Sunday, August 16, 2009

J'n'B's Fish & Chips

Guest Review: Ruth & Ian

Sir George Simpson (governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company) mentions the whitefish of the north shore of Lake Superior in the early 1800s. At Webbwood, on Highway 17, we had 3 pieces of excellent seasoned whitefish and chips for $12.87, along with fresh-tasting coleslaw. Webbwood is on a long stretch of the TransCanada between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, a beautiful but slightly desperate part of the province. Commercial food establishments are few and far between along this road, so you have to pick wisely. Summer options are more plentiful and the local fishing industry makes chip trucks featuring fish options a good bet.

Best feature: Picnic tables for seating covered by a tarp—very welcome during a rainy summer.

Condiments: included seasoned salt.

View: No view of Lake Superior, but the entertainment of three tweens hanging out on a summer day, and a mufferless trail bike on a nearby track.

Nibbler's Chip Truck

Guest Post: Ruth & Ian

Nibblers Chip Truck in Spanish, Ontario, is part way along the north shore of Georgian Bay, on the Trans Canada Highway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. We stopped there on a rainy summer weekday during a mini road trip from southern Ontario to the Thunder Bay area.

The first good omen was the break in the rain that occurred just as we pulled up. We were also attracted by the petunias surrounding the road sign and the lighthouse rising up out of the chip truck roof. The clincher was the information that fresh pickerel was on the menu (the sign said “walleye”, but that must have been to attract tourists).

The attendant was ready and waiting to serve us; it was only the rain and not Spanish’s resident population or popularity as a tourist stop that had been keeping the crowds away because several other people pulled up as we were munching scrumptious battered and fried strips of pickerel at a picnic table. Among the others were a francophone couple from Quebec (we noted the latter distinction because there was lots evidence of the francophone community in the mid-north of Ontario) and a couple from Tennessee (although he had an appropriate drawl, she had retained an English accent that was surprising, especially when he identified that their relationship and life in the southern USA had lasted 20 years so far with “more to come”, he hoped).

The pickerel was wonderful, light, moist and flaky.

The chips weighed down the cardboard box; they were heavy with oil, hard to separate from one another and attractive for eating only in the interests of this review and because we were hungry.

Two pickerel dinners cost $17.80. As we dumped the chips in the trash can, we felt the fish, the decoration of the truck and surroundings, the company and the break in the rain were well worth the price.

Twilight Taters

Guest Review: Ian & Ruth

The only food to be served between Wawa and Batchewana (aside from what you might cook for yourself at a park campground) is at Twilight Taters at Montreal River Harbour.

It is in a gem of a location, especially if you arrive in the late afternoon on a clear summer day, as we did. But for this blog, you might easily miss it. We learned about it only because of one small highway sign a few kilometers in advance on the TransCanada Highway as the road winds along the shores of Georgian Bay, and then a small sandwich board right on the gravel road that turns off a steep, sharp curve of the highway down to the mouth of the Montreal River and that is the entrance to the chip truck’s home, a cabin/campground called the Twilight Resort.

Just why the river was so named was a question for us (by our map, this particular location on Georgian Bay did not seem plausibly related to a fur trade or other route from the east). It was also a mystery to the operator of the chip truck, despite his seasonal work at the campground for the past 23 years. His graying ponytail and beard, as well as the rock music that was playing on the radio as he fired up the grill for us, seemed to define his generation and interests although we didn’t find the way to ask for more personal details to see if our stereotyping was accurate. We did learn that the chip truck, which he had recently refurbished after moving it from inactivity in Wawa, was a new venture for him and was moderately successful, in part because the young staff of the nearby Lake Superior Provincial Park liked his burgers.

Given the rainy weather this summer, it was probably lucky that the truck was actually a large trailer, so the owner had been able to fit in a bench and table as well as a counter and the cooking area. He fried up a previously frozen burger and hot Italian sausage (their frozen state not begrudged by us considering our interest in staying healthy during travel and the apparent low volume of customers; we had had to find him in the resort office and he opened up the chip truck to cook for us). The chips, although advertised as fresh cut, were also likely frozen; they were inoffensive but not distinguished in any other way.

The cost was very reasonable ($4 for a burger or sausage, $3 for a large fries; $14.75 with pop in total for the two of us), there were a few condiments and there was also a variety of other grill/fast food type items on the menu.

In addition to picnic tables there was a log swinging bench with a view of the standing waves where the fast-moving river met the Bay, the sky/water horizon and rocky islands with wind-sculpted pines. The view was outstanding. And we had caught it with the sun was low in the sky spreading warm yellow/red tones over the panorama. This goes to support the idea that, with chip trucks, as with life, it may be the ambience, not the chip, which is the saving grace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Reggie's Hot Grill

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hippy Chippy Fries

"For the environmentally conscious chip truck lover"

When: July 9st, 2009 6:10pm.
Where: Johnstone Park, Peterborough (in the parking lot at the corner of Ashburnham Dr. and Marsdale Dr.) (map)
Exterior: This chip truck is light blue, decorated with colourful paintings of peace signs and flowers. It is located in the parking lot of a large park, so there are lots of grassy areas on which to enjoy your fries, as well as a single picnic table. It's not a far walk from the soccer fields and sandy beach in this park as well, so it would be a nice place to go on a day when you were out with your family. Hippy Chippy also caters to the environmentally and socially conscious crowd; there are signs proclaiming their support for local businesses & farmers and the chip truck itself is partially powered by solar energy. I biked there myself, and while I was there I saw more people pull up in bikes than in cars. There were also both aluminum and paper recycling, so you could recycle all the garbage from your meal.
Menu: Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, gravy, pop.

