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Keep on truckin’

Restaurateur Bill Pratt’s latest dining adventure marries food-truck flavours with a unique food-court concept

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Bill Pratt. Photo: Janice Hudson

Bill Pratt. Photo: Janice Hudson

Vibrant artwork depicts each Canadian province, a hand-forged metal helicopter hangs from the ceiling, and diners choose from three unique food-truck menus: Truck-Side has brought something entirely different to Halifax’s dining scene.

Touting the space as Canada’s first indoor food-truck food-court, the Burnside restaurant opened in early May and is the latest venture for restaurateur Bill Pratt.

Photo: Janice Hudson

Photo: Janice Hudson

Pratt opened the new 3,000-square-foot space next door to his Habaneros and Cheese Curds location at 600 Windmill Road. “This in-door food truck concept is one-of-a-kind in North America,” he says.

The combined space can seat up to 220 people, which Pratt says will draw in larger groups. “Where can 25 people go for supper? We can feed hockey and soccer teams by the busload.”

Separate trucks (each with its own team) specialize in fish and chips, Italian cuisine, and Asian noodles. “At lunch time, the great thing is speed of service,” says Pratt. “So if you’re in a hurry, you’ll get your meal in a few minutes.”

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Photo: Janice Hudson

He’s quick to refute the fast-food label, though. “Why does quick-service food have to be fast, processed food?” he says. “I’m going in the other direction and taking a little extra time. Everything here is made from scratch. We make fresh focaccia each day, we make our own chorizo sausage, our own pulled pork, and we make the fries from scratch, too.” Pratt spent $43,000 on new fryers, ensuring that they all use separate filters to avoid cross contamination for people with allergies.

For the décor, he enlisted Halifax commercial artist Jake Seibert of Talking Wall Designs to create the colourful floor-to-ceiling mural that encompasses the interior. It showcases each region of Canada with matching landmarks, landscapes and animals, including enormous 3D versions of Halifax’s Macdonald Bridge and Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge.

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Photo: Janice Hudson

“I wanted a masterpiece of something representing each province,” Pratt says. “What makes the [display] sing is the thoughtful lighting. The CN Tower is lit up and it cycles through different colours. The trucks, lamps and bridges, the dragon and the helicopter all have lights.”

Seibert had been working on the installation since last December. “I had over 7,000 square feet of wall and truck to paint,” he says. “It challenged all of my skills: landscape, architecture, wildlife, lettering. The only thing missing is portrait painting, but maybe I’ll include Bill in there somewhere [laughs].”

For Pratt, such attention to detail also shines through on the menu side of things; he has been testing recipes for the past several months. “It comes back to preparing real food,” he says.

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Photo: Janice Hudson

He uses local suppliers for meat and vegetables, and goes to great lengths to bring in specialty items. “I’m sourcing a sweet tomato from California that has an amazing sweet flavour called the Stanislaus tomato,” he notes. “I’m not using the same tomato as every other restaurant.”

He is also making the sauces and condiments in-house, including mustard pickles for the fish. “We pickle by the barrel load,” Pratt says.“We took our chef’s grandmother’s mustard pickle recipe and tweaked it with curry flavour. We took it to another level and put our own spin on it, which makes us unique.” 

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