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Chef Jeff Bradfield's new Glebe food truck serves low-price, tasty bites

Now that the robbery and heat wave are behind him, chef Jeff Bradfield is settling into operating his new business — a food truck called Fifth Dimension Snack Bar on Bank Street.

Formerly the chef at Bar Lupulus and, before that, Social in the ByWard Market, Bradfield, 33, struck out on his own this month. His truck located in the parking lot of Kunstadt Sports at the north end of the Glebe would have opened sooner, except that in late June, a day before the truck was to open, a thief broke and took soft drinks, cheese curds meant for poutine, and power tools that had been used to do finishing touches on the truck.

When the truck did open in early July, the sweltering temperature each day was in the mid-30s. Bradfield’s girlfriend, Sophie Malo, who works in the truck with him, said: “We both almost got heat stroke. It was terrible.”

“Now we’re good,” Bradfield said. “I’ve kind of found my rhythm.”

Bradfield’s menu, which stresses the seasonal and house-made, consists of fewer than a dozen items, ranging from snack-bar staples to more chef-y fare.

Bradfield said that at first, he wasn’t going to sell fries, burgers and poutine. But then he figured he had to, if only because that’s what similar looking businesses do and that’s what curious, first-time customers might be looking for.

“I’m just going to do them hopefully a lot better than everyone else,” Bradfield said, speaking, you might say, with the confidence of a chef who competed last year in Ottawa’s Gold Medal Plates competition, and who at Social and Bar Lupulus made some very well-received dishes.

Last week, Fifth Dimension’s menu included a vegetarian “oyster” po boy sandwich made with oyster mushrooms, and a salad of stinging nettles, pig cheek and strawberries.

I sampled Bradfield’s made-in-house, poppy-and-sesame-seed bagel laden with pig-cheek “pastrami” that was made with meat from Mariposa Farm in Plantagenet. Practically a colourful still life — “”I like my bright yellows and purples,” Bradfield said — the bagel was slathered with Haskap berries mixed with chèvre (goat’s cheese), and the pig cheek was topped with fennel stained yellow by turmeric and slices of pickled finger chilies. In all, the sandwich was as vibrantly tasty as it was beautiful, and my red currant ice tea was novel and refreshing.

How much of Bradfield’s more involved fare is made off-site and assembled in the truck? “Right now, I do everything in the truck because I don’t have a site,” Bradfield said. “It’s fun. I’m having a good time.”

The cost of that gourmet bagel, by the way, was just $6. “It’s a fine line to find the good stuff to use here that I can also sell for a competitive price,” Bradfield said.

A burger here is $6, while the cheese burger made with house-cured bacon is just $8. “A $15 burger doesn’t makes sense” for his food truck, Bradfield said.

The chef said he left Bar Lupulus two months ago because he was “fed up with being told what to do with my food … I wanted to take criticism from guests, not from higher-up owners who I didn’t agree with.”

Anthony Spagnolo owner of Bar Lupulus declined to comment on Bradfield’s departure but said he wished him the best with his food truck. Replacing Bradfield at Lupulus is Justin Champagne, formerly the sous-chef at Atelier, chef Marc Lepine’s award-winning and cutting-edge restaurant on Rochester Street.

Bradfield said that after he left Lupulus, he was “unemployed completely for a week.” But then the opportunity to open Fifth Dimension, which was essentially a turn-key food truck ready to go, fell into his lap like a “complete coincidence,” and he took the plunge.

He did have notions about opening a larger-scale business, but said: “At my age, my savings weren’t super-high.”

Still, Bradfield has personalized the business so that it means something to him. It’s named after an Ottawa-based band that his recently deceased father, a drummer, had played in decades ago. The snack bar’s logo is the same as the design that had been on his father’s bass drum.

“I opened this up in his honour,” Bradfield said.