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Healthy eats hit the streets

The newest food truck in St. John’s offers more than just sausages and fries.

The Happy Camper food truck has changed the downtown eating landscape in St. John’s as it specializes in healthy foods from around the globe. — Photo by Laura Howells/Special to The Telegram

With a menu designed by one of the city’s top chefs, Happy Camper International Eats is bringing a unique and healthy flavour to the streets of downtown.

Happy Camper International Eats opened last week across from Mile One Stadium. The food truck, specializing in healthy and affordable international cuisine, is already accumulating an enthusiastic clientele, attracting long lineups daily.

“It’s phenomenal. We can’t believe it really. It certainly was not expected that people would respond to it like this,” said owner Kathie Hicks.

“Obviously St. John’s is ready for it. St. John’s is looking to get healthy. They want healthy foods.”

Hicks was looking to open a restaurant, but when the former Long Dick’s Sausage Emporium truck came on the market she jumped on the opportunity. Her mandate is to give people what they wouldn’t normally make at home.

The menu is diverse, and includes items such as pan-fried cod tacos, an Asian rice bowl, Indian curry and Jamaican jerk chicken.

Juices and smoothies, healing tea , and dessert options, to name a few are available on the menu. All items cost less than $10.

Hicks designed the menu with former Atlantica chef David Battcock,

“I just took the leap with him and said if we’re going to do this, let’s just do it and do it right,” said Hicks.

“When you’re taking money from people it’s got to be good, and right. I can’t stand taking people’s money if they don’t have a good time or the food’s not good.

Clean eating is a major focus of Happy Camper, with superfoods that are high in nutrients and health benefits a primary part of the menu.

“People are just starting to understand about superfoods, like rhubarb is a superfood,” said Hicks. “Newfoundlanders don’t understand how good it is for them. It’s got really high level of antioxidants, high fibre. Oh my God, it’s got so many great properties.”

Happy Camper uses only organic cane sugar and organic honey, and everything is cooked in coconut oil.

“It’s clean eating. It just makes your body feel good”

Hicks said she is having a fantastic time running the truck so far.

“It’s just awesome, poking your head out and chatting with people and just connecting,” she said. “It gives you a great chance to connect with people. In a restaurant you’re in the back of the room, but with this you’re right out there. It’s no wonder I’m smiling.”

Customers seem equally happy about the new business.

“I’m excited to see food trucks like this downtown,” said first-time patron Sherri Lockyer.

“There’s not a lot of options just walking around for quick food on the go. We keep seeing a lot more of these shows on about food trucks and keep thinking, why can’t we have something like that here? So it’s great to see that they’re actually starting to have that.”

Matthews Dines agrees.

“I usually like trying a lot of different foods. I travel a lot,” he said. “So it’s nice when new things open up in St. John’s because I’ve kind of been around and tried everything already.”

However, for all its fun, a food truck poses unique challenges.

“It’s a food truck. You’re on the side of the road. There’s no storage. There’s no water. There’s no sewage,” said Hicks.

“I know we’re kind of making it look easy, but it’s a very difficult one to manage, because you only have so much room in there.”

Although Hicks originally thought she would close the truck during the winter months, at the rate business is going, she may reconsider. She hopes to expand and open more food trucks across the island, however finding trucks is proving to be a challenge.

“They’re difficult to find because they’re kind of sexy right now. Everybody’s hopping on,” she said. “ I’ve got two offers to buy mine already.”

Happy Camper International Eats is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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