By Alex Gallacher
The town of Dorset is the gateway to Muskoka and Haliburton County depending on which way you’re going.
Robinson’s General Store has been a landmark in Dorset for years. Located right on the waterfront, it’s been a stop for many cottagers in the summer and snowmobilers during the winter. One thing that Dorset lacked however, was a proper food truck that operated year-round. When Mike and Katie Hinbest bought the Dorset general store and marina, they wanted to elevate the area by adding a quick snack stop.
Being avid snowmobilers themselves, the Hinbests wanted to find a way to have more people stop into Dorset on their way through the area. Listening to their customers, they were able to hear a lot of ideas and from that laundry list of ideas, the Moose n’ Paddle food truck was born.
“We were looking around for what the town needs,” said Mike. “Our customers wanted more year-round food options and we are big snowmobilers ourselves so we noticed Dorset needed a reason to stop. We started a Facebook group called ‘Sled Stop’ and at the marina we now have ‘the Fuel, the Food and the Fun’ as we call it. So it becomes more of a place to stop when you come through.”
Adding in a heated tent area and a fire pit, the downtown core of Dorset has grown to become a great place to grab lunch on your way through, and even stop in as a local. Aiming to kill as many birds as they could with one COVID-safe stone, the food truck is not just a food truck.
“I like to describe it as a high-quality restaurant inside of a food truck,” Mike said. “We have a five-star chef who does more than just your standard burger and fries, we’ve got steak frites, chicken and rice and yes, you can 100 per cent get a burger if that’s what you’re craving. We have vegan options, a gluten-friendly fryer – we have something for everyone.”
When it came to the menu, Mike knew what he wanted and entrusted his chef to work their magic to create the menu we see today. Two popular dishes are the paddlers 5 oz tenderloin steak frites with peppercorn demi-glace and the country smoke house burger. The gourmet dishes being served out of the truck have added that year-round, quick-stop food option the town needed.
A daily featured soup, chili or stew is listed as a ‘Soul Warmer,’ while an Algonquin herb grilled chicken sandwich on a potato scallion bun, Mediterranean sandwich and ‘the Leafer’ offer a warm lunch with an option to add herbed rice, fries, country coleslaw and BBQ baked beans. Breakfast options including a Good Ol’ Egger – a fried egg sandwich with cheese on an all-butter croissant roll – grilled peameal bacon BLT on a brioche bun or sausage on a bun offer a unique early-morning selection, while cheesecake with cherry sauce, caramel sauce or chocolate sauce provides a sweet treat. A kids’ menu is available as well.
The restaurant also offers an online ordering system so that food can be ordered in advance and ready when customers arrive.
Opening up in the winter is always tough, but opening up in the rural Canadian winter is an even bigger challenge. The community answered the call and stepped up to support the truck with open arms.
“The community has really supported us,” Mike said. “The winter is a harder time and they have definitely come on out as much as they can – the construction workers have been to grab a bite for lunch as well. In sled season and in the summer it’ll pick up, but we are fortunate to have a lot of compliments so far.”
Despite having no prior restaurant experience, Mike knew that there was a need in the community and he aimed to fill it. The Hinbests originally came from Orangeville and moved up north in part to be closer to the sledding trails. Having originally worked in the automotive repair business, they took a brief retirement before they decided the general store would be their next passion project.
“We had never sold groceries before buying the store, but we aim to tell our customers that we do more than that,” Mike said. “We sell Muskoka and Haliburton family memories. It’s all about the experience, and that’s what’s the most fun for us. Helping families build memories together, and leaving a lasting memory.”
The Moose n’ Paddle is open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Heated, covering seating is available.
Visit the Moose n’ Paddle in person at Robinson’s Marina, 1092 Main Street in Dorset just after the bridge, virtually at themoosenpaddle on Facebook or Instagram, or order in advance at https://themoosenpaddle.lightspeedordering.com/.