‘Tis the season to go eat outside: here’s a quick round-up of what’s out there and where to find it. Most places operate during regular lunchtime hours. And don’t forget to vote for your favourite in the poll below!
Visitor’s Centre parking lot.
Wiseguy’s menu has always been full of crowd-pleasing, heart-stopping food you can brag about eating: the murderous and now rarely seen I Can Haz Cheeseburger (burger with bun composed of two grilled-cheese sandwiches), homemade kimchi, bacon jam; deep-fried Oreos. They’ve been nailing their modern burger joint flavour combinations with talent and artisanal attitude for a while now. Robin Wasicuna’s cooking is not exactly for the particularly health-conscious and he’s still doing his thing and doing it well this year, but we’ve noticed they’re pretty much sticking to the basics this summer, perhaps because they’re also busy prepping for the opening of their Twin Pines Restaurant at the Arnica Inn. Understandable, but we can’t help but miss the slightly more experimental days of last summer, when a pork belly surprise or something else deliciously offbeat would pop up on the menu regularly. We’re also iffy about the new highway-side location, but again, we understand that change is difficult.
Murray’s Curbside Treats n’ Eats
Alternates between in front of the Abe Miller Centre (4912 53 St.) and Franklin Avenue near the Greenstone Building.
It’s hard not to like Murray’s. Service and staff are consistently pleasant. The food as well: likeable. Murray Jones has been developing the menu based on customer feedback since he started up last year. He’s giving us deep-fried pickles, lemonade, smoked meat sandwiches, meatball subs and hot dogs — basically, the kind of eats you’d find at a country fair — because Yellowknifers like that in their street food. Murray has also been adding new weekly items too: his much-lauded Bannock Balls on Thursdays and on-point fish tacos on Fridays. It’s not gourmet food, but then it’s not pretending to be.
The Fresh Squeeze
Franklin Avenue, near the Greenstone Building.
The Fresh Squeeze is a little yellow oasis on wheels, offering light, healthy refreshment among the deep-fried carbs so popular in the YK food truck game. They’ve got their juice and smoothie selection down pat, and their limited food selection (“Asian” salmon or white bean sliders, chicken/pomegranate wraps) has a following, offering fresh ingredients and creative flavour combinations. It’s food that won’t make you hate yourself. However, it’s pricey, and some folks can’t get over that, complaining that portions are small for what you pay. That might be, but high-end ingredients don’t come cheap, and Fresh Squeeze’s flavours are definitely worth the cost every so often. (Though you may find yourself craving a deep-fried Oreo afterwards.)
One of a Thai
Visual Effects parking lot, 48th St.
The shiny new One of a Thai truck has been parked in front of Visual Effects this season. What delirium the smells of fresh Thai food must cause their employees daily. One of a Thai has got a great set-up going this summer, with colourful patio tables and chairs in the parking lot, and they’ve always got a healthy line-up filling the lot. This has been a fail-safe staple for YKers who want Thai food that is accessible to their taste buds, wallets, and lunch hour. The new food truck has allowed them to elevate their menu a bit, with some new home-style additions such as Khao Poon Sen Prik, an aromatic red curry-based soup (sometimes fish-based, sometimes chicken) with vermicelli noodles and veggies. And their ribs are can’t miss. Here’s hoping they keep broadening the menu and showing just how deep Thai cuisine really is.
Franklin Avenue in front of the 50/50 lot.
These Farmer’s Market favourites opened up operations today, serving up Indian comfort food items such as butter chicken, beef curry and samosas. Things could be a little spicier, but this is a welcome addition to the Food Truck scene.
114 Taltheilei Drive in Kam Lake.
One of Kam Lake’s little known treasures, tucked away in an industrial parking lot, Starvin’ Marvin is another international option for more exploratory eaters. Despite her location, owner Elena Rauch has created a quaint, cozy little spot serving up Russian cuisine. It’s out of the way for the downtown office crowd, but they still seem to get decent traffic, with a lot of burly men in greasy overalls tucking into a bowl of delicious borscht. It’s worth the trip.
Gastown Ltd. Parking Lot, Old Airport Road
The Gastown Grill has no wheels, and is located out on Old Airport Road, no one’s idea of a top destination, but it just might be the best-kept seasonal food secret in town. Next to the oddly charming little gas station with the Rent-A-Relics and the glowing sign offering bacon wrapped hot dogs year round, this little box consistently serves up food that’s way better than it needs to be.
Austin Smith (& Co.) are at the Grill this season. Smith started as a teenaged prep cook when the Grill opened in 2014, and quickly moved to head chef in the same year. He now runs the place (with the help of his sister full-time and his mother on occasion).
“All of our recipes are homemade, nothing pre-cooked or flash frozen,” says Smith. “We buy locally as much as possible. Our burgers are the most popular. We’ve been told we have the best burgers in town on countless occasions. Our BBQ sauce is a praised homemade recipe.”
This place is something special, and not just because of the whimsical feel created from eating fresh burgers and fries on a picnic table outside of a gas station. They’ve got two-handed burgers almost the size of your face, massive pulled-pork sandwiches that are quite possibly the best in town, and freshly hand-cut fries that definitely are. You guys, they even have old-school chocolate and vanilla milkshakes. They’ll be unveiling both strawberry and maple shakes next week, and have been hinting at a new secret menu item for the future.
(By the way, they’re looking for a part-time experienced cook to help with the lunch hour rush, if you’re interested.)
The Gastown Grill is open from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. almost every day, so there’s no need to hit the lunchtime panic button either. They’ll be running from May to the beginning of August this season: ending a little earlier than usual since Austin and his sister need to get back to school, after all.
UPDATE: The poll is now closed. See the results below: