This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.
Who doesn’t remember Dickie Dee? Founded in 1959, Winnipeg Manitoba, Dickie Dee was the epitome of summer: rolling by after school as the last days of class approached, waiting patiently for soccer players to finish their game only to have them run over in a crazed, demanding pack, vying for their favourite treats. I still get a familiar rush of child-like excitement when I see one now (although it hasn’t been Dicke Dee since 2002). Today, there is a new kind of ice cream cart. And new food carts in general, for that matter. Cindy Deachman shares a few with us.
Here’s the quintessential old-fashioned ice cream cart pulling up to the corner of Bank and Sparks. It comes from Old Ottawa South gelateria Stella Luna Gelato Café. Co-owner Tammy Giuliani is very proud of her freshly made gelatos and sorbets — after all, she did study at “gelato university” in Bologna, Italy. Known for her meticulous work, Giuliani is firm in adhering to the correct ways of production. At the same time, she gets pretty fired up when experimenting with new flavours, as you’ll see after visiting a few times (you will find yourself returning). Refreshing strawberry and champagne in the heat of summer, apple pie gelato as fall approaches. “If you can conceive of a flavour, we can create it,” says Giuliani. The old-world pushcart got its start last year, with the Carp Farmers’ Market proving the perfect pilot project. “We had so much fun working outside one-on-one with the people.” Another time, at a wedding, she offered gelato to accompany fruit pies the bride’s mother had baked. Evening now, and the pushcart, with all its twinkly lights, is downtown, still selling ice cream. Under the moon and the stars — magic! Bank & Sparks St.
“We started making kimchi as soon as we arrived,” says Hana Jung of emigrating from Seoul, Korea, to Ottawa in 2009. “Without kimchi, we can’t eat a meal.” Not finding any locally that they liked, she and her husband, Iruk Cho, started preparing their own. In fact, Cho even ended up returning to Seoul in 2010 to study royal Korean cuisine. He and Jung launched Raon Kitchen in 2012 and started selling their homemade kimchi, along with their Korean sauces, at farmers’ markets. “Hey, why not sell Korean foods to accompany those condiments?” customers suggested. Jung and Cho got in just under the wire when the city put out the call for 2013 food-cart licences, not having seen it until 10 days before the deadline. “We couldn’t miss the chance,” says Jung. Their concept is simple — offer one dish with different toppings. That one dish is Korean fave bibimbap, a rice bowl to which an egg and meat (or tofu) are added, along with sautéed vegetables and soy sauce. The whole is thoroughly mixed — the meaning of bi bim. Add sesame seeds, extra hot sauce, and other condiments, along with some fabulous kimchi. Bank Street between Albert and Slater.
“I’m working on getting picnic blankets, but I’m really pernickety,” says Tarek Hassan. Picnic blankets? His cart is located at Confederation Park, so yes! Gongfu Bao Cart offers fluffy steamed Chinese buns, or bao, filled with goodness — Shaoxing pork, coconut saag chickpea curry, even pizza. And — as billed — Hassan’s killer coleslaw, best in the city. Obviously, his imagination knows no bounds. His novel ideas might be attributed to having lived on four continents, though maybe it’s that engineering degree that encouraged Hassan’s lateral thinking. All he knows is that his goal is to “break the paradigm of eating bad [street] food while on the way to your next meeting.” Smart guy — our kind of guy. Chefs like him too. Gongfu Bao has a strong following in the restaurant world, according to Hassan, who notes that Murray Street chef Steve Mitton once tweeted that Gongfu’s bao was some of the best food he’d ever eaten in the city. Dishes in the future? Here are a few possibilities: red-braised short ribs and daikon cake, fresh dan-dan noodles, mapo doufu, lion’s head bowl. Picnic blankets would be sweet. Elgin Street at Confederation Park.