The recipe for good street food is not 'take one city council, add bureaucracy and stir'... Yet despite strict council regulations, Vancouver gets 19 great new street food carts
Recently, the City of Vancouver announced the 19 new food carts that will be hitting a sidewalk near you this summer.
Although the new approval process for the carts was a vast improvement on last year’s lottery, there was still discontent with the emphasis on organic and healthy foods—especially as it will likely lead to higher costs.
Meanwhile, local entrepreneurs and students have leapt at the chance to help Vancouverites discover great street eats, designing smartphone apps to help keep track of the new à-la-carte carts.
Last year, after the city officials repealed the 1978 law (allowing only hot dogs, chestnuts and popcorn to be sold from street food carts), many Vancouverites eagerly anticipated a spate of delicious and varied new carts. While 2010’s new food carts were a vast improvement, the selection process by lottery—which didn't take financial viability, readiness, variety or market demand into account—left much to be desired.
For 2011, the new food carts were picked by a panel of judges comprising chefs, food bloggers, activists and business people. This boded well; a panel of food and business experts seemed like the ideal group to choose new food businesses.
Unfortunately, City Council tied the panel’s hands—leading to two of the judges resigning in protest—by applying stringent rules that saw potential "street meat" applicants being evaluated on their nutrition, use of local and organic foods, and Fair Trade or sustainable products.
What the council didn’t deem important enough to take into consideration was taste. Despite being able to assess proposed menus, the panel was unable to taste any of the dishes—it’s a bit like assessing circuses on their hygiene and staff benefits but not watching the show.
Making street food vendors conform to these codes with emphasis on sustainability and local produce seems to run counter to the ethos of street food; i.e., that it’s cheaper than going to a restaurant. Undoubtedly, making carts adhere to these guidelines will ultimately mean higher prices for consumers.
So far I’ve downloaded two apps for my iPhone to help me find Vancouver’s newest street food.
The first, Vancouver Street Food, doesn’t seem to have updated the newest additions (as of the time of writing). It does, however, show when food carts are open or closed by the use of green and red pins on the map.
The newer app I’ve downloaded, Eat St.—a collaboration between Emily Carr students, Paperny Films and Invoke Media—has a larger list of carts and greater flexibility of viewing. Both apps allow you to choose between "map" or "list" display, Eat St. also lists carts by distance and popularity.
Both apps offer opening hours and contact information, yet Eat St. goes further and aggregates mentions of the cart on Twitter and offers menu info (though some of these features are still a little bare).
Cartel, west side of 500 Dunsmuir St.
Korean fusion – beef, pork and tofu tacos
Chawalla, east side of 800 Howe St.
Indian – teas, sweet and savory parantha (stuffed Indian flatbread)
Didi's Greek, south side of 1700 Robson St.
Greek – meat and vegetarian souvlaki, tzatsiki and pita spanakopita, salad
Feastro the Rolling Bistro, Thurlow at W. Cordova St.
Mixed menu – seafood tacos, prawns, fish and chips, oysters, pork tacos, seafood chowder, salad, prawn bisque, yam/sweet potato fries
Finest at Sea, southeast corner of Robson and Hornby Sts.
Seafood – fish sandwiches, fish tacos, coleslaw, vegetable kebabs
Gourmet Syndicate, east side of 900 Burrard St.
Asian fusion – pork sliders, soba noodle soup, banh mi, rice balls, duck salad, trimmed chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken), whole fruits
Kiss Kiss Banh Banh, northwest corner of Howe and Robson Sts.
Vietnamese – sub sandwiches, salads and coffee
Mangali, north side of 900 W. Georgia St.
Mediterranean – shish kabab, lafah, couscous, chickpea-beet-carrot-radish salad
Mom's Grilled Cheese Truck, 600 Hornby St.
American – grilled sandwiches, soups and chili
Off the Wagon, 600 Howe St.
Mexican – tacos
Osa Tako Hero, south side of 800 W. Pender St.
Japanese – takoyaki (deep-fried octopus dumpling)
Roaming Dragon 2, east side of 800 Burrard St.
Comfort foods – sandwiches, matzo balls, shepherd's pie, soups, chili, fruit
Soho Road Naan Kebab, west side of 900 Howe St.
Indian fusion – chicken tandoori burgers, beef kebabs, masala fries, chai tea
Tacofino Cantina Inc., 1800 Morton St. (on English Bay) *
Mexican – tacos burritos, quesadillas, tortilla soup, fruit and vegetable skewers, assorted juices
The Hut, south side of 1200 Pacific Blvd.
Vegetarian – wrap veggie burgers, quesadillas, sweet potato fries, wraps
The Juice Truck, 200 Abbott St.
Juice – fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies
The Re-Up BBQ, south side of 800 Robson St.
BBQ – beef brisket sandwiches, black bean and corn chili, Southern sweet tea, seasonal fruit soda
Trailer, west side of 100 Burrard St.
Asian BBQ – meat, fruit, vegetables
Unnamed, north side of 800 Dunsmuir St.
Greek – meat and vegetarian souvlaki
* I'm super excited at the prospect of not having to go all the way to Tofino to get a Tacofino burrito!