Cravings: What’s new on Toronto’s street food scene?

Until recently, if you wanted on-the-go street-side fare in Toronto you had a choice between “street meat” from the vendor on the north or south side of the street.

That was then. This is now.

Today, mobile kitchens are sprouting up in unexpected places: in the back of purpose-built trucks.

On a corner near you, a growing street food movement (led in part by Suresh Doss, a food truck enthusiast who founded Ontario Food Trucks , which organizes the popular ‘Food Truck Eats’ events) is turning the traditional restaurant industry on its head.

Spurred on by the growing popularity of food trucks in the U.S. and the Food Network’s Eat St.  as well as a burgeoning group of local supporters on Twitter (@bustersseacove, @gourmetb1tches, @elgastronomo), road worthy kitchens are dishing out some unexpected offerings:

Buster Sea Cove’s Maine-style lobster rolls; Gourmet B1tches’ Spicy Kale and arugula salad with cherry tomatoes and garlic chips; and El Gastrónomo’s Buddha Belly Five spice pork belly with chili caramel, coconut cream, and cucumber.

It’s all a far cry from days gone by when Toronto’s street-side vendors were limited to wieners and buns. And while recent changes allow hot dog vendors to serve an expanded list of offerings - so long as the food is pre-cooked and approved by Toronto Public Health - the rise of the food truck has given local hot dog hawkers reason to question if they are “cutting the mustard.”

Toronto’s new food trucks are dishing out authentic and flavourful fare that is not only quick but also affordable. Currently, approximately 300 food trucks are licensed to operate in the city (currently mostly offering ice cream and greasy fries).

But don’t get too hungry yet, City Hall has found a way to complicate what should be cut and dry. You see, municipal codes prohibit trucks from doing business on city streets.

Wait, what?

Parking is limited to licensed locations, such as parking lots, for durations of no more than 10 minutes – which would be fine, except that lines are often three to four times as long.

Thanks to the efforts of a tightly knit group of food truck advocates, and the vocal outcry from hungry Torontonians, all of this could soon change.

  • A fixed location across from Union Station was recently designated for food trucks. During the summer months, two different trucks will be parked Monday through Friday from 11am to 3pm.
  • The CNE has announced that 18 trucks will be parked on-site between Aug. 24 and 26.
  • The Toronto Underground Market’s next event is Aug. 25 at the Evergreen Brick Works
  • And AwesTRUCK, Canada’s first ever “street food award gala, has been announced for September 9 at the Evergreen Brick Works.

So, while Toronto’s hot dog stands are beginning to offer healthier options such as fruits and vegetables, bagels and nuts, local foodies can step beyond the curb to satisfy their sidewalk cravings.

Written by Crave PR's Sarah Jennings. Follow @Sarah__Jennings on Twitter.

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