Meals On Wheels
Well holy heck, Saskatoon: we haz food trucks!
Food truck culture has been thriving for quite some time in larger (and more temperate) cities, but Saskatoon has been slow to get on the (regulatory) bandwagon. This year, the rules have finally caught up to public demand and enthusiasm, so the street food business is taking off.
Food trucks may be the perfect match for Saskatoon foodies: food can be enjoyed outdoors, which we love to do during our short summer season; it’s casual, and we’re all over that; and there’s an air of adventure about food trucks — you never know where they’re going to be or what’s going to come out of them. Just tap into your inner detective/mighty hunter and head out on the streets in search of something yummy!
It’s the adventure part of the equation that I enjoy most, although clearly the quality of the grub ranks up there too. I particularly like the way social media has changed the face of the food truck chase. If you’re even a little bit Twitter-savvy, you can keep track of your favourite food trucks daily.
The only minor frustration that can occur is that, because food trucks are by nature transient, they’re unpredictable. They don’t really have set hours per se, meaning if you want to ensure you find a specific truck, you might sometimes have a bit of difficulty. I faced that frustration first-hand in trying to track down Ace Burger (@aceburgeryxe on Twitter and Instagram), the new burger truck owned by Congress Beer House.
I looked for them on a Saturday. No dice. The next day they tweeted that the severe thunderstorm warnings were keeping them off the streets (fair enough, obviously). They were nowhere to be found Monday and Tuesday… and I ran out of time to look for them until the following week.
But in hindsight, it wasn’t so bad. While I was eager to try their delicious-sounding burgers (and the Instagram pictures — and the glowing praise of diners — were particularly compelling), I stumbled across other food trucks in my search. First, there was Disco Dog (@discodogtruck, www.discodogtruck.com), which serves up gourmet hot dogs on naan bread.
My kids were all over this one. Upbeat loud music pours from the truck, and you can choose from one of eight flavour combos on a regular dog, veggie dog or sausage. I was delighted to see that many of the topping options include Cheez Whiz. That may surprise some of you, but hey — if I’m going for a hot dog, I’m tapping into my childhood, and Cheez Whiz is one of my weaknesses from way back.
My three-year-old opted for a “Don Mega,” the “pizza” style hot dog, with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. My five-year-old chose the “Low Rider,” basing his decision on the picture. I said, “That’s a taco-style hot dog.” He grinned and said, “I thought so!” And they loved those dogs. I got to enjoy half of each kind, which was fine by me. The crunch of nacho cheese tortilla chips on the taco hot dog was surprisingly delicious. My husband also let me try his selection, the “Lucky Chucky”: bacon, fried onions and peppers, Cheez Whiz, tomato, lettuce and mustard, which was also pretty satisfying.
Next time I have a hot dog craving, I’ll be going for one of the spicy options, like the Chivo Picante, with goat cheese, jalapenos, chipotle sauce, and the new favourite foodie sauce, sriracha chili sauce. The “breakfast dog” option, the “Red Rooster,” sounds absolutely decadent with a scrambled egg, bacon, Cheez Whiz, hot sauce, and maple syrup. Oh. My.
Be warned: these aren’t the cheapest dogs in the world, with prices ranging from $6 for a classic to $8.50 for some of the fancier ones, but I think it’s worth it for the quality and creativity. And hey, it’s still lunch for under $10.
On another hunt for Ace Burger, I stopped by Pineapple Express (@PX_Foodtruck) to see what they had on offer. They’re less likely to be downtown and more likely to be parked outside Prairie Sun Brewery on Quebec Avenue, which has the perfect little parking pad for just such a visitor. They serve all kinds of pineapple treats, like grilled pineapple skewers, milkshakes and pineapple chili. They also offer smokies and perogies, which, considering that Prairie Sun has a patio right next to the truck where you can order a pint of beer, seems like a match made in heaven.
Snak (@snaktruck, www.snaktruck.com) is another truck that can be found outside Prairie Sun on Friday lunches. You can also look for them at the Fringe. My schedule and Snak’s did not coincide (boo!), but I love the look of their menu. Anyone who serves up chocolate and caramel-drizzled potato chips next to a micro-brewery clearly knows what they’re doing.
They theme their menu around sweet, sour, salty and savoury flavours, with two options for each. Menu items range from soft tacos to mac and cheese, homemade citrus sherbet cookie sandwich to honey ginger pork (or tofu) steamed buns (like a mini-banh mi! So cute!), and spicy corn on the cob. Perfect snacks for outdoor summer adventures, so check them out! I’m certainly going to.
Scout Mex Hall isn’t on Twitter, but it’s easy to recognize, what with the black and white skull motif. You can follow them on Facebook: search ScoutYXE or Scout Mex Hall. They serve creatively named burritos and spicy “diablo” chocolate cookies. The burrito I tried (The Bugler: beans, rice, cheese, two kinds of fresh salsa, lettuce and tomatoes) was fresh-tasting and worth the wait — the one woman in the kitchen couldn’t keep up to the lineup of hungry Saskatonians waiting on the sidewalk.
Thrive Juice Co. (@thrivejuiceco, www.thrivejuiceco.com — check out their website for subscription options. They’ll deliver!) is the perfect antidote to some of the more filling food truck options. Sure, once you track down Ace Burger (@aceburgeryxe) you may be excited to scarf down the burger of the week and a serving of French fries, but believe me, you’ll feel better about it if you have a cold-pressed juice to wash it all down. Thrive often parks near Ace Burger downtown, so you can easily enjoy them at the same time.
These juices come in brilliant jewel tones that look both ridiculously healthy and delicious. Never mind that one lovely 500 ml glass bottle of juice will cost you almost as much as the burger and fries at Ace Burger: it feels good to drink out of a glass bottle, to have some “Sweet Envy” (spinach, kale, pineapple, apple, lime and parsley juice), and to feel like you’re getting some real nutrition while also enjoying a burger and fries.
After stalking Ace Burger for two weeks, I finally tracked them down and went for the “burger of the week”: a beef patty topped with fried mushrooms, fried ham and pepper jack cheese, and then finished off “Ace style,” with fresh and peppery arugula, onion, tomato and sriracha mayo. (You can be boring and have the plain burger or a cheeseburger if you want to, but not me.)
Oh, dear. What a burger.
Not only was it a delicious burger; it was also a deliciously messy burger. I took a markedly unladylike position on a nearby park bench to eat that thing, to make sure I didn’t get any grease spots on my clothes. It was juicy, drippy and so savoury that I had to stop myself from inhaling it without taking a breath. (Good burgers bring out my inner carnivore. Grrr!)
They have some fun extra toppings as well, which could enhance the messiness and deliciousness to no end — such as a fried egg. I love me a fried egg on my burger! And don’t worry, vegetarians, they have a homemade veggie burger option, so you can get in on the messiness, too!
Even better, while there’s already a fun collection of food trucks in the city, there’s also a street food festival coming to town! Watch for it at River Landing on Sept. 6th. The organization’s website, yxestreetfood.com, is set for launch in mid-August, and you can also follow them on Twitter, @yxestreetfood. It’s a good option, since they try to keep their followers updated on the whereabouts of all the food trucks at once.
So, what’s your food truck style? Do you like to go rogue, without the benefit of social networks — just heading out on the street to see what you might find? Or do you want to go the hi-tech route, retweeting to all your friends which street corner you’ll be noshing on? Either way, food trucks are a super fun way to spend your summertime lunch hour.
Try them all, and then tell your friends: if everybody does it, there’ll soon be more of them!
Follow Noelle’s cooking and dining adventures at www.amazoninthekitchen.ca, or on Twitter at @kitchenamazon.