There are always a few things that I look for in a new eating experience, location, menu choices, the price of the items on the menu all rank high on how I form a first impression. But few things wow me like a serious line of hungry patrons waiting for service. The fact that people are cued up on a busy downtown street spending their lunch hour waiting in line screams eat here!
Well folks The Red Ember pizza truck at the far end of Broadway Ave down by the legislature on Kennedy was packing in the masses for lunchtime on Thursday for sure. It’s hard to miss this transformer like mash-up of a bright fire engine red and big rig styled wood fired pizza joint on wheels. Many of the apartments in the tenements on Broadway no doubt are smaller than this monstrosity and I can pretty much guarantee that the food coming out of those kitchens can’t hold a candle to the applause worthy pies coming out of The Red Ember’s wood fired pizza oven. Yep, a wood fired oven on a truck in Winnipeg, grab your skates and sticks, Hell has officially frozen over folks!
But I am getting ahead of myself, as things turned out I had an appointment downtown at 11 and got out just in time for lunch. I had heard rumors of this huge red truck serving wood fired pizza prowling the streets of Winnipeg. Surely this was nonsense, no one would go to the expense here to start such a venture. But as I searched Google for thin crust pizza in Winnipeg the usual chain gang suspects showed up at first. Deeper into my search I added the term New York Style and Thin Crust thinking that I searched in vain, until one hit caught my eye. A twitter account for the Red Ember, this piqued my interest and I threw my Jeep into drive and headed towards Broadway. I scanned the busy street and the carts that lined it, until I caught a flash of red blocks ahead. Like a dinosaur hunter spying a T-Rex off in the distance the size of the discovery surprised me and as I grew closer so did the line-up.
Joining the cue some 20 or 30 people back of the service window I was surprised at the speed at which the line moved, people ordered and waited off to one side as dinner sized crispy pizzas flowed in ones and twos out the window. As I got closer, standing under a broad awning anchored to the side of the truck I surveyed the menu, displayed quite effectively on a flat screen television also built into the side of the truck. These guys had thought of everything! Choosing the classic pepperoni and mushroom and placing an order all within 10 minutes of joining the line. The kitchen is visible behind a plexiglass window and shows a well orchestrated dance that keeps pizzas chugging out the windows with seemingly little effort. My guess to the speed of the service is the wood fired oven itself, not only does it deliver that great smokey flavor to the crust but also keeps the cooking surface blisteringly hot. I would estimate that the real baking time for each pie is well under 5 minutes apiece. The result is speed of service and a crispy crust that is slightly charred at the edges but remains perfectly chewy on the inside.
It seems that these young entrepreneurs also have embraced the spirit of the local food movement, sourcing ingredients from nearby farms and ethical producers. Proudly displaying the slogan “EAT REAL, EAT LOCAL”. But in the end it’s the quality of the delivered product that customers are judging, and what a product it is. Sweet tangy sauce, rich creamy stringy cheese, delicious savory toppings and of course that crispy charred crust speak for themselves. And boy the people are listening! So should you find yourself on Broadway in the afternoon look for the big red truck and join the line-up, your stomach will thank you!