5 Street Vendors in Vancouver You Must Try

From tacos to dumplings to fish and chips, we count down five of our favorite street food vendors.

Vancouver’s street food program is exploding and we count down five of our favourite vendors

Last year, Vancouver foodies breathed a collective sigh of relief when city council struck down the decades-old bylaw that prohibited street vendors from selling anything other than pre-cooked hot dogs and roasted chestnuts.

Now thanks to the emergence of over 30 new food trucks and carts, it seems our city may well be on its way to becoming a street food culinary destination, joining the ranks of street cart-loving cities such as Portland, Los Angeles and New York.

Still, Roaming Dragon’s Jason Apple admits there is a sense of competitiveness among vendors that are still trying to find their footing in a relatively new market.

“We’re not dealing with a city crammed with millions and millions of people, where the [market] is big enough for a lot of people. We’re still dealing with a new street food culture and limited prime locations,” says Apple.

But while some chefs might be feeling the heat, the city is taking steps to unite street vendors across Vancouver by organizing a street vendor association. Though the association is still in its infancy, the first meeting seemed promising. According to Andrew Fielding, owner of the Kaboom Box, vendors were eager to share tips and experiences with one another.

“By and large, there is a great sense that we’re all in this together,” says Fielding. “The way I see it, we all have the challenge of making street food in Vancouver a more viable food option, so our fortunes will rise and fall together. The more good experiences people have on the street, the more likely they are to come to each and every one of the vendors.”

Fielding’s philosophy is one we here at Granville certainly echo: every one of Vancouver’s new food carts is worth sampling.

For now, we count down some of our favorite street vendors in Vancouver and take you behind the carts to meet the chefs in charge.

Feastro the Rolling Bistro

Where: West Cordova St. and Thurlow St.

What: Fresh, sustainable seafood brought over via ferry from the Henry Reed farm on the Sunshine Coast

Bestsellers: Crab and shrimp cake, Bonzai Prawns and tuna carpaccio

Price range: $7 – $13

This bright purple truck, co-owned by Paul Fenton and Steve Myddleton, is no stranger to the spotlight.

When the truck was still calling the Sunshine Coast home, it was featured on an episode of the Food Network’s Eat Street, and devout foodies began trekking from across the globe to get a taste of the famed Feastro fare.

“The power of television is unbelievable,” says Fenton. “A day literally does not go by that we don’t have someone mention [the Eat Street episode.]”

The attention is well deserved. The seafood is deliciously fresh, cooked to perfection and served on a heaping mound of in-season organic greens. In fact, the biggest issue for any customer will probably be choosing their meal from the list of over 20 options.

“Paul is always giving me heck because of how many [menu items] we have, but it kind of separates us from the pack,” says Myddleton.

Tuna carpaccio from Feastro the Rolling Bistro (Image: Lydia Millet)

But scrumptious seafood isn’t the only thing on the menu. Fenton and Myddleton are every bit as committed to reducing their environmental footprint as they are to satiating their customers’ appetites. That means only 100% compostable plates and cutlery—which costs roughly three times as much as the traditional Styrofoam.

“There are cheaper things we could do in terms of buying different products, but it’s been very important for us to have everything organic and sustainable,” says Fenton.

While Fenton and Myddleton are enjoying their Vancouver success, they aren’t discounting a return to the Sunshine Coast with a second food truck.

Still, wherever these boys hitch their truck, it’s clear they will have a loyal following.

“Once people have tried us, they’re hooked,” says Fenton.

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Fresh Local Wild

Where: Burrard St. and West Hastings St.

What: Fresh, local seafood on a menu that changes daily

Bestseller: Seared Spice Albacore Tuna Melt

Price range: $8 – $12

When asked to describe his truck Fresh Local Wild, owner Josh Wolfe has just two words: “freaking amazing.”

It’s hard to argue with that sentiment. To call Fresh Local Wild a food truck is an understatement—it’s a full-fledged restaurant on wheels.

The stainless steel trailer comes complete with an adjoining patio fit to seat four. Wolfe has gone to extremes to ensure absolutely everything on Fresh Local Wild is environmentally conscious, from the locally sourced food to the organic packaging and even the truck itself, which generates its power from the waste fryer oil.

“Every little piece has been thought of to leave less of a footprint. We bring everything with us and we take everything away,” says Wolfe.

A veteran chef, Wolfe was once the Executive Chef at Coast Restaurant. He says for him, the move to the street was a no-brainer. Fresh Local Wild allows him the chance to get out of the kitchen and up close and personal with his clientele.

(Image: Fresh Local Wild)

Though the menu at Fresh Local Wild tends to focus on seafood, it is also known to change at the chef’s whim.

“We’ll always leave a couple of things that are the staples that people come back for and they’d be upset with me if I took them off,” says Wolfe. “Other than that I feel like there are no rules, so why bother trying to follow any?”

