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Credit: Pig on the Street

New bacon lovers' food truck "Pig on the Street"

Foodies are buzzing about the 12 newest additions to Vancouver street food vendors. But despite eager anticipation, fans ask why so few?

The City of Vancouver recently announced that 12 new food carts will arrive starting May 2012 (see the full list below) and continuing through the summer months. The newbies include a bubble gum pink pork-themed cart, dim sum, bizarre perogies and Salvadoran tamales.

In addition to this cautious expansion in food cart numbers, Vancouver will test run food carts in three park locations – Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park and Vanier Park – starting this summer.

While there’s no doubt that 12 new food carts cause foodies to salivate, many are asking why so few new additions? And why did five of the 12 new licences go to individuals with existing carts?

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New food truck Pig on the Street's Southern Piggy sarnie with double smoked bacon, bourbon BBQ sauce, grilled peppers, roasted corn, farmhouse cheddar, greens, and chipotle mayo. (Image: Pig on the Street; Tanyaverret.com)

Vancouver Food Cart Numbers

In 2010, a city-appointed panel added 17 food carts to the existing 55 hotdog vendors, as a part of a pilot program downtown. In 2011, the city added 19 new food carts. In 2012 the city added 12 carts from a pool of 59 applicants. And despite the overwhelming popularity of the program, the city plans to license only about 30 more carts over the next two years.

The Spirit Behind Food Carts

I like food cart food and the spirit behind it. Food cart food is often more daring than restaurant fare. Food carts add flavour to a predictable residential landscape.

Food carts exist to provide budget-friendly dining options. And ideally, affordable food cart start-up fees create opportunities for diverse, up-and-coming entrepreneurs that would not have otherwise had a shot at opening a food business.

Although the Vancouver food cart scene was modeled on Portland's food cart initiative, the two are vastly different. Portland encourages food carts, and just approved the first food cart liquor license.

In Vancouver however, draconian regulations inhibit a truly flourishing street food scene. Vancouver continues to curb food cart numbers, stymieing fresh, young culinary talent, which has created bitterness in the aspiring and existing food cart community. In short, Vancouver's food carts are a nod to the egalitarian food cart trend, while totally lacking in food cart spirit.

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New Salvadoran food truck Guanaco prepares pupusas and tamales. (Image: Guanaco)

Four Challenges Food Carts Face in Vancouver

  1. At face value, Vancouver unnecessarily limits the number of food carts. While our fair neighbour Portland sustains 700 food carts (12 per 10,000 residents), Vancouver has 103 (two per 10,000 residents). The BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association is loudly opposed to more food carts, arguing they'd put existing restaurants out of business, although this has not occurred in other food cart hotbeds like Portland, LA, San Francisco, and New York.
  2. Vancouver food carts pay too high fees for location. If carts choose to vend at a downtown street location rather than a city-chosen sidewalk space, they pay large meter fees (around $700) each month. The city’s coveted park spaces are overpriced. Stanley Park space costs $15,000, for example. Vancouver vendors cannot sell food from private property. In Portland, food carts can operate on pods in private parking lots, paying lower rents and remaining in one place – urban or residential – for days on end.
  3. Vancouver food carts are geographically limited to downtown. If they leave the downtown core they have to be on the move daily, limiting profits and inhibiting the ability to build a loyal customer base in boroughs where food carts are likely to thrive (Commercial Drive, Main Street, Kitsilano). In Portland, no such limitation exists.
  4. Vancouver food cart vendors are required to use a licensed commissary, or shared commercial kitchen, for food storage and prep. This adds another sizable expense. On the other hand, the Oregon Department of Health treats mobile kitchens as sufficient.

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New French-inspired food truck Ze Bite's roasted veggie sandwich. (Image: Ze Bite)

Meet the 12 New Vancouver Food Carts

Although there’s been a lot of grumbling about food cart regulations, there’s no doubt that the arrival of 12 new food carts is better than no food carts at all.

The winners were chosen by the city, media and foodies from a pool of 59 applicants. Twenty-five of the food cart applicants were invited to share their concept/eats during a taste-off in February before a panel of judges. Twelve won licenses for 2012. And so the list was made.

Pig On The Street

Mark Cothey and Krissy Seymour are bringing home the bacon with British sandwiches that have piggie components. Sandwiches include Piggy Blues: bacon, creamy blue cheese and caramelized onion mayo. There’s also the formidable Porker: bacon, sausage and bacon stuffing with green apple, goat gouda, caramelized onion may and greens. Bread, wraps and desserts also benefit from bacon/bacon salt/pork fat. (700 Howe Street)


Guanaco Truck

Tamales and pupusas and fried cassava, oh my! Salvadoran cuisine by Veronika Manzano and her husband Jose hits the street of Vancouver. (Georgia and Seymour)

Soho Road Naan Kebab

The Tiffin Truck: A zero-waste food cart serving curries in spiffy tiffin containers. These five-compartment tins can hold rice, a meat dish, a veg dish, salad, yogurt, dessert and fresh baked naan all for $10. Customers must commit to a one-time investment in a tiffin. (Smithe and Howe)


Slingers

Made from scratch Italian North American cuisine including meatball subs with homemade pesto. (West Hastings and Thurlow)

Perodie Perogy

Eight bizarre renditions of the perogy including Mexican and curried. (700 Homer Street)


Ze Bite

It’s unlikely Julia Child would have fit in a food truck without a custom raised roof, but luckily we have Simon Vine serving up French-inspired fare, including Boeuf Bourguignon and tagines.  (W. Cordova and Burrard)


Kaboom Box

An existing fave adds a seafood po’ boy mobile. (Georgia and Thurlow)


Feastro: The Rolling Bistro

Another tried-and-tested food cart extends into sustainable, organic meat sandwiches. (Canada Place Way and Thurlow)


Le Tigre

Chinese dim sum with a twist. Expect BBQ beef in a puff pastry, bao and sticky rice. (Alberni and Bute)


Rimfoodbaht

Authentic Thai. Example: shrimp wraps with ginger sauce. (Hamilton & Robson)


Mogu

Japanese-inspired street food. The sample dish served at the taste testing event was a Pork Miso Katsu Sandwich with an Asian hot mustard coleslaw inside. (Howe and Dunsmuir)


The Burger Bus

Organic all-beef burgers, with gluten-free bun options. (Davie and Seymour)

What do you think about the Vancouver street food scene? How do you like the judges' picks for the 12 new carts?