Living in Ottawa the food truck offerings are pretty dull, the menu has the standard French fry offerings with sausages, hot dogs and pogos. It wasn't until earlier this year when I sampled wonderful soup served from the green Stone Soupworks truck and cookies baked fresh from B. Goods that I realized more can come from a truck than fries.
This realization was reinforced when the boyfriend and I stopped in Austin, Texas - the home of over 1,600 food trucks and carts. There were several lots dedicated to street food and few of them were serving french fries. Instead it was a wonderland of BBQ, Thai, ice cream, sandwiches, cupcakes and delicious “deep sautéed” things served in cones. The food was delicious, complex and I was inspired by the creativity used in such a small space. Seeing how large and popular the street food scene was in Austin it piqued my interest and I was curious to eat and learn more.
(The Sarducci from Gorilla Cheese - my favourite of the day)
When I returned from vacation I learned I had missed the first instalment of Toronto's Food Truck Eats - an event bringing some of Ontario's best food trucks together in the Distillery District. It also featured some stalls where local Toronto chefs who didn't own food trucks tried their hand at creating street food. Thankfully the idea was so popular that a second and third instalment was planned and this time I was able to travel to Toronto to attend this festival of street food.
(Spicy Corn Star fritters with cucumber, thai basil, hot and sour sauce from El Gastronomo Vagabundo)
When I arrived at the Distillery District at 9:50am I saw volunteers collecting donations to Second Harvest, a Toronto charity that delivers surplus fresh food to those in need, in exchange for early access to the trucks. Thanks to that donation I was able to skip the massive lines that developed once the trucks opened to the public and enjoyed some of the more popular trucks before it got hectic.
(Deep fried pickle from Caplansky)
I started my day with the Sarducci from Gorilla Cheese – sweet balsamic tomatoes with basil, onion and gooey mozzarella on toasted multigrain bread served with a pickle. After licking my fingers I lined up at El Gastronomo Vagabundo for the Bangkok Dangerous Taco and spicy Corn Star fritters. From there I went for the deep fried pickle at Caplansky which was okay but more of a deep fried novelty.
From there I decided I needed a break from the savoury and bought a maple bacon donut from Po’nuts (aka Beast Restaurant) – I enjoyed the sweetness of the maple and saltiness of the bacon as I walked around the distillery district, looking at the various offerings. Wanting something sandwich-like, I bought a pulled pork and beef brisket slider from Buster Rhino BBQ. I’m a sucker for pulled pork and the sauce was quite delicious. My stomach was quite full but I continued on opting for traditional curd and gravy poutine from Smoke’s Poutinery and cherry ice cream from Twirlees. I ended my day by picking up a dozen cupcakes from Cupcake Diner to bring back to Ottawa.
(Pulled pork and