North America has seen a boom in specialty food trucks in the last few years. In climates that will support it, they can operate year-round – but in Canada, most food trucks have to pack up and hibernate from late fall until spring.
TRUCK-SIDE FOOD TRUCK FOOD COURT, opening mid-June 2015 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is taking the weather out of the equation by bringing the complete food truck experience indoors. TRUCK-SIDE is a quick-service restaurant offering five food truck-style menu options (Italian, Asian, Mexican, seafood, and gourmet burgers) in an indoor location designed to look and feel like an outdoor parking lot. TRUCK-SIDE offers the specialized menus of food trucks and the fun of eating community-style in a parking lot – but doesn’t include wind, rain, or mosquitoes.
A Certified Chef de Cuisine with over 36 years’ experience in the food industry, Bill Pratt is the founder, director and driving force behind TRUCK-SIDE.
Pratt served in the Canadian Navy for 27 years, retiring as Command Food Services Chief, in charge of all the cooks in the Navy. His inspired menus, excellent culinary skills and effective management style while working his way through the military ranks and cooking in CP Hotels and other fine dining restaurants set him apart from his competitors and colleagues. Recognized for his excellence in the professional kitchen, Pratt was chosen to serve on board the Queen’s Yacht Britannia for Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana; to compete on The Food Network’s most popular show, “Iron Chef America,” as Michael Smith’s sous-chef; to serve as Head Production Chef for the IOC during the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympics; and to act as Executive Chef for the Athletes’ Village in Whistler during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Over the past three years, Bill has opened and operates eight quick-service restaurants and a food truck (more precisely: a 45-foot former school bus tricked out to look like a giant gecko on wheels) in the Halifax area, under six different brands. Each of them saw early success, and his business continues to grow.
The TRUCK-SIDE space is truly original, and reflects Chef Pratt’s commitment to giving his customers a fun, fresh, original and delicious dining experience they can’t duplicate anywhere else.
Over the course of five months, Pratt and his team have turned a former warehouse space into an indoor food truck food court. Pratt commissioned a local artist to hand-paint a 25-foot-high, 360° mural celebrating Canada’s diverse urban landscape, and a local metalworker to create replicas of key iconic Canadian symbols. The mural includes 3D totem poles, a Sea King helicopter, and an illuminated CN Tower. Ten feet overhead as diners walk through the door is an eight-foot replica of Halifax’s MacDonald Bridge, which becomes Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Bridge at the other end.
Pratt purchased two former food trucks and his construction team sawed them in half to provide the ordering lines for three of the restaurant concepts. Each truck is painted and branded to correspond with its own menu – and located in an appropriate spot along the Canadian mural: the U-Pick Fish Seafood Shack truck is located in Atlantic Canada, Gweilo Asian Noodle Bar is in Montreal’s Chinatown, and lil Eatily Pasta Bar serves its customers by Toronto’s Little Italy on the mural. Pratt’s Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers + Poutinerie™ and Habaneros Modern Taco Bar, which have been serving customers at that location since the spring of 2013, now join their three younger siblings in the TRUCK-SIDE experience at 600 Windmill Road, in Dartmouth’s Burnside industrial park.
With the ceiling painted a bright blue sky, the floor painted like a parking lot, and custom-designed and -constructed wooden picnic tables (with decorative umbrellas) to encourage communal seating, Pratt has made TRUCK-SIDE as close to an outdoor dining experience as it could be… without having to close down for months each year.
Pratt’s considerable successes in the Halifax quick-service restaurant scene are the direct result of his focus on fresh, homemade, chef-inspired but affordable dishes with an unwavering focus on flavour – and he continues to uphold these values in his three new restaurant concepts at TRUCK-SIDE.
U-Pick-Fish offers a massive piece of house-battered and deep-fried fish with a heap of fresh hand-cut fries along with homemade coleslaw and tartar sauce. And while there are plenty of places in the Halifax area offering fish & chips, U-Pick-Fish is the only place a diner can choose between Atlantic haddock, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic halibut, cod, pollock, calamari, shrimp, and scallops – and then select their favourite coating and cooking method, from the house specialty Mega Crunch to pan-fried, baked, beer-battered or tempura-battered, and finally choose from among several different sides and sauces.
Gweilo (pron. “gwhy-LO”) Asian Noodle Bar offers custom-made noodle bowls and rice bowls with unique flavour combinations and a half-dozen protein options. Gweilo also offers menu items that include the diner’s choice from among several traditional “North American Chinese” favourites. For the more adventurous palate, Gweilo’s menu includes Asian BBQ Pork Belly, Vietnamese Lemongrass Pho Soup, and Dragon Fire Szechuan Noodles.
At lil Eatily, diners choose between a dozen pastas, in serious helpings; options include Maple Ginger Curry Chicken Penne. All of the sauces and many of the key ingredients, including the chorizo, and the pulled pork are made in-house. Customers also have the option to create their own dish by choosing their own combination of pasta, protein and sauce. lil Eatily also has a Caesar bar with every salad prepared fresh to order, using house-made creamy garlic and lemon dressing and fresh focaccia bread, this latter baked in-house every morning.
Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers + Poutinerie™ is the quick-service restaurant that introduced Haligonians to the products of Chef Pratt’s decadent culinary imagination. Cheese Curds’ menu, whose features include the Cheese Curds Donut Burger and Eggs Benedict poutine (for breakfast, of course) as well as a range of mouth-watering lunch and supper burgers, dogs and poutines (view menu) reflects Chef Pratt’s business philosophy.
“We make as much of our food from scratch as we can; whenever possible we support other local businesses; and we make every effort to minimize our impact on the environment. As a Nova Scotia family-run business, we offer more than incredible chef-inspired fare. We offer a completely unique gourmet experience no matter what choice you make from our menu.”
Habaneros Modern Taco Bar doesn’t serve authentic Mexican cuisine — it’s modern with a twist. Its menu puts a new spin on old favourites, from its BBQ Pulled Pork (which is slow-cooked in-house for 8 hours) to its signature Lime & Cilantro Sour Cream. The options for fresh toppings and house-made meats and sauces are unparalleled in our market (view menu) – and the result is both healthy, and delicious. Whether you love the classics, crave heat, or can’t resist mild and tangy, Habaneros will make your order exactly the way you like it.
Canada's Freakiest Food Truck! Habaneros was also the restaurant behind Halifax’s now-famous Gecko Bus, Chef Pratt’s first food truck, which has served thousands of hungry diners all over Halifax and was recently one of The Food Network Canada’s “12 Canadian Food Trucks Worth Checking Out.” For a sampling of its activity, search #geckobus on Twitter.
NEXT UP: FRANCHISING
Concurrent with expanding his restaurant business in the Halifax area, Pratt and his executive team have been creating a comprehensive franchise package for Cheese Curds Gourmet Burgers + Poutinerie™.
Pratt’s original 24-seat Cheese Curds restaurant was the very first gourmet burger concept in Halifax, and served the equivalent of half the city’s population, or 200,000 customers, in its first year. The Nova Scotia Restaurant Association named the original Cheese Curds restaurant the best new restaurant in Nova Scotia; Cheese Curds has since won numerous “best burger” awards in Nova Scotia and been named one of Where Magazine’s top 10 best new restaurants in Canada. Further information about franchising is available at