Lunch was consumed in the writing of this blog post, but this isn’t, strictly speaking, a “lunch pick.”
Unlike the usual Monday morning write-ups here, I didn’t actually pay for this lunch — I was just doing my regular roving research (driving around, scouting for interesting food finds) last Friday when I happened to spot a large trailer parked in the Nick’s Service Centre lot across the street from Juniper and Whispers restaurants on Richmond Road.
That’s how I discovered Fridays Organics, Westboro’s new food trailer.
The words “Home of the best organic burger” next to the service window caught my eye and so I approached the large outdoor grill next to the trailer to meet the owner. Marilyn Hadwen is the Westboro mom who has been operating this “wagon” (as she calls it) for six years at festivals and private events. It came with the name Fridays, and it stuck; there is no relation to the Roast Beef House.
Hadwen is in the process of winterizing the wagon (heaters have been installed, a sliding window is needed) and was happy to find a privately owned spot in her own neighbourhood where she can operate throughout the colder months for the first time.
She says the auto repair shop and her lot have been sold to Toronto developers (condos, anyone?) so she can only stay until June 30 next year. She then plans to hit the summer festival circuit — something she has been doing for the last six years — before seeking out a permanent spot.
She also told me that someone from the City of Ottawa was on their way to shoot an interview with her for a YouTube video being created to help promote the idea of new street food vendors — 20 new spots have been proposed — in the next year. I went home and read the full report (insofar as anyone can actually read this type of document) and it confirmed that city seems to be getting serious about street food. The report states:
“It is proposed that an inventory of spaces be established in the commercial areas where communities have indicated an interest in having them. Then, once applications have been received, the Selection Panel can facilitate the matching of applicants to spaces. At the end of the process, there could be as many as 20 new street food vendors across the City.”
All that to say, Fridays Organics food truck is a first for Westboro’s main strip (The “Bite This” truck is parked on Scott St., a couple of blocks away). But I suspect there may be others rolling into city-sanctioned spots sometime soon.
As for lunch, I accepted Hadwen’s offer to sample the burger and sweet potato fries — other customers were offered freebies that day, too. While she prepared my burger, she began rhyming off her philosophy: “Everything we make is all-natural and sourced locally. The buns are from a local bakery; the beef has no antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives; the veggie burgers are hand-made in Gatineau by a Japanese tofu maker.”
While I scribbled notes, I noticed she was actually re-heating a pre-cooked burger on the grill that had been taken out of a metal covered tray. I inquired about it and she explained that the burgers are kept in “a special gravy” made with canola oil and wine, which saves time and keeps them moist. I’m not a fan of this method, nor the flavour or texture of the meat that resulted.
The sweet potato fries, meanwhile, were very good, but no different from what’s doled out by the basketful at pubs and burger joints around town.
In the end, the food might be organic, but I was disappointed that it was not a major leap from the chip wagon fare that has had a hold on the food truck scene in Ottawa for far too long.
This brings me back to the street food proposal under consideration at City Hall. When the committee gets together to discuss the recommendations on Thursday, I hope they will find ways to ensure that they will attract innovative entrepreneurs who are willing to take us beyond chip truck fare. The really exciting thing about food trucks — the thing that has many of us clamouring for more of them — is the potential for these vendors to add some truly exciting (who knows, healthy?) and creative options to the usual on-the-go lunch scene. As someone who is on a perpetual quest for new noon-time options, I can promise I’ll be first in line.