The words “truck stop” bring to mind the Irving gas station in Aulac, New Brunswick. It’s a traditional stopping-place on the drive between Halifax, NS, and PEI, a drive my family made many times during my childhood and one I later made many times on my own.
I believe the gas station/restaurant combo in Aulac is officially called a “big stop”, but there were always many long-haul semi-trailers parked there when you pulled in, drawn by the enormous and super-high Irving sign beckoning you off the highway just past the NB border.
We rarely ate in the restaurant in Aulac, usually pulling in just to gas up, go for a pee break, and grab some road trip snacks. But as soon as you walk in the door to the convenience store and restaurant, you’re greeted by a tall glass case filled with mile-high cakes and pies, topped with clouds of puffy meringue or frosted with drifts of white curlicues. Strangely, even when we did eat at the diner, I don’t remember ever tasting one of those concoctions.
The truck stop I attended yesterday was of an entirely different nature. It involved food trucks rather than semi-trailers. These truck stops are organized by two local foodies, Sharon Yeo and Mack Male, the team behind last summer’s super-popular What the Truck?! festivals. This season they’ve expanded and teamed up with the Old Strathcona Business Association here in Edmonton to offer smaller, weekly food truck events throughout the month of May. The larger festivals will return this summer.
I think Sharon and Mack have done an awesome job capitalizing on the burgeoning food truck scene here in Edmonton, making more people aware of these trucks, and giving the truck owners a chance to meet and serve new customers.
I was especially excited about the event when I saw the menu posted online. It’s not always easy to find gluten-free options at food trucks (there are usually lots of sandwiches), but Molly’s Eats was offering an almost entirely GF menu. Checking back to the May 3 event, Molly’s had some delicious-sounding GF items then too. Go Molly! My friend Kathryn, who also eats GF, and I were pumped to try the food.
The truck stops are held at Wilbert McIntyre Park, right next to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market just off Whyte Ave. It’s a great location, with plenty of room for people to line up and benches to sit and eat. Though it was a chilly evening on Thursday, there was a pretty good turnout, and when the sun shone it wasn’t too cold. I’m sure the event would attract even more people in really nice weather.
Kathryn and I both ordered the spicy tomato seafood soup ($6.50 for a small), and I also tried the hush puppies ($5) while she went for the fries duo ($5). At the last minute I decided to splurge on a chocolate sandwich cookie ($4). They looked divine.
After a 10-minute wait, our food came out and we went to sit on a bench to eat. The soup was delicious, with just the right amount of spice and several tiny shrimp. I expected more visible clams and crab, but I think they were chopped up quite finely. The hush puppies had a great texture, crunchy without being greasy, though they were a little bland in spite of the green onions, bacon and cheese. They came with a tiny cup of pesto, which helped amp up the flavour of the balls of dough. Kathryn’s fries were good, though some were soggy instead of crispy.
My favourite item was the sandwich cookie. Just the right amount of chocolatey sweetness, with a perfectly firm, chewy texture. The filling was a white chocolate ganache, but I thought I tasted mint, which I love. I haven’t yet been able to make a GF cookie like this and I really wish I could.
By the time we finished eating my hands were freezing and despite the sun, it was pretty cold. So we retreated to a cafe for tea for the rest of the evening.
It was a great outing, more of the kind I’ve been enjoying with all my free time lately. If this baby hasn’t popped out by next Thursday I may go to the truck stop again! Check out the schedule here – there is some change in which trucks are there from week to week.