The idea, says Wolfe, is simple: give people what they want, how they want it. “If you’re eating and paying for your lunch, it should be all about you,” says Wolfe.

As for what's next for Fresh Local Wild, Wolfe will be holding 'Secret Dinners', which he describes as full-course meals located in obscure, inconspicuous locations—basically, the last place you’d expect to eat dinner.

For more information on the upcoming Secret Dinners, you can follow Fresh Local Wild on Twitter.

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Roaming Dragon

Where: Burrard and Robson

What: Pan-Asian cuisine

Bestseller: Pork sliders and fried rice balls

Price range: $6 – $15

While others were sitting idly back and accepting the former gourmet street food ban, Roaming Dragon’s Jason Apple and Jory Simkin were rallying city council to strike down the bylaw.

“We were a part of a change in the policies. Both of us knew the rules saying ‘popcorn and hot dogs only’ didn't work for us,” says Apple. “We had a hunger to bring better street food to Vancouver.”

But Apple admits being a part of policy change wasn't so easy.

“It’s kind of like a horror movie where you know the axe murderer is outside and the teenage girl is babysitting and she proceeds to get hacked,” explains Apple with a laugh. “All signs were pointing to ‘Don’t do it!’ but we [started a food truck] anyways.”

Roaming Dragon Fried Rice Balls. (Image: Flickr/Ruocaled)

Now, Apple says he has no regrets.

“The response has been awesome. If we were to get a dollar for every time there was a picture taken of the truck, we could retire—or at least be driving to work in Bentleys,” says Apple.

Ever the overachievers, Apple and Simkin will soon be opening up their second truck, with a name yet to be revealed, at Robson and Burrard. Expect to be hit with a wave of nostalgia at this truck, which will be serving up new twists on old favorites like meatloaf, French toast and macaroni and cheese.

“There’s no escaping a memory when you look at our menu. We want people to look at [the menu] and say ‘Oh, I remember how Mom used to make that,' but then when they actually see our interpretation it will make them smile,” says Apple.

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Kaboom Box

Where: Granville St. and Robson St.

Bestseller: Smoked salmon “salmwich,” $7.14

Price Range: $7 – $9

For Andrew Fielding, owner of the Kaboom Box, his food cart provided a long-awaited return to the streets. Having worked as a hot dog vendor when he was 18, Fielding had always longed to open a street cart of his own.

“There’s something really fun about being on the street, and it is very gratifying to be outside,” says Fielding.

Anyone who has stopped by the Kaboom Box can likely attest to the fun Fielding is having. Inside the Kaboom Box, which Fielding named after a friend's band, spirits are high. The employees shout back and forth to each other, laughing and making jokes. The trailer itself is covered with hand-written messages, well wishes and reviews.

“It makes for an interactive experience, which I think is part of the draw. [People] come almost because it is a show,” says Fielding.

BC Poutine with local mushroom gravy and fried oyster po'boy (Image: Kaboom Box)

In addition to the Kaboom Box’s sense of personality, Fielding notes that everything they serve up—from the fish and chips to the fried oyster po’boys—is Ocean Wise certified.

“Going into this, we decided we wanted [sustainability] to be a driving factor,” says Fielding. “We made a commitment to sell only Ocean Wise certified seafood, we do compostable and biodegradable packaging and I think people really respond to that.”

This summer, the Kaboom Box will be extending their hours so that hungry patrons have more opportunities to sample the tasty menu. Come winter, look for Fielding to add new menu items including soups and chowders.

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Nu Greek Street

Where: Granville St. and West Georgia St.

What: Authentic Greek souvlaki, featuring chicken, lamb and vegetable options

Bestseller: Souvlaki

Price range: $4 – $6.50

For some, biting into a souvlaki pita from Nu Greek Street will evoke a familiar taste.

That’s because the recipe used is the same one from the old Souvlaki Place in English Bay, a shop once owned by the uncle of Nu Greek Street co-owner and restaurateur Harry Kambolis.

In addition to the old family recipe, everything at Nu Greek Street is handmade fresh daily and uses local produce.

“We have a sense of authenticity here,” says Kambolis’ business partner, Michael Ip. “And I feel really proud of what I sell.”

(Image: Nu Greek Street)

Soon Nu Greek Street will be expanding with a second cart, located at Howe and Dunsmuir Streets, and will likely be adding new food options to the menu.

“We do have plans to bring other things on to the menu as we go forward, but for now it’s just nice to keep it simple,” says Ip.

Ip is keeping tight-lipped as to what those new items might be, but he teases the cart may be serving up some modern day takes on traditional souvlaki.

So far, the feedback to the current menu seems to be quite positive, with one minor complaint.

“The only downside is, as most people know with tzatziki, it is quite heavy on the garlic. So we do have some of the business crowd who worry about that,” says Ip with a laugh.

Moral of the story? Pack a piece of gum or pop a breath mint, because Nu Greek Street’s satisfying homemade souvlaki pita is well worth the potential smelly breath.

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