1616 Sainte-Catherine O.
Bus: STM 15, 24, 57, 66, 165, 166, 427, 435
Visit: August 16, 2012
Over the course of Summer 2012, I’ve been visiting a series of places that have been on a shortlist. While they haven’t been the kind of places you would necessarily hear great buzz from, they were close to what I was personally interested in. That all changes with the second to last name on that list, Grumman’78. It’s been well over a year that I’ve been dying to try what they have to offer. While I didn’t visit the truck, I took myself to the counter, which ensures that you get your taco fix all year long.
There is a little background to this and it involves the ever growing food truck scene. For nearly 50 years, food trucks have been banned from roaming the streets of Montreal. As of right now, trucks are only allowed to show up at public festivals or at private events, which severely limit their range. This has been a hot button issue on the island and the movement to make it legal again is gaining momentum. As a matter of fact, Food Network Canada’s Eat St. will be featuring our growing collection of food trucks in the spring of 2013. Most notable among them will be the Grumman’78 truck.
Last year, the food truck was all that the food eating community would talk about. Whether it be at events they held at their headquarters on Courcelle or through their partnership with Nouveau Palais, Grumman’78 has been on everyone’s minds. I took this picture in July of 2011. At that particular time, all that was around was the truck. You had to basically bide your time and exert extreme patience. It wasn’t until a few months ago where you could finally know where to go for upscale tacos. When a vacant spot at Faubourg opened up, Grumman’78 was quick to snatch it up, thus making their take on the taco more readily accessible.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Faubourg, it’s a place that has a lot of us in Montreal puzzled. Located right near the downtown campus of Concordia, it’s a prime location where a whole great deal of potential lies. That’s only if you look at it from the outside. When you enter the place, you see exactly what’s lacking. There aren’t very many businesses thriving in that shopping center. I’ve even been told that the Concordia classrooms that are housed in the Faubourg aren’t up to par either. What’s disappointing is that there is so much potential, where shopping centers near the McGill campus are always jam packed with people.
Inside the Faubourg is a pretty good range of fast food counters at a pretty average looking food court. Located here are the rare and few independent establishments to be found in a setting like this. You don’t find many places like this in the downtown core. When you set foot in the west end of the food court, you will not immediately see the Grumman’78 counter. It’s actually located in the east end corner of the level, right next to a Dollarama.
The counter is open from 11:30 a.m. all the way to 8 p.m., which takes advantage of the busy office worker and student crowd. I arrived at the location shortly after opening. The whole process took about 30 minutes and it was a little slow at first, but really picked up by noon. The staff were really personable and there was no pressure for a first-timer like me. Once paid, they give you an order number so that you can clearly identify your order as you wait.
The ordering process is quite simple. All the signage is very clear. Unlike other fast food places, there are no pictures of what you’ll be eating. Being used to sit-down restaurant, that’s a good thing. You have the choice of 4 different kinds of tacos and a series of side dishes. If you really want to spend big, you can purchase a Grumman’78 t-shirt for $15. In all, for the amount of food you get, you’re not paying anything that much more different than any other place, especially with the quality and reputation you’re getting.
As you can see, my approach for this day’s ordering was quite simple. I ordered 2 different tacos and one very appropriate side dish. I heard varying bits of information as to how much to order for a complete meal. For me, getting 4 different components was pretty much what was simplest for me to do. The menu varies from day to day, so it’s kind of rolling the dice depending on when you show up. Then again, regardless of that, you’re bound to find something worth your fancy.
Before I get to discussing the tacos, I have to state that I am a taco newbie, where my only other experience comes from that other place that shall not be named. I’m going to try to give you the most insight that I can, but don’t expect precision and details. There’s a post by fellow blogger This is Why We’re Fat that does this a whole lot more justice.
Chicken Mole Taco
This taco contains a chile sauce, rice, creamed corn, onions and chicken.
Before getting to the inside details about the taco, there has to be a little strategy involved in getting the job done. You’re provided with a fork. I figured that was for the macaroni salad that comes with the chicken. The thing that is not so obvious at the start is how loaded these tacos are. I’m of the mind-set where I like to pick them up to eat them, but that wasn’t going to happen so easily. It’s probably best if you took the fork and leveled it off a bit before getting that done.
Of the two tacos I had, this one was probably the one that hit the spot more. It was actually my second choice in the taco draft that preceded eating. What I really liked about this taco was the fact that the rice and corn balanced out what the chile had to offer. Unfortunately, the chicken gets lost in all that. Even though this was my preferred taco of the day, the overflowing of goods overwhelmed me.
