Husband and wife run epic eats on wheels, Johnny & Mae’s is leading the charge for the food truck craze in Newfoundland and Labrador
It started with humble chip wagons. Delectable late night eats pumping out golden fried goodness to satisfy cravings brought on by the munchies or a buzz that can only be tamed by the salty stuff.
Full blown revolution
Yes, chip trucks, led by the iconic Ziggy Peelgoods, have been an institution in Newfoundland’s ‘food culture’ for decades. Today, the food truck movement has become a full blown revolution. There’s ethnic fare to suit those cravings for Mexican, Indian or Asian influences. And then there’s Johnny & Mae’s.
Conjured up by the husband and wife duo of Kyle and Alicia McKenna – the dream-team that made Blue On Water’s Hitchen the Kitchen priority eating for years before taking the plunge and opening their own holy haven for food lovers – Johnny & Mae’s is decadence between two buns.
House-made, carefully crafted ingredients made with hours upon hours of TLC top melt in your mouth burgers, impossibly addictive fries that are destined to be poutined, and sauce-and-tossed chicken sandwiches that will put the Colonel’s big crunch to shame.
And what’s more, Johnny & Mae’s is a hit. Don’t believe us? Take a drive to Kings Bridge Road any day of the week to see the massive lines of eager customers that prompt sellouts on a daily basis. Business, as they say is booming.
“We definitely didn’t expect to be this busy but we’re super pumped about it,” shared Alicia, the always eager face of the truck that greets every customer with a smile.
“I mean, we did have a pretty nice following of people that heard about us before,” she adds. “So we’re really grateful to all of our customers that decided to give us a shot and for all our new customers that have just heard about us through word of mouth and have been sharing our posts on social media, really reaching out to us and coming out.”
But the McKenna’s infatuation with food, one that has led them to such wild and delectable creations as fried chicken between honey-buns, goes well beyond the food truck craze sweeping the island. Their love for sweets, salts and sours have taken them across the globe, where they call Vietnam home for a large chunk of the year.
“We do eat a lot of food when we’re away. I basically call the winters a food tour and we try everything,” Kyle laughs. “We bring back all kinds of ingredients, chilies, peppercorns, different dried things. So we’re really fortunate to get to be snowbirds for six months of the year and see different cultures and meet different people with different experiences. Food is a lot of memories and I think that when you travel and try different food you build on your culinary memories.”
Johnny & Mae’s has adopted one of the more effective social media games in the province. While Kyle and the kitchen crew spend the early morning hours making everything from fresh patties from Halliday’s Meat Market, to every sauce you can think up from scratch, Alicia is promoting the brand and making 9-5ers everywhere drool with clear-cut photos of the revolving menu and important facts on the who’s, what’s and when’s of the business.
“With social media people get to see these different types of cuisines,” she says. “I can go to Toronto for example and I can eat Vietnamese food or I could eat Korean food or I could eat Indian food. And now it’s like people want to have those options here in St. John’s as well and not just see it on social media.”
The pair credit the support of family, friends and of course their growing fan base of repeat customers with helping to grow the Johnny & Mae’s name. It’s a tireless job that goes well beyond park, sizzle and serve, but it’s one the McKenna’s embrace since the day they stepped outside of their comfort zones to put the Newfoundland food scene on permanent notice.
“We are so fortunate to have had so much support. But we definitely also went out of our comfort zone,” Alicia explains.
“We got married four years ago, bought a house, had all the things. Three years ago we sold everything, quit our jobs and kind of decided to up and do this. And it was uncomfortable the first couple months. It was still great but it was definitely the cliche, like taking a leap and getting out of your comfort zone. And then we found something that we truly love and we’re super blessed that it worked out so well that we can come home in the summers and do this. But I definitely think it was us getting out of our comfort zone and it worked out really well.”
Visit Johnny & Mae’s on their official social medias for daily menus and hours. The truck is predominantly located in the parking lot of St. Thomas Parish on Kings Bridge Road in St. John’s.