If you haven’t heard of the Red Roaster by now, you must not be following the Ottawa street food scene!
The Red Roaster truck is the one which had a bit of bad luck with respect to its original location. The city had initially assigned a place near the Museum of Nature – which, one would argue, would attract a number of visitors either enjoying the grass around the museum or visiting the castle itself – however the streets around that area are primarily one-way streets. Food trucks require a window for serving food… and most food trucks are placed on the right side of the street… therefore the windows are generally located along the passenger side. Due to their location, this truck would have required a window to be placed along the driver’s side.
Common sense finally prevailed and the Red Roaster truck moved to a spot on Bank St, very close to Clemow St. The problems with the serving window were solved, their location was easily accessible and there was a beautiful park for patrons to enjoy their food. Things should have sailed along, reasonably problem free.
Except for this.
The sign posted in front of FarmTeam Cookhouse & Bar quickly hit Twitter and Facebook while major Ottawa news outlets reported from the scene. After a few days, most of the furor blew over… the sign came down… and things have finally, peacefully, fallen into a sort of routine.
I have visited the Red Roaster truck twice. The first time, and the only time I had the presence of mind to take photos, was at Westfest. Or, as some remember, Wetfest.
It was cold, it was wet and I wanted some roasty goodness to warm me up. Their menu, which changes frequently, had several sandwich options including one for vegetarians. I easily fit the description of omnivore – and I really love roast beef sandwiches – so I went for their roast beef.
As an aside – I think most food photography is hilarious. Especially food that people are going to eat. This picture perfectly sums up why I think this – it’s dark out (thanks to the rain), the box has been carried through a downpour, the food is actually placed in a box – and not artfully arranged on a plate, etc. etc. I applaud people who manage to take beautiful, artistic photos of food and people who carry their cameras around like pack mules – but I am not brave enough to carry my DSLR through a downpour just to take pretty food photos.
One of the complaints I read regarding Red Roaster was that some people don’t like the bread. They felt it should be toasted or crunchy. I loved this bread – it was soft, fresh and delicious. I felt it held up really well with the sandwich, which was stuffed full of tender roast beef and veggies. The only complaint is that I had a bit too much au jus – so it was a bit soggy near the end. I also didn’t pick up any notes of the provolone.
The roasted potatoes were also extremely flavourful – but really salty. This is the only time I had that side and I am confident that you could ask for less salt. Everything was served at the perfect temperature and helped to fortify for a long evening of Westfest.
The second time I visited was earlier this month. I tried the pulled pork tacos, which had been advertised over Twitter, and the jhal muri. The pulled pork tacos were fantastic and I think “fresh” is the best descriptor. Great, tangy sauce and definitely worth the trip into the Glebe.
The jhal muri – I apologize, but I wish I had remembered to take a picture. This is an Indian street food snack that I first took notice of while watching Eat St. They visited a street vendor in London (click here to see the video) who walked around with a small cart serving up this intriguing looking dish. While I have not tried the one in London, the version served by the Red Roaster is definitely worth checking out. There was salt, a bit of sweetness, a little bit of crunch and it was a substantial serving.
Would I recommend Red Roaster? Yes. Especially on a nice, leisurely sunny day when I can take my lunch and head into the park to sit on a bench or in the grass. I like that their menu changes frequently and that they use Twitter actively so I know when they are and are not open. You can follow them or find them at @RedRoasterTruck.