We’ve grown up in this city with the notion that street food is cheap food – junky food (hot dogs, poutine, sausages of questionable origin, washed down with pop). But that is changing, in this town as in others. Some are miles ahead of us in the street food revolution, many more are trailing behind.
In the past two years, curb side eating options in Ottawa have exploded. Dozens of trucks and carts parked throughout the city hand out gourmet world cuisine delivered in a bun, on a stick, in a bowl, in a box. One of them, Ottawa STREAT Gourmet, was early out the streetvendor gate. STREAT is a food truck run by an accomplished chef, a two time medallist at Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates, now cooking as a vagabond with a year round parking spot on Albert Street at O’Connor.
Two years ago, chef Ben Baird sold his bricks and mortar Glebe restaurant (The Urban Pear, which, in its Baird days, plated Modern Canadian fine dining nightly for twelve years) and bought a truck – before he was granted a license. But he had sniffed the wind, lobbied hard (“No, dear City of Ottawa, I am not doing poutine…”) and the day City Hall announced it was opening up sixteen new food truck opportunities, he headed straight there for his application. That was in 2013 and Baird has not looked back. The short daily menu he was executing at The Urban Pear is now a short daily menu on the road. Same good food, same charming service (provided by Baird’s partner Elyse Pion), just packaged differently.
My Friday lunch was a duck burger. A soft and golden kaiser (from Second Avenue Sweets), closed around a boned duck leg confit-ed. It was crispy skinned, tender, rich meat with a pleasing fat layer, sandwiched between a chunky beet and pickled onion relish and a celeriac remoulade, sharp with seedy mustard. On the side was a generous salad, bouncy red leaf with parsley leaves, dill fronds, cucumber, tomato, carrot and celery tossed in a lively vinaigrette. Butterscotch pudding with blueberries and shortbread cookies for dessert. The only thing missing was a beer. Or a glass of Pinot. The Harvey & Vern’s Cream Soda wasn’t going to do it for me.
Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. $7 to $16 tax in. Cash only.
Albert Street at O’Connor.
Anne DesBrisay is the restaurant critic for Ottawa Magazine. She has been writing about food and restaurants in Ottawa-Gatineau for 25 years and is the author of three bestselling books on dining out. She is head judge for Gold Medal Plates and a member of the judging panel at the Canadian Culinary Championships.