One of the best cultural phenomenons to begin sweeping Ottawa is the food truck revolution. Prior to 2013, most of the trucks you’d find in the city carried your local staples: fries, poutine, and hot dogs. However, as brick and mortar prices continue to soar to new highs, many fantastic local chefs drew inspiration from the food movement that was capturing the big cities throughout the United States, and moved on to food trucks.
From a business perspective, it’s brilliant; it keeps the overhead low, and allows the vendor to concentrate on volume. It caters to the white collar government crowd, who are under time deadlines and don’t get a long lunch break. Top level cuisine at fast food speed – a winning formula every time.
Streat, located at the corner of Albert and O’Connor, is exactly the kind of business that was built to thrive in this city. Owned and operated by chef Ben Baird, formerly of The Urban Pear, the concept is simple: Take fresh ingredients, create something amazing, and blast out awareness on social media. It works. Every night before bed, the next day’s menu is Tweeted out, giving hungry consumers time to dream about the mouth-watering lunch they’ll be having the following day. It’s a cerebral marinade; custom made with a rich base of hashtags and likes, and limited to 160 tasty characters.
I hit up Streat on Thursday, on a day they were highlighting the grilled cheese. Grilled cheese is universal, the ultimate comfort food for all that ails you, between sopping up creamy tomato soup to warm your soul on a gloomy rainy day, or piled high with greasy bacon to ease a hangover. If you don’t immediately feel better just thinking about grilled cheese, then quite frankly, I don’t want to know you.
There were two options available, and both sounded amazing. Choosing between the spiced chili with mozzarella and monterey jack, or the eggplant and sundried tomato with fontina and mozzarella was like having to pick your favorite child. With just a single appetite at my disposal, and the front of the line drawing closer, I had to make up my mind, and fast. After a painful internal struggle that felt like a UFC pay-per-view, my inner-carnivore defeated the timid plant eater, and it was chili time.
At $14, this is not your standard grilled cheese platter. It’s rare I’m happy to shell out that kind of money for a single meal, let alone a sandwich – but Streat makes it worth your while. The chili is thickened, and as a result is able to adhere to the sandwich without making a mess. Well seasoned, it had the smokey paprika and sharp cumin I would expect, with a brush of spiciness. The bread was fresh made and sliced thick, grilled to crunchy golden perfection. Even the chick peas are elevated, with a Greek inspired oregano and feta olive oil dressing to really liven them up.
I’m a pretty basic guy, living in a brown-bag lunch world most of the time. Once in awhile, I like to splurge, and Streat is exactly the kind of food I’m looking for. Recognizable ingredients, heightened by a cook who understands flavor. His daily creative energy leaves an endless array of options and surprises, and you never know what lies in store until that Tweet shows up. Such an easy combination, but so rarely executed in such fine form.