Portobello Burger takes influence from rock concerts and the healthy-eating scene in equal measure. The husband-and-wife duo behind the truck aim to take a nutritious, adaptable menu of vegan, vegetarian, raw, and gluten-free delights, and bring them to music festivals, outdoor shows, and anywhere else where burgers and hot dogs tend to be the life of the party.
The truck’s origins have roots in a personal struggle. Co-owner Sean Watson was inspired to create the business after being diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. “I was going through my kind of healing, I guess you’d say, I still stayed pretty active by doing the things I love, which is music and concerts and a lot of live entertainment,” he says. “I noticed that at these venues, there really wasn’t much for people with dietary restrictions, or to eat healthy in general. It seemed that there was only that world of hot dogs and french fries.”
Five years ago, they hit the road for the first time – first, setting up under a tent at different festivals, then using a trailer – with a menu of hearty vegan and vegetarian snacks. They started with blues and jazz festivals, but eventually became a common sight at the Molson Amphitheatre, where they serve outside the venue.
Oh, yeah – they’re also common guests backstage. “We do a lot of catering for concerts,” he says – KISS, Motley Crue, the Tragically Hip, to name a few. “I’m a music freak. Anything like that is just ‘Wow, we’ve gotten to where we wanna be’.”
If given the chance, though, they’d rather be out front – “that’s where the party’s at.”
As you might have guessed from the name, their portobello burger, topped with goat cheese, chipotle mayo and sweet red peppers, is the biggest draw. (Recently, they started offering it in gluten-free wraps and buns; you can also have it on a bed of lettuce.)
“It’s very filling. That was our goal – not to just serve up rabbit food, so to speak. We wanted people to eat at our truck and feel satisfied and full.”
The other crowd fave: Their tostadas, which feature black and garbanzo beans, sauteed onions, cilantro, salsa and cheddar cheese.
They also feature a selection of quinoa and kale salads, and omnivores and vegans alike are drawn to their desserts: “We do all raw, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free desserts for our pies and brownies and stuff. People seem to just eat that up – no pun intended.”
The menu is ever-evolving to suit diners’ dietary needs, and always features something for everyone. “We’ve learned from the public what’s needed, and what people want,” Watson says.
“Even though it’s a bit of a struggle sometimes, because we see that the lineups for hot dogs and fries are double the size of ours sometimes – still, when you get that thank-you or that email or that phone call, people saying ‘Thank you, thank you for being there’ – I think we’re on the right track.”