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    Categories: Local News

Find the food truck: tastes of summer

Hundreds of hungry diners lined up outside the many food trucks stationed at Grain Elevator Park last August.

For those who equate summer with eating outdoors, food trucks are a much-anticipated part of the season. Grab and go cuisine, from upscale burgers and fries to unique gourmet offerings and even fine dining-type fare at modest prices, have brought food trucks a long way. It’s no wonder so many of us love them.

St. Albert doesn’t have a dedicated food truck culture they way Edmonton does. Regulations in Edmonton allow trucks to set up for business on city streets and to congregate at spots like Sir Winston Churchill Square. Here, a pilot project a couple of years ago didn’t result in any set regulations about where and when a food truck can operate, so the vague situation has left some truck operators frustrated. That fact, plus the lack of a bustling pedestrian population to provide business downtown on weekdays, means the food trucks here are only around on special events.

Ranya Abu Jaib, part of the family-owned and operated Dedo’s food truck, says there wasn’t enough business in the city to warrant a steady presence, whether it was at the Canadian Tire parking lot or in various city parks through the warm season. So, while the truck operates mostly in Edmonton now, Dedo’s is still a permanent fixture at city events like the Saturday farmers’ market.

“On a sunny day, a blanket and a piece of grass, or a bench and picnic table is all you need for atmosphere,” she says. “We have a following for our shawarma, falafel and other Mediterranean foods, so when people know where we’re going to be, they can plan to have their lunch or supper with us.”

Dedo’s (still known as St. Albert’s food truck) has also added easy to eat-while-you-walk foods to this year’s menu: corn on the cob and desserts like baklava, profiteroles and cheesecake. “You can eat here without breaking the pocketbook,” she says, adding that Dedo’s will be part of Canada Day festivities at Rotary Park, and on Sunday at the Father’s Day food truck event at Grain Elevator Park.

Abu Jaib says a big part of a food truck’s success is letting customers know where it’ll be, and keeping that as consistent as possible through the week. A big help with that is social media – Facebook, Twitter and streetfoodapp.com, where trucks post their daily specials and alert customers of times of operation, etc.

“We’re on wheels, so where we are for lunch is different than supper. But people want to find us, visit with us and get their favourite foods. Is as much a social thing as about the food,” Abu Jaib says.

It’s the same sentiment from Native Delights food truck owners Ian Gladue and Ronda Desjarlais, who have 10,000 Facebook followers looking for where to find their bannock-focused cuisine each day. The Edmonton-based truck is a regular at St. Albert’s Rainmaker Rodeo, bringing elk, bison and other First Nations cuisine to the rodeo grounds and concert stage each day of the fair.

“What we have is traditional – fried bannock – but with a modern twist,” says Gladue, who points to tacos and indigenous salads featuring local berries as popular options. “Word of mouth is very important to the business. When folks gather around a food truck, or several of them, it creates a different atmosphere. People want to enjoy the outdoors, to sit with family and friends. It’s a beautiful gathering to take a moment and just sit on a piece of grass – it creates balance.”

Gladue says he loves being part of the St. Albert vibe at Rainmaker and other events, “where we can showcase First Nations cuisine – we’re the only such food truck licensed to work outside of powwows in cities around Alberta,” he says.

You’ve likely enjoyed Jack’s Burger Shack at its downtown location, but have you sampled its mobile offerings? The truck has a compact menu of a few burgers and fries, working at parties, wedding receptions and special events all summer long – things like the Fowler school track and the Road Rage outdoor hockey tournament at Servus Place.

“We like to get out to community events – Grain Elevator Park, Canada Day – but we have a storefront, so that’s the focus. Downtown would be a perfect place to have a few food trucks, but it’s not bustling enough, so events are the way to go,” says Jack’s owner Tu Le.

Streetfoodapp.com reports that Scoop ’n Roll creamery is spending time in St. Albert this summer too. Check the app for times and then check out this popular food truck, where ice cream is created (rolled) Thai-style, right before your eyes. Patrons choose the mix-ins (fresh fruit, chocolate, etc.) and folks are lining up wherever the truck goes. Its been making the Fountain Tire parking lot home these days, at 234 St. Albert Trail.

Food truck lovers take note: Grain Elevator Park is host to two multi-truck events this summer, on Father’s Day with a penny carnival, and late August’s The Food Trucks are Coming event, with evening entertainment and beer gardens, tours of the grain elevators and several food trucks offering outdoor eating favourites. This Sunday’s event titled The Food Trucks Are Coming, is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m.

The Food Trucks Are Coming

Sunday, June 18 from 1 to 5 p.m. St. Albert Grain Elevator Park.

Participating Food Trucks:
• Incredible Edibles
• Lemon Grass Grill
• Explore India Food Truck
• Cookie Love Machine
• Dedo’s Food Truck
• Orbit Food Truck
• Go Nuts 4 Donuts
• Davinci Gelato Originale
• Meat Street Pies
• Jack’s Burger Shack
• Summer Sizzler

Lucy Haines: Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.