Winter’s bite doesn’t stop customers from lining up

Calgary’s food truck industry is learning to adapt to the long, sometimes harsh winters.

For the customers they serve, it’s normally a tough decision when scanning a gourmet, mobile-meal menu, but standing in line outside in the middle of January catching whiffs of the savoury meats and hot ‘n’ homemade soup could make those choices no contest for any chilled customer.

“The borscht is great. You’re going to like it,” Ryan Hampton said, smiling charismatically from the window of the Perogy Boyz food truck to an on-looking customer before he had even ordered.

Hampton said he enjoys the warm winter days because he can do more exclusive services, like parking outside the new indoor food market — Casel Marché on 17th Avenue — while bumper-to-bumper with the boys of Mighty Skillet.

“Minus 20 to 30 degrees for us is too cold, but we end up staying open,” said John Scott, who works in the Mighty Skillet food truck.

A lone customer debates his mobile meal of the day.
Photo credit: Sharday Isaac
For example, on Jan. 15, the weather dropped well below -20 C as the boys of Mighty Skillet feverishly cooked up brunch in the community of Marda Loop — running out of food before all customers had had their fill.

The Mighty Skillet staff fired off the following tweet: “Pulling out already! Who knew we’d sell out when its -30C below. See ya next time Marda Loop!”

The Perogy Boyz planned for a much colder winter than expected but the brisk weather hasn’t stuck around enough to affect business yet.

“We were planning on staying open no matter what,” Hampton said, “but it’s just getting a little creative about where we go.”

And where do they go to find customers? You’ll find them near the Scotiabank Saddledome when the Flames are playing as well as at various locations throughout the city core over lunch and dinner.

  “Pulling out already! Who knew we’d sell out when its -30C below. See ya next time Marda Loop!” 

—Mighty Skillet Tweet

“There was one day in November that we closed because of the cold weather,” said Pascale Leroy of Perogy Boyz, putting emphasis on “one day” by repeating it twice.

Their red machine is slowly being “winter-proofed,” as the vendor truck is straight from Los Angeles, California, Leroy said.

He added that food trucks’ sunroofs and large-pane windows, normally nothing to worry about on a hot summer day, can pose problems when serving in such a fast-paced environment in the wintertime.

But, by operating at temperatures no colder than -12 C to -13 C the Perogy Boyz can continue to serve food without putting themselves at risk, he said.

And as the winter gets much colder, the Perogy Boyz said they will continue to serve their hot perogies — as long as the customers are willing to continue to try their exciting menu, Hampton said.

To find a truck near you, visit yycfoodtrucks.com.

lisaac@cjournal.ca