The Big Orange Lunchbox in Charlottetown
We spotted it pretty easily as we drove down University Avenue in Charlottetown. Big and orange, the food truck lived up to its name. It was just a shade after 11am—Rachelle, Matt, Mitchell and I were on our way back from a long weekend on the North shore of the Island, and since we had missed the truck in our first foray into the big city, we decided to meet my sister in town and hit it up on the way back to Halifax. There were a few people milling around and chatting, but the slats on the side of the van that transform it from a simple truck to a Food Truck were closed. It was basically like being in the beginning of the movie Transformers, before Bumblebee finally reveals himself. Except the next 90 minutes we spent there had 100% less explosions and was 1000% more enjoyable. (At least.)
When the truck windows finally opened, we wandered over and took a look at the big whiteboard with the menu on it. It’s full of burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and various soft and hard tacos. Halibut, pulled duck, chorizo and Island beef and pork dominate the menu. By the time we’d decided what we wanted a small queue had formed and someone had stolen our table, one of the two that sat out on the beat up parking lot in front of the truck. Another stack of chairs and a few more folding tables sat to the side.
It took about 20 minutes from our order to get the food. It’s definitely not fast. But it was worth the wait in the grey drizzle that started to form as we sat there twiddling our thumbs, and trying to wipe off the greasy coating that formed on our cans of pop in the cooler by the truck. (The only low point in this al fresco meal.) The halibut burgers were sold out and the halibut poppers that had been on a previous incarnation of the menu and had originally made me fall in love with the idea of the Big Orange Lunchbox were no longer on the menu, but thankfully halibut tacos were still available. We got one of those in soft taco form (flour tortilla), two burgers—the Firehouse and the Predator—made with spicy chorizo patties, a Porky Pigg grilled cheese that combined smoked applewood pork, bacon, a Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce and gooey cheese, some unbelievable French fries, and some of the best gravy I’ve ever had.
We shared bites from one another’s sandwiches, oohing and ahhing over each delicious, greasy morsel. Everything was cooked wonderfully. Toppings that seemed like they could verge into overkill upon reading the menu were all used with a deft hand, and while the burgers were bold and flavourful, they were also an easy handful. The halibut was beautifully cooked, and the use of boursin, which I had qualms about, worked really well in the mild taco. The grilled cheese sandwich had lots of punch from the pulled pork, but the star was still the melty ribbons of cheddar and provalone. The French fries were beyond description. They were my potato ideal. Crisp, but not too crisp: still slightly pliable. Pillowy and soft on the inside, bursting with potato flavour.
It’s everything I could want from a food truck: local ingredients, simple concepts, excellent execution. It’s fast food taken up a notch. It’s what I hope to see more of in Halifax once we finally get those by-laws fixed up and food trucks become commonplace outside of Burnside. (In case you didn’t know, there are actually quite a few food trucks tucked into the maze of Burnside, from Paul’s Fish & Chips and some other fish fry trucks, which are by far the most common, to Soups on the Move, an awesome homemade soup & biscuit truck.) Not that there aren’t some tasty food trucks in town already, but the more the merrier.
Meanwhile, if you find yourself in Charlottetown, you should probably keep your eyes open for the Lunchbox. You can’t miss it: it’s across the street from Burger King, usurping the throne.