Tag Archives: Street Food

Rollin’ downtown for lunch with On a Roll Sandwich Truck.

With the Winnipeg summer heat soon drawing to a close and the inevitable onset of fall close at hand I set out to redouble my efforts and visit as many of the new food trucks that now dot the Winnipeg lunchtime streets.  Yesterday found me in familiar territory on Broadway Avenue where the majority of lunchtime food trucks are known to set up shop.

On a Roll Sandwich Truck

On a Roll Sandwich Truck

As it turned out my choice was an easy one, turning off Main Street the first truck that met my eye was a new to me, the On a Roll Sandwich Truck.  Painted an eye-catching bright green announcing “Bringing the flavours of the world to the streets of Winnipeg” was an offer I simply could not refuse.

Menu Board

Menu Board

The menu pasted to the side of the truck spoke of simple family favorites from around the world delivering on the promises of their motto.  Shrimp Po’ Boys representing the Louisiana coast of the United States, Jerked Chicken Sandwich giving a taste of Jamaican spicy influences.  For a more savory note a patron could try the ever popular, if confusing Chicken and Waffles.  Even vegetarians are welcomed with a falafel patty Banh-Mi sandwich representing the best of French and Vietnamese influences.

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Broadway Bound: The food truck wave finally hits Winnipeg in a big way.

The food truck/cart industry has always been a staple on the Winnipeg summer landscape. From the chip stands of the early 1930’s right up to modern smokie hotdog carts that dot the Winnipeg summer landscape like dandelions on a prairie field. So why all of the interest in what could be called nouveau gourmand food movement of bringing typically high end restaurant fare and serving it curbside out of a mobile trailer?

Hot Dog Cart

Hot Dog carts dot the Winnipeg Landscape

Personally I think it’s about the whole democratization of food, the idea proposed by so many of the crop of new talented cooks and chefs in typically high-end, high pressure jobs. Patrons are starting to suffer from white table-cloth fatigue, the idea of getting dressed up and paying high-end prices for everything but the food is wearing thin. Just think about it, if you go to say 529 Wellington and order a meal you’re not only paying for the food you’re paying for the cost of maintaining the building, the staff, the food supply chain and on and on. Winnipeggers are a fiercely cheap and efficient lot, we brag about how little we paid for something rather than how expensive something is. It only seems to reason that eventually it would filter down to our food choices.

Now I am not saying that Winnipeg invented the high-end food truck, that phenomenon has gone on for years in other enlightened cities having only recently caught on in a big way here due to City Hall’s reluctance to let the inevitable happen.

On any given weekday lunchtime during Winnipeg’s all too brief spring and summer one can wander downtown to Broadway Avenue, the heart of Winnipeg’s open air food scene.  As the office towers break for lunch thousands of hungry men and women emerge ready to see the delights awaiting them where grilled smokies and hamburgers once dominated the dining scene.

One sunny spring day I took an hour out of my day and investigated the food truck landscape of East Broadway; here is what I found.

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For fabulously fresh fish n’ chips find Fergies at The Forks.

As you all know I love food, street food, fine food, pick up a fork and stab me food.  So it should be no surprise that I love good fish.  Growing up literally a 5 minute bike ride from Rainy Lake in North Western Ontario I could hold a fishing rod before I learned to tie my own shoes.

Mom and Dad both loved to fish so I grew up with an appreciation for the different flavours that came out of the lake.  It was a funny little rule that my father had when he took the family out for dinner.  We could eat anything on the menu besides freshwater fish.  He reasoned that we had access to a well stocked freezer full of the best fish in the world so why should he have to pay for it when eating out.

Fergies Fish n' Chips at The Forks Market

Having said that I no longer live 5 minutes from Rainy Lake so what’s a poor boy to do when he’s got a hankering for fish.  Well I head down to Fergies Fish n’ Chips at The Forks Market.  The current incarnation of seafood market and fish and chips stand has been open since 2004 and boasts having access to the over five million visitors The Forks Market attracts each year.

Although Manitoba is hardly next to any major seaport we are however a première shipping hub supplying North America with everything from fresh flowers and yes you guessed it fresh fish.  One thing Fergies prides itself on is the freshness and quality of its ingredients.  From the locally grown fresh cut Russet Burbank potato to the “caught yesterday” selection of Cod, Halibut and Lake Manitoba Walleye (Pickerel).

When eating fish freshness is king, and Fergies delivers that in classic style. Each piece is coated in a beer batter moments before it hits the hot oil, protecting the delicate filet and effectively poaching it to give a crispy delicious exterior and a moist flaky interior to the fish.

