O ne look at the cute angular cartons heaping with glistening, golden-brown “frites” (Belgian-style fries) or the Grilled Fluffernutter with Bacon sandwiches in the hands of blissful customers, and it’s clear that the motto on the side of the Fryborg food truck, “Resistance is futile,” is more than a good Star Trek reference.
The guy behind the mobile grill is 35-year-old Jonathan Gibbons. A decade ago, the Bethany native was in Brussels, Belgium, known for its fabulous frites, and bought some “from a little shack,” he recalls. At the time, there weren’t many places back home making fries in the Belgian style (hand-cut, double-fried, served with all kinds of dipping sauces)—certainly none served off a truck—and Gibbons saw a golden opportunity.
He held on to that vision for these past ten years while working as a bartender and bar manager at eateries known for top-notch suds and grub (including New Haven’s Delaney’s and Hamden’s MiKro). Though Gibbons had never cooked in a commercial kitchen before Fryborg, he picked up a few tricks of the trade through “careful watching” and “asking a lot of questions.” Last August, the dream to straighten up and fry right finally became a reality with the launch of the truck.
The process that makes Fryborg’s fries a cut above—irresistibly crisp on the outside, soft and potato-y on the inside—starts at 7 a.m. daily, when Gibbons can be found hand-cutting Russet potatoes and soaking them in cold water. He’ll then blanch them in oil at a relatively low temperature (referred to as “the first fry”) and allow them to cool until show time—the second fry—which is done to-order at a higher temperature, ensuring they’re sent out hot and fresh.
During morning prep time, Gibbons whips up more than a dozen dipping sauces offered daily on the truck, which are key to full frites enjoyment. Though you can always opt for good ol’ ketchup, each order of Fryborg fries ($5) comes with your choice of two dipping sauces. Gibbons’s personal favorite is the Herbes de Provence Mayo, but you can pick from Balsamic, Pesto, or Old Bay Mayos; Smoky, Curry or Spicy Ketchups; Buffalo Ranch; Honey-Mustard and more.
Upgrade to an order of specialty fries ($6-$8) and you’re faced with the delicious dilemma of deciding between BLT Fries (topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, chopped bacon and mayo—a big hit with the George and Church Street crowds); Assimilation Fries (topped with a fried egg, American cheese, 1,000 Island dressing and onion—a favorite on Whitney and Wall Streets); the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Fries (which “sell out everywhere,” says Gibbons. “You can’t go wrong putting a fried egg on top of anything!”); Brie and Apricot Fries (with brie cheese sauce and apricot preserves); Chicken Pot Fries (chicken, carrots, celery, peas and biscuits); and Italian Fries (topped with pesto mayo, tomato and Pecorino cheese).
The menu marches on with Fryborg’s grilled sandwiches ($6-$8), each served warm, fries on the side. Kick it old school with the Grade School Grilled Cheese (on buttered, locally-sourced sourdough—part of what makes these sandwiches so good), or the Fryborger (a cheeseburger on that same, wonderful grilled sourdough), or find a new love in the Grilled Banana Split (Nutella, strawberry cream cheese and banana on brioche); Grilled Pistachio Pear (pistachio cream cheese and vanilla-pear compote on brioche); or the popular Grilled Fluffernutter with Bacon (a twist on the classic peanut butter-and-Fluff, grilled and served with bacon). That particular combination came to Gibbons “as just a happy, drunk accident one night with me and my friends. And people really like it; I really like it. I’m trying to do things a little bit differently.” In addition to Hummel Bros. hot dogs and red hots, Gibbons also offers a rotating selection of sausages like the recent Andouille Po’ Borg special, a play on a classic New Orleans Po’ Boy.
Gibbons gets to scratch his barkeep itch (sort of) with the thoughtful selection of “real sugar sodas in glass bottles” he sells on the truck. (Though Gibbons is a self-described “beer guy,” sadly, it ain’t legal to sell it off a truck.) He doesn’t sell anything with high-fructose corn syrup or Nutrasweet in it (Stevia makes the cut because it’s considered more natural), and thinks of soda as more of a “treat” than a default, go-to beverage. “If you make it feel like you’re drinking something special, that’s how it should be. It’s more of a European attitude toward soda.”
In addition to a fine list of flavors from New Haven’s own Foxon Park, Avery’s (of New Britain), Maine Root and Reed’s—like white birch, cherry-ginger ale, blueberry, peach, vanilla cream, sarsaparilla, and mango—you’ll find Hank’s sodas, which Gibbons personally drives to Pennsylvania to stock up on since Hank’s doesn’t distribute to the Northeast. “It is the best black cherry soda I’ve ever had in my life,” explains Gibbons, who first fell for the stuff when he tasted it as a student in Philly. “Whenever I’m driving through Pennsylvania, I stop and pick up a bunch of cases and bring it back. I gotta go make a run and get some more.”
Gibbons’s spirited, soda-smart palate recently spawned a Fryborg exclusive: the private-label Fryborg Fizz Pistachio Cream soda, produced by Avery’s using Gibbons’s own recipe and sold at his truck. Its subtle blend of vanilla and pistachio is refreshing and not overly sweet—a fitting froth for any Fryborg feast.
Parked at various locations Tues-Fri 12-4pm | Reserved for special events Sat-Sun
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Written and photographed by Kathleen Cei.