Gigi and Big R: Caribbean meets America's heartland

Their specialty? The fish sandwiches: whiting dipped in batter, rolled in a bowl of secret seasonings and sent to the fryer.

July 18, 2011 2:42:35 PM PDT
This month Philadelphia held its very FIRST Vendy Awards, crowing the top street chef from the city's more than 500 savvy street foodies. The winner? A mobile spice-fest on wheels where island cuisine and home-style soul food share the driver's seat.

"It all started with a little small truck, about 10 years ago," says Thomas Bacon. "And it basically had a deep fryer in it."

Thus was born Gigi and Big R, where the Caribbean meets America's heartland.

Thomas Bacon is serving up his mother Gigi's soul food.

"Fried chicken, greens, potato salad, she had the best macaroni and cheese," Bacon says.

He's merging it with recipes his partner Rene learned from his mom, Mary, in Haiti.

"I make her oxtail, the jerk chicken and the rice and beans," Rene says.

They send their spicy, saucy fusion on wheels to the streets of University City.

"We love hot sauce here in this part, and when you throw in jerk seasoning, it's amazing," Bacon says. "It's like a party on a plate, where island flavors flirt with hearty home-style cooking."

Their specialty? The fish sandwiches: Whiting dipped in batter, rolled in a bowl of secret seasonings and sent to the fryer.

"If it is coming from the soul, it is coming from inside," Bacon says. "The love and compassion you have for cooking and serving people and having people smile and say 'Man, this is good.'"

Gigi and Big R are serving up regulars now in two trucks and in two restaurants in Philadelphia. They claim to have the biggest platters, so show up hungry or plan to share.

You can fund their trucks parked at 38th and Spruce streets and in front of 30th Street Station at 30th and Market. The restaurant locations include 5943 Haverford Avenue and 6830 Ogontz Avenue.

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