True North Eats
Address: 1666 Bank St, Ottawa
Hours: 11am – 6pm (Tue – Sun); closed Monday
Website: https://truenortheats.com/ (not in service as of writing)
Green factor: Recyclable and compostable containers; no bins on site
The pandemic has forced huge changes on all of us, and small business owners have had many wrenches thrown into their typical business plans. The folks at True North Eats normally stick to the busy summer festival and event scene in the Ottawa area, but with the lack of large gatherings, they have had to adapt. As such, their rustic shack-on-a-trailer has taken up residence along the busy commercial stretch of Bank Street just south of Heron.
Since they set up shop there, I have made a couple stops for lunch. It’s not the most hospitable area to sit down and eat, so plan to grab and go.
The menu has some familiar chip wagon-ish items (fries, poutine, hotdogs, burgers), but in addition to classing those items up, takes things up another notch with options like the Nashville hot chicken sandwich, a lobster roll and a Cajun lobster and bacon poutine. If you’re not a meat eater, they also have alternatives from their vegan business personality, Twigs & Taters, like a vegan poutine and a “chic’un” sandwich.
On my first visit, I kept things a la carte to sample a couple things from the menu without filling up on fries. It was an easy choice to go with the Nashville hot chicken sandwich ($8), which I paired with the lobster roll ($12) after the owner told me that it was a big draw. I was impressed with the pricing in general, but especially with the lobster roll, as most others in the city are in the $20 range.
The lobster roll was up first, since lingering in the summer heat isn’t known to do them any favours. Unleashing it from its foil wrap revealed a top-split bun with buttered and grilled sides, chunks of all-claw meat lightly dressed in mayo, with a sprinkling of celery – solid fundamentals at first glance!
However, the first couple bites all but confirmed by suspicions – this was frozen lobster. The price tag and presence of only claw meat were two warning signs, and the watery texture of the meat sealed the deal. As a born and bred Nova Scotian, I’ve had my fair share of lobster, and this didn’t have the texture of a fresh, live-cooked one. The flavour wasn’t bad, and it’s certainly more accessible than the aforementioned $20 lobster rolls, but it just wasn’t making the cut for this East Coaster.
Luckily, the Nashville hot chicken sandwich was a big ol’ win. It didn’t have the peppery cayenne-based heat of this now-ubiquitous style of fried chicken, but with wonderfully crispy batter, and tender and juicy meat, it was just a great chicken sandwich. Pickle coins and iceberg lettuce brightened things up a bit, while the squishy and lightly sweet bun made for great carb-based bookends.
Visit numero dos had me going for items more commonly seen at mobile food vendors – a double cheeseburger ($7.50) with a side of onion rings ($4.25).
A smash-style burger is where a ball of ground beef is firmly pressed onto a flattop grill for maximum contact to form a crisp crust, so I had high hopes for this burger, and True North Eats didn’t let me down. I got it topped with the works, minus ketchup (#TeamNoKetchup), and it was simple, burger perfection. The sear didn’t disappoint, and there was still a nice texture to the meat. Melty cheese and a toasted bun rounded out the burger fundamentals.
The onion rings were of the battered variety, and the execution was spot on – crisp, with no dirty oil taste, and onions that didn’t pull out with the first bite. With a generous portion and a price tag less than a Laurier, I’d take these over A&W’s any day.
While True North Eats’ new location might be a bit less festive than their usual surroundings, they’re putting out some great comfort food that will fill your belly without emptying your wallet.