This particular dish is an item that I’ve been thinking about for a long while. I realize that when you go to a taco place, you should have the specialties. The thing is that I’ve heard extremely wonderful things about the fried chicken. I’ll be honest, my visit was fueled primarily by the fact that their chicken is ranting and raved about by almost everyone who tried it.
What pulled me here sooner was the fact that there is a very strong chance that it will no longer be on the menu come September. Over the Twitter airwaves, the Grumman’78 account let it slip that it was thinking of pulling it from the menu. React any way you want to that bit of information, but what I say is take advantage of it while you can.
I had high expectations going into this single, solitary piece of chicken. What you get here is probably the most beautiful drumstick I’ve ever seen in my life. As a matter of fact, it’s probably one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken during the last 3 years of doing this. It is now my computer desktop’s background, replacing the picture I took for Burger 100.
Having downed many buckets of fried chicken in my time, I’ve come to learn that there are three main things that judge how well it turned out. That first component is probably the most important one of the three. It’s the most popular part of most fried chicken, the skin. You need to have a really crispy skin, but not one that falls to pieces easily. One top of that, the skin itself has to have a taste of its own, with various spices. The chicken here passes the test with flying colours. Plus, it has a nice taste that reminds me of having sweet spareribs, which is only a positive.
The second important part of good fried chicken, to me, is how easily does the meat come off the bone. You don’t really want to fight the chicken. The meat has to follow you on a journey down to your stomach. That’s exactly what the chicken here did. It came off so fast that within seconds, I was out of chicken.
Lastly, the third and final deciding factor is how much finger licking do you do after the job is done. It may sound corny, but I’ve had chicken where I wanted to wash my hands quickly. When you lick the batter off your fingers, it’s like reliving what you just had. I can tell you that I spent the next few hours debating whether or not I should return just for one more piece.
I know that the fried chicken is not the specialty of the house, but they do it so well. When you’re able to write 7 paragraphs about one single, solitary piece of chicken, you’ve got to be doing something right. Like others before me, I’ll put this piece of chicken up against any other in the city and that includes the other place I shall not mention by name.
The fried chicken tops a bed of macaroni salad. From other accounts I’ve seen online, there were times where potato salad was included, but I was really glad to see macaroni. I’m a little ashamed that I’m bringing up that place I shall not mention by name, but they happen to have the best macaroni salad I ever had. With that being said, I’ve never come across macaroni salad that has ever come close to that, either from a grocery store or from any other place.
The macaroni salad here was quite satisfying. However, it would be hard to dislodge my loyalties to that fast food chain’s version. There was no funny aftertaste, unlike the grocery store version, so that was good. The thing I liked is how is soaked up that juices from the piece of chicken. It would probably be the second best macaroni salad I ever had.
Pimenton Feta Taco
This taco contains red beans, feta, and pimentons.
This was the last item I tried during my visit to Grumman’78. The reason I kept it for last was because of my infatuation with all things feta. I was also curious to see how the feta cheese would blend with everything else. My speculations was that it would do the opposite of the red beans.
This taco was a little tougher for me to think about since there were so many things I wasn’t so used to. What I said before about the other taco applies here. Making sure that you take some off the top before picking it up would be a good strategy. Even with that, I found that this particular taco was actually easier to pick up.
The big taste in this taco comes from the red beans. It’s something that I’ve never had before, so the only thing I can equate it too was red bean paste in Chinese sesame seed buns. The only real difference between the two was the fact that the red beans here were quite spicy.
Though it looked like there was a generous amount of feta, most of the pieces crumbled away and fell to the bottom. Trying to get the most out of each bite would have to include a good amount of feta. If you were going at the red beans alone, I think it would be a little too much, taste-wise.
Any way you want to look at it, I was glad to have tried both tacos that I did. Even for an introduction to a higher level of taco, I was satisfied as I was full the rest of the day. Portion sizes are a point of contention for a lot of people online, but it was fine with me. I’m actually looking forward to trying other kinds of tacos to see what works best with my tastes.
Faubourg may offer a wide variety of different cuisine, but nothing with the reputation of Grumman’78. No matter what you order at the counter, you shall be brought into a world of taco that can’t be found at any other chain Mexican restaurant in the city. Say what you want about portion size or messiness, it’s becoming part of the quintessential Montreal experience. After all, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Grumman’78 for blowing the food truck scene wide open and putting a crack into the ban that has so many of us up in arms. In the end, you haven’t experienced Montreal until you’ve had one of their tacos.