Simple and delicious fish and chips served in paper

The chips are treated with equal care, freshly cut and blanched in hot oil before being quickly dunked again for a properly cooked fry.  Crispy and hot on the outside and tender on the inside.

Put the two together and an English favourite hits Winnipeg.  A dash of salt and a splash or two of malt vinegar is all you need to complete this after pub classic.

So when you get a craving for an inexpensive but delicious fish treat you know where to go, Fergies Fish n’ Chips at The Forks Market.

Fergie's Fish 'n Chips on Urbanspoon

Taco, Taco, Taco: El Torrito comida de la calle

As many of you already know I am a big fan of pointing my jeep in a random direction and exploring the street food options in my home city of Winnipeg.   This long weekend the direction was simple to choose, I headed downtown to the afternoon site of the El Torrito taco truck.

The Winnipeg street food scene has long been dominated by scores of smokie carts and burger trucks that have a strangle hold on the Canadian street food market.  But just last month I began hearing rumblings of something exciting and new, at first I thought people were talking about a trip down to Mexico or chatting about a Food Network program they had seen on taco vendors.  But they insisted there was indeed a taco truck in Winnipeg, and they even had a following on Twitter.

Intrigued to the point of obsession I made it my mission to find this elusive taco truck and taste its bill of fare.  Indeed El Torrito (@ElTorrito1) does have a large following on Twitter and a write-up in the local pages of Metro.

El Torrito comida de la calle

When I came upon the truck at its downtown lunchtime location, I could smell and hear the difference from across Portage Avenue.  The aromas of savoury meats being grilled and the pumping music from a boom box had a small crowd wondering what this apparition was, unaccustomed to having a Mexican option the crowd watched as I bravely strode up to the front window.

Immediately a friendly face appeared from inside and offered me the daily El Grandé  special.  Three tacos (beef or chicken) and an authentic chorizo dog with chips and drink for $10.  How could I say no to that?

As I ordered the cook and co-owner Ian Bowman smiled at my enthusiasm and shouted over the music how hot I wanted my tacos.  I replied “hot, but don’t make my face melt off.”  He laughed and said with a sly grin, “but I like to make faces melt!”

Simple and authentic taco goodness

The tacos themselves are based on traditional Mexican street food, if you’re looking for hard-shelled tacos covered in cheese and cliché then you’ve come to the wrong truck my friend.  Simple is the name of the game here, and fresh is how they taste.  Hot grilled meat, some salsa verdé, tomato and a hit of cilantro wrapped up in a warm tortilla is what you get.  A lime on the side and some chili sauce for heat makes for simple street taco perfection.

The chorizo dog was also very good, a mild pork sausage also served with salsa verdé, onions and tomato was a welcome break from the smokie sausages that Winnipeggers are accustomed to.

Overall my first impressions of El Torrito were good although the tacos seem a bit small and not overly laden with meat, by local standards they are still a bargain at 3 for 5 dollars.  The condiments are fresh and the service is enthusiastic, more than once I saw the cook poking his head out to see if I was enjoying my lunch.

So if you’re in need of a change look the taco truck up on twitter (@ElTorrito1) and head down for a bit of spice this summer.

Winnipeg Street Eats: A Bourdain Friendly Dog Hits Winnipeg.

Well another weekend is upon us here in Winnipeg.  This particular afternoon found myself and my significant other in search of something new and exciting.  Well we found that today in spades.

Dingo's Store Front

Winnipeg hospitality group WOW! has opened a new style hot dog  joint in Winnipeg’s Little Italy.  Dingo’s Wild and Crazy Dogs marks a departure for the group from fine upscale dining to upscale street food.  The concept diner features a dozen specialty quarter pound hot dogs on the menu, any of which could have lept directly from Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and onto my tray.

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Winnipeg Street Eats: Mrs. Mikes

Finally, with the change in seasons and everything starting to come to life again after another cold winter it is time to delve into a favourite topic of mine.  Food, street food to be particular.

Once upon a time I worked driving delivery and doing light construction work on people’s homes.  Stuck in a smelly work van for hours at a time, never near the office for a break.  So I relied on street food to get me though those rough and tumble days.   Most of the time I worked alone or with a junior partner so going a little out-of-the-way for a good meal was acceptable and often essential for our moral.

In the upcoming summer months I intend to share the best of Winnipeg’s street offerings with you.  Mrs. Mikes has been a Winnipeg institution for some forty years.  Established in 1969 at 286 Tache Ave. in Winnipeg’s French Quarter of St. Boniface.  It sits easily within walking distance of the Forks Market, and just a short bus ride away from the busy downtown centre.

Mrs Mikes

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