Ottawa has some food truck news to report. In the parking lot at the corner of Scott Street and McRae Avenue (across the street from Trailhead) you can now find one of Ottawa’s first bona fide food trucks. Owner Donna Kyd was determined to bring healthier options and more creative cooking to the streets of the capital. Open since June, Kyd serves her own version of pad thai (“Thai-one-on”) and sesame ginger noodles (“Momo-Chow-Wow”) out of her sassy sleek black graffiti-and-stainless steel truck. She also makes sandwiches and wraps featuring fresh grilled meat and wok-fried veggies along with Greek, Asian, and Mediterranean flavours. If none of that strikes your fancy, she grills up a “Big Honk’n Juicy Burger” or a “Big Honk’n Sausage.”

I have sampled several dishes and have no doubt that the fresh food and great prices will make Kyd’s “Bite This” truck popular over time. But like all great food carts around the world, it’s the character of the owner that counts. As its name reveals, there’s a wonderfully witty and feisty host at the helm. It’s funny to hear Kyd tell the story of her plans to keep fries off the menu when she first opened. It broke her heart when customers approached the window and then promptly walked away when they learned she wasn’t running a chip truck. Eventually she buckled and began making fries, but vowed to draw the line at poutine. But it didn’t take long before the pleas for curds and gravy wore her down. She strikes me as a woman who genuinely takes pleasure in feeding people and if it’s poutine they want, well, she’ll give it to them.

Unsure of what it will be like to cook inside the truck over the winter, Kyd says she plans to stay open until the end of October and then take it week by week as temperatures drop. I hope City Bites readers will run down to Scott Street to show her some support so we can keep this hip new food cart around.