Condiments: Ketchup, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, and something called 'hippy smoky salt' (I tried this, and it tasted pretty good, although mostly it just tasted like salt).
The Chips: I got a small fries & a diet Pepsi for the value price of $3.50. The fries were very fresh and had a lovely potato taste. They were a bit greasy, and not that hot when I got them, but I suspect I got the last of a batch they had just made for the people in front of me. I think these fries have a lot of potential, and I may have to go back to see if the next serving I get is hotter!

Overall, this is a beautiful location and is well worth a visit. Peterborough residents are generally quite interested in finding environmentally sustainable options, and all the elements of this chip truck fit with that lifestyle. It's interesting to see a bit of a modern, environmental spin on the classic chip truck.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jim's Gourmet Fries

When: July 1st, 2009 12:31pm.
Is there a better time to visit a chip truck than for lunch on Canada Day? (Plus, it's probably the only thing open!)

Companions: Jill & Damien

Where: Sydenham Foodland parking lot (map)
Exterior: This chip truck is a keystone for me: I have driven past it one to two thousand times in my life as it is between my parent's house and the place where I worked in the summers all through university. It is a permanent trailer sitting in the grocery store parking lot in Sydenham, Ontario. In recent years, they have added a screened-in hut around the ordering window where they keep the condiments. There are three picnic tables with umbrellas where you can sit, but it's also worth noting that it's very close to the lake and also a nice park where you can take your fries. It was predictably packed, as it was lunch time on Canada Day - there were tons of families and people coming from the nearby Sydenham Canada Day celebration. When we went up to order, they had lined up all the containers that were waiting to be filled, and we were number 16 in the line.
So it was a long wait. BUT, while we were waiting, local celebrity Dan Aykroyd pulled up in a fancy car! This was definitely a highlight of the visit - we tried our best not to stare, but how do you not gawk just a little bit when a celebrity arrives at the chip truck you're eating at? (We did draw the line at taking pictures of him) He sadly didn't stay for any fries, which was really his loss, because they were delicious!

Menu: Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, poutine. The poutine comes in two sizes, and the fries come in four sizes (ranging from 'junior' to 'family').

Condiments: Ketchup, 2 kinds of vinegar in spray bottles, salt.
The Chips: We got a junior size fries ($2.25 - great value, as the portion is quite generous) and a small poutine ($4.50). They were both excellent. The fries were crispy, and deliciously fresh tasting. They came with a flat wooden fork which was really handy for both poking big fries and scooping out small fries. I would highly recommend these fries to anyone at anytime (although come before 4pm, because that's when it closes).
The poutine earned rave reviews from our official poutine reviewer, Damien. The cheese curds were tasty and distributed well throughout the dish. The gravy was well-seasoned and thick. Damien pointed out that too much gravy can make poutine too much like soup, but these ones did not suffer from that common problem. Overall, he gave the poutine two thumbs up!
Condiment Distribution: Jill reminded me that the classic way to ensure that you have ketchup for all of your fries is to 'hide' it down the side of the container, i.e. try to squirt it right down to the bottom of the container. We tried this with these fries, and the result was a 'bloodbath'. The last of the fries were swimming in a red pool of ketchup. These fries stood up to the ketchup, because they were so fantastic (see above), but use this technique with care!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

JRS Variety

When: June 26th 6:15pm

Where: Springbrook, on Stirling Marmora Road between Marmora and Belleville (map)
Exterior: This chip truck sits outside a store called JRS Variety. The truck its is a red wagon with a white awning. The sign is small and difficult to see from the road - I almost drove by it! I think the chip truck is owned by the same people who own the store, because as I pulled up the girl in store saw me and hollered for her brother to come out and help me. There's one picnic table in a small area between the no name gas pumps and the store. The whole establishment is in quite a residential area, with private homes in all the adjoining lots. Garbage and recyling are provided on site.
Menu: Hamburgers, fries, poutine, gravy. They don't have drinks, but you can get them inside the store (I got a delicious apple juice!)

Condiments: Ketchup, vinegar, salt, season salt. The condiments were on a VERY high shelf, which was difficult for me to reach (note: I am not tall).
The Chips: I ordered a small fries ($3.00), and they were delicious. The texture was consistent all the way through, with no noticable crispy skin. They had a very nice potatoey taste, which was almost sweet at times. They weren't very salty, but they also weren't greasy. They came hot and maintained their temperature to the last bite. Overall, the fries were excellent, and I would highly recommend this place as a bit of a hidden gem.

This isn't a very major road, so I asked the guy if he had been busy. He said he got a lot of people with camper vans and a lot of people heading up to cottages, although he mentioned that the traffic wasn't too heavy this weekend, with the July 1st holiday falling in the middle of the week.