Another day, another food truck. This time – Chow Down. Located on a rather uninspiring corner, Woodroffe and Byron, diners who take advantage of the limited seating have a chance to watch the traffic along Richmond. A Shouldice Farms stand allows for patrons to pick up some fresh veggies – which allowed me to impulse buy some corn. The most likely visitors to Chow Down are likely going to be those in cars – and for those visitors, I promise you that the parking is both plentiful and free.
The menu is both diverse and large. Many food trucks offer an ever-changing yet limited selection, scrawled on a whiteboard (or chalkboard) while Chow Down has invested in a printed menu. Don’t let this deter you, street food fans, because it will take you quite a few visits to snack your way through what is on offer. If you have gluten sensitivities, be sure to let them know as there are options for you here!
I have heard great things about the Papaya Salad but when I arrived in the early afternoon, it appears to have been completely sold out. I decided to take advantage of the combo and asked for the vermicelli (with grilled marinated beef) and some spring rolls. I have always been a huge fan of spring rolls and generally try to sample them whenever and wherever I can.
As you can see, the combo meal appears to be a decent value. Had I known the vermicelli meal came with spring rolls, however, I would have opted for another appetizer. I wish the order taker had let me know when I asked a few questions about the menu.
The food itself met two important food truck standards – it was served hot (in the case of the meat and the spring rolls) and quickly. The fish sauce that came with the vermicelli seemed fairly weak in flavour, so after taking the photo below I spiced things up with some of their sauce which was freely available near the window of the truck.
The spring rolls, of which I consider myself an enthusiast, were fantastic. They were hot, they were fresh and they were full. I find that spring rolls too often have very little filling and I am disappointed when I seem to be only tasting the wrapper. These, however, led to no such anguish and I made very quick work of all four (three appetizers plus the one served with my main). The vermicelli, a meal which can often verge on bland (but is often a wonderful choice for a hot day), was really nothing special. The meat was flavourful but the fish sauce, as discussed above, seemed to be very watery. I also wish that it came with more cucumbers as the dish primarily contained noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts.
The drink selection is a really interesting choice by the truck’s owners, especially for food truck enthusiasts who have spent a lot of time in Asia. The most “normal” choice, by our North American standards, was a bottle of water. Cold green tea, lychee juices, coconut water, etc. are all available to be sampled. If you’re looking for Coke or Pepsi, this is definitely the wrong truck for you!
Can we also discuss the branding? I love the bright red colour of the truck and the fun logo. The bistro tables are also vibrant red and are a welcome splash of light and fun on such a dreary corner.
If you visit Chow Down – and I think that you should – you should also know that they take Interac and credit cards as well as cash. I plan to return to this truck before leaving Ottawa in order to either track down the elusive papaya salad or to try out the bánh xèo.
You can follow Chow Down on Twitter @ChowDownFoods.