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Pinky D’s: Behind the iconic Friday night poutine truck

May 14, 2021

Cheng Xing
FOODIE FRIDAY Students line up on Friday night for student activities' weekly "Friday food truck" offering.

The Pinky D’s food truck, a mishmash of black and white checkers complemented by pink racing stripes, is nearly as colorful as the meal served out of it: poutine. The dish, a staple in Canada, is made of thick-cut fries topped with piping hot gravy and cheese curds, making it the perfect late night snack for hungry Bowdoin students.

The truck, owned by Randy and Deborah Smith, was created ten years ago but didn’t initially serve poutine. The Smiths originally planned to sell cupcakes out of the truck, but when the couple realized the profit margins would be too small, they switched to loaded tater tots, and then eventually to fries. The move to poutine was spurred on by customer requests.

“Somebody came to the truck one time and said ‘Oh my god, I haven’t had poutine in forever,’ and we said, ‘What the hell is that?’” Randy Smith said in a phone interview with the Orient. “We did a whole bunch of research, and we went from there.”

The switch from loaded tater tots and fries to poutine made it easier for the couple to market and improve their business. Since they sell one item and one item only, they have been able to churn out 200 to 250 meals per hour on an average night. To Randy Smith, who has more than 30 years of culinary experience, poutine is the perfect food for any kind of event.

“It’s great party food. You have your fork in one hand, and off you go!” he said.

Over the years, the company has opened up a storefront—aptly named the “Poutine Factory”—located inside the Side by Each brewery in Auburn. The expansion plays into the philosophy of Pinky D’s itself—which, according to Smith, is to constantly improve every aspect of the business. Improvements range from large changes, like completely changing menu items, to relatively small changes, like moving items around the truck to make poutine production more efficient.

“We talk a lot about getting better every day,” said Randy Smith. “I think that’s a classic philosophy, but I also think it’s a good philosophy in life.”

With a focus on efficiency and improvement, the Pinky D’s truck relies solely on event catering, opting not to sell food streetside. The catering-only policy has allowed for Pinky D’s to create a menu tailored to events that they cater. The menu, currently consisting of 17 items, is constantly expanding and is almost entirely gluten-free.

The couple also has plans to expand their operations in Maine by opening up a street taco truck. Randy Smith recently visited Los Angeles to learn how to make street tacos and adapt them to a Maine audience.

“As soon as you say ‘taco,’ people’s eyes light up,” he said. “It’s about making a good product, doing it right, and making people happy.”

Pinky D’s caters events across Maine but first got in contact with Bowdoin around five years ago when the College approached them to cater an event. The truck now regularly caters a range of Bowdoin events, from dances to the Colby-Bates hockey game. At events, the truck offers a variety of poutines that are meant to satisfy customers with any taste. Some of their most popular items at Bowdoin events are the buffalo chicken poutine and the chicken, bacon and ranch poutine.

The team at Pinky D’s said they enjoy working at Bowdoin primarily because of the atmosphere at the College and the interactions they have with students. Smith likes to joke around with the students that he serves to create a friendly atmosphere and encourage students to relax when they’re eating.

“The thing about a food truck versus a restaurant, you can joke around with customers more with a food truck,” he said. “Especially with the hockey and the football guys, the big tough guys, it’s wicked fun messing with them.”

Bowdoin students especially love the unique take on poutine that Pinky D’s offers.

“They’re just lovely,” Juan Atehortua ’24 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient, who visited the truck one night in March. “The last one that I had was the buffalo chicken. It was pretty good.”

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