“A food truck? I had no idea that’s what it was,” says ISU student Alec Dietrich when asked about the London Bus. Very few ISU residents actually know what a bright-red British double-decker is doing on campus, but the few who do have discovered a truly unique way to do lunch.
The travelling restaurant that is “Two Blokes and a Bus Essential Street Food” has only been up and running for four months. But already, chef Jon Fritzen and co-owner, England native Steffan Block, have caused quite a stir in the Blo-No area.
The distinctive London bus, nicknamed “Victoria” after Queen Victoria, can be found serving lunch weekdays across Bloomington and Normal from 11:30 a.m. to 1p.m. Most Tuesdays and Thursdays it is parked on campus at the Alamo II.
Fritzen says it was a shortage of good restaurants in Blo-No that first prompted him to a life as a chef. “I used to give the town of Bloomington such crap,” he said. “Then one day I decided I could continue to complain or I could do something about it.”
A Bloomington native, Fritzen cooked alongside his current chef comrades – including Block – at Station 220 in Bloomington. Converting a 1958 double-decker that once rattled through the streets of London into a restaurant offered a challenge, however.
“Making the kitchen operable meant lowering the first floor about 3 inches,” said Block. “This was done so the chefs would not have to hunch about in the kitchen.” For the upstairs, choosing to recycle the old bus chairs as booth seats was a win for both creative design and his wallet, Block tells me.
Powered with 10 hours of propane, the first floor of the bus is the kitchen and cashier area. For customers who prefer to eat in rather than take-out, the upper-deck awaits.
When I dropped by the Bloke’s bus, I opted for the latter. Climbing the stairs to the second floor I felt as though I had been transported to London. A row of booths spans the length of the second floor along with the original 1950s bus seats surrounding each table. The feeling that the bus may start moving at any moment sneaks up on you just as the food arrives, hand delivered by Fritzen.
Those who have sampled the Bloke’s food have experienced Fritzen’s unique, ever- changing menu. The food served up is hardly typical of food truck fare – I had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into a spicy beef and Chorizo taco, creamy potato and Gruyere cheese soup and the most flavorful chocolate bread pudding I’ve ever had.
One of the secrets of good cooking, said Fritzen, is using fresh ingredients.
“We work with local farms for all of our fresh, seasonal produce. There is nothing more satisfying than digging your ingredients from the earth and preparing them yourself. You have to respect every ingredient,” he said.
Fritzen and Block are thrilled to be on campus and to be serving the students, but for the Blokes one big question remains.
“Where are all the students?” asks Fritzen. “Our prices are fair, the concept is unique, our food is considerably better than dining center food and we could not have a better, high-traffic location. Where is everyone?”
Fritzen’s frustration is easily understood, as many students continue to view this double- decker diner as a random occurrence on campus. However, the Bloke’s bus information can be found on their Facebook page where the owners update locations of the bus weekly.
This is absolutely one experience you cannot afford to pass up, because after all everyone gets tired of dining center food at some point. Why not take advantage of this unique opportunity and take out your wallet for a meal you will not regret…