Despite helming something of a downtown food empire that includes a restaurant, university cafeteria and catering business, chef Ben Kramer really wishes he had a food truck.
So once the daily traffic at the university slowed down for the summer, Kramer and his staff came up with the next best thing - Back Door Lunch.
Back Door Noodle (Ron Cantiveros)
"The cafeteria is slow, we're super busy with catering so part of it is
to keep us busy, it's fun, it's Friday," Kramer says. "If only we could be licensed it'd
be even better."
Now, every Friday, diners can walk up to the receiving door at 401 Spence Street and order the weekly special, like customizable tacos, noodles and bento boxes.
"I think the idea with the back door food is to show that there's more than
hot dog carts," Kramer explains.
"You can still get cheap food, you can eat walking around
downtown and it doesn't have to be garbage. It can be real food. 90 per cent of it is fun for us, that 10 per cent is reminding people."
The launch of Back Door Lunch also helped mark Food Revolution Day, an initiative of Jamie Oliver's. Kramer is the Manitoba ambassador for the project and was tasked with coming up with a way to mark the occasion on May 17. "Everybody was supposed to hold an event and we thought that'd be a perfect way to launch," he says.
The first lunch was Back Door Tacos, by the second week, Kramer decided to add a fundraising element to the mix and donated 100 per cent of the profits - about $300 - to Winnipeg Harvest.
"We're going to cover costs, not lose money but donate a part of it. The original idea was to have fun, raise awareness of local foods and get outside," Kramer says.
He says they plan to switch up the menu every week, with popular favourites making return appearances and condiments and toppings changing seasonally.
Kramer doesn't do any formal advertising of what's on special every week, the only
way to keep track of what's coming out of the kitchen is to follow him on Twitter and watch for hashtags like #backdoornoodle for details. Back Door Lunch runs Fridays at 401 Spence Street (off Ellice) from 11:30-2:00.