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The magic bus 

Why is the Happy Dude in Lawrencetown Beach so happy? Liz Feltham samples from Dude's Food's pleasing bounty.

There’s no doubt Lawrencetown Beach is a provincial treasure. A long stretch of sand along the Eastern Shore, the beach is a magnet for sunbathers and surfers, and the nearby walking trails, sand dunes and marshes are a haven for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

A little bit further along the road, just before the sign for Three Fathom Harbour, another happy surprise awaits: On the left is a hand-painted sign advertising Happy Dudes’ Surf Shop. If you take the left, across a short gravel driveway, you’ll reach a clearing housing not only the surf shop, but also Dude’s Food.

Dude’s Food is a takeout operating out of an old school bus. But banish any thoughts of ordinary school buses because before you even get to read the menu, you’re treated to a feast for the eyes. The bus is painted with a mural featuring skeleton pirates burying treasure on an island while their pirate ship waits in the bay. By the order window, there’s also an actual chest with large tentacles (octopus? squid? sea monster?) overflowing out of it down to the ground. The nearby surf-shack trailer is painted in a similar whimsical way and it’s all very silly in a fun, good way, even on this miserably rainy day.

The menu at Dude’s is surprisingly large for an enlarged “chip truck” and runs the gamut from breakfast to wraps to plenty of vegetarian options, including burgers and hot dogs.

Feeling in the mood for a bit of grease, we pick fish and chips (two pieces, $7) and chicken fingers ($5)—prices include HST, so this is cheap food—and wait in the car, the rain pouring down around us. The fry mistress kindly brings our order out to us when it’s ready and makes sure we have everything we need before she goes back to the bus. (Really, service at full-service restaurants should be so good!)

The chicken fingers are standard pre-frozen product, serviceable but unremarkable. The fish, on the other hand, is like a little piece of deep-fried heaven. The fish batter is excellent, lightly seasoned and not too heavy. Crispy without being greasy, it provides a perfect cocoon for the very fresh haddock nestled inside.

I’ve heard the coleslaw and tartar sauce are homemade and there’s nothing here that tells me any different. The coleslaw, a creamy blend of cabbage and carrot, is very good (although I usually enjoy a slightly more vinegary ’slaw). The tartar sauce is delicious.

Both the fingers and fish come with (be still, my heart!) handcut fries. Oh, the potato rapture! I’m lost in the bliss of the divine spud. The golden chips, the crunchy little bits that settle on the bottom of the plate, the fresh oil in which they’ve been fried—Dude knows chips.

It seems to me that not many people would find this place, aside from hard-core surfers, but this is the fifth season for Dude’s Food (and the first for the new operators) so it’s not as if it had just opened—somebody must be finding it.

Later, I’m back for some Hellfire Chili ($4) and a root-beer float ($3). The chili is great, as hot as promised, and comes with garlic toast. Next time, I’m going to skip the boardwalks, the piping plovers, the sand and the waves and go right for the breakfast burrito. No wonder Dude is happy.

Dude’s Food4891 Highway 207Three Fathom Harbour (4km past Lawrencetown Beach)Tue-Sun 10:30am-duskClosed Monday

Duuuude, surf your way to more Feltham online: www.foodcritic.ca.

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