Jess Waldron and Rob Webster’s North American-inspired food truck has a cult following in the southwest. After four solid years of serving burgers and fries from the comfort of their mobile kitchen, they’ve now settled on Margaret River’s main street, offering the same sandwiches and snacks but bolstered with a slick booze offering and the option to dine in.
The story of Normal Van is a simple one. When Webster arrived in Margaret River in 2018, he noticed a gaping hole in the region’s dining scene – no one was offering quality North American fare. After a decade spent in top restaurants in his home country of Canada and a few years working in some of Italy and London’s finest restaurants, Webster arrived in Margaret River and adopted a simpler style of dining to suit the beachy tourist town.
With the support of Waldren, his partner in life and business, Webster quickly turned the Normal Van dream into reality. The duo earnt a reputation for generous servings of authentic American-style take-out orders with a focus on producing everything from scratch, a philosophy that carries over to their new space.
“We couldn’t really build the van any further, so when the opportunity came up to open our own space, we jumped on it,” Webster tells Broadsheet. The pair has taken a DIY approach to design. “We’ve done pretty much everything from scratch,” he says. “I do a bit of carpentry so we’ve built the booths and all that stuff ourselves too. It’s been fun.”
Fans of the van should be delighted to see that the team isn’t straying too far from its signature style. Rather, the two are focusing on expanding their offering with a tight, hyper-local booze offering and snappy service. A couple of local beers and interesting wines feature alongside some classic sodas, all noteworthy pairings for a concise and focused food menu.
Just like the fit-out, the menu focuses on house-made and local ingredients. “Our buns are baked daily, our meat is local and I’m getting our produce from small, local growers. It’s the right way to do things,” says Webster. “It’s a bit harder logistically, but it’s worth it to keep that money [in the local economy].”
The menu is brief but every item is worth a look; whatever you don’t order will certainly elicit food envy. Think bacon cheeseburgers – generously topped with house-made ketchup, mustard and slices of American cheese – or a chicken burger with the option to go “buffalo style”, an add-on that sees crispy fried chicken doused in a vinegary hot sauce. Sides are simple but full-flavoured: a classic coleslaw or handcut chips that are blanched and fried over three days before their final serving fry, served with a spiced ketchup.
Much like its food, Normal Van’s new main street venue is simple but comforting. Booth seating and a mellow aesthetic surrounds a semi-open kitchen while waitstaff whip around delivering burgers via old-school, bright red plastic trays. Airy courtyard dining is an option, too.