BY: ELVIN GEORGE
Street food has evolved.
Gone are the days of just the typical meat truck with hot dogs as the only option. From burritos mixed with sushi to coffee, a diverse array of food trucks have arrived in Toronto to fill just about any craving.
According to a 2015 Toronto Street Vending year in review report, 13 food truck licenses were approved in 2014, which increased more than four times in 2015 to 55. The numbers continue to increase. Many of these food trucks set up shop in Toronto’s downtown core. After feeding the same individuals from Queen Street West or the financial district, some of these food trucks are starting to spread their wings and rolling into neighbourhoods outside of the city core and even other regions of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
It’s a decision Karon Liu, food critic at The Toronto Star, attributes to the increasing barriers food trucks face being in the busy city.
“A lot of the food trucks have been restricted from being in a busy intersection the downtown core,” Liu says. “It’s because the BIAs (Business Improvment Areas) are against them and they feel like the food trucks take away business from the restaurants.”
Liu began to see his favorites food trucks such as the Jewish deli specialists in Caplansky’s Deli, and Mexican mobile cuisine with El Trompo Movil leaving the financial district. These two and other trucks left the area due to the competiveness between them and prominent Toronto restaurants.
“There are trucks that said it’s really hard to operate in Toronto, so they’re going to move to [other] cities for business,” he explains. “Most of them come from Niagara or St. Catherines, so if they come all the way here and spend money on gas, staff, ingredients, and they can’t park in business areas, it’s not worth it for them and they won’t sell enough lunches which won’t be profitable. Why would they come to Toronto?”
Samantha Alfonso, says she appreciates when food trucks pop up where she lives in Brampton, Ont.
Alfonso has gone to several food truck festivals in the past few years such as the bi-weekly Food Truck’n Friday that takes place in Etobicoke, the five-year-old annual food truck festival with AWEsTruck in neighbouring Mississauga, Ont., and spends a lot of time eating food truck food at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto at the end of each summer.
“Most food trucks usually gain the best money during Toronto events such as CNE, auto shows, or long weekend events,” Alfonso said. “So, it’s great to see the amazing food touring around the small communities sharing the talents before they head to the core of the city for summer.
“People get a break from their primary fast food options and try some unheard of delicious food.”
With a wave of food trucks expanding beyond downtown Toronto, people who live in the city’s suburbs or other parts of the GTA won’t have to commute as far for some tasty street food. YYZ spent some time travelling around the GTA looking for interesting food trucks with delicious meals or snacks to serve. So, next time you’re hungry be sure to keep an eye open for one of these parked up on your local streets.
Me.N.U. (Richmond Hill)
Menu items range from: $7.50 to $8.50
Richmond Hill residents are lucky to have one of the best food trucks in the GTA parked in their city. Me.N.U Food Truck is an Asian fusion food truck that specializes in combining Thai, Filipino, Malaysian and Korean food. The four-year-old business, once previously stationed in the middle of downtown Toronto, has now travelled to the York Region suburb north of the city to serve their delicious multicultural dishes to the communities.
Bryan Siu-Chong, founder of Me.N.U Food, says the lack of food trucks at the time influenced him to start his business in 2013.
“We began doing food booths at events, and eventually we got a food truck.” Siu-Chong said. “We had the freedom to roam and sell out street food and it was non-existing in Toronto yet compared to the other cities in North America.”
“We wanted to be ahead of the trend.”
He says the food truck started out in a Richmond Hill plaza, so after gaining good exposure from shifting to Toronto, he decided to return the company to its roots.
The truck’s three most popular dishes are the Korean rice balls, roti tacos and Asian poutine. They each have different variations on toppings that can be added as well. These mouth-watering additions range from spicy Malaysian beef sambal, juicy Filipino pork adobo, Thai lime green curry chicken and Korean garlic edamame falafel
Jacked Up Coffee (Brampton, Mississauga, Woodbridge)
Menu items range from: $3+
Coffee truck, Jacked Up Coffee’s owner Jack Provan started as a coffee barista in London, England. Provan then travelled across the sea, and gained more expertise about coffee before starting his own family food truck in Toronto.
Jacked Up Coffee originally travelled around the streets of downtown Toronto, but is now beginning to move out of the core of the city and hit up surrounding cities such as Mississauga, Brampton and Woodbridge.
Jacked Up Coffee is known for its delicious freshly brewed espresso coffee drinks. It also serves hot coffee, iced drinks, artisan teas and side treats to munch on.
Buster’s Sea Cove (North York-Downsview)
Menu items range from: $9.50 to $13
Buster’s Sea Cove is a unique food truck business that provides a taste of the fantastic seafood from Nova Scotia. The truck specializes in fish meals like Boston Blue Fish & Chips, Calamari and Chips, Seafood Orzo, Clam Strips and Halibut and Chips.
Owner of the food truck and head chef Tom Antonarakis says there several advantages of driving around instead of having a restaurant in Toronto. Antonarakis provides his delicious meals just north of the downtown core, in Toronto’s North York area around Downsview Park.
“It has done wonders for our brand, people get to see your truck and your name and what you are all about,” Antonarakis said. “Instead of seeing the common crowd on a daily basis and you get to see more families come out.”
He praises the importance of expanding the business outside of a certain area, saying he began to feel stagnated serving his seafood dishes in the same downtown locations.
“You get to meet different sorts of people, communities, and most importantly you’re not stuck in the same place every day.”
Food trucks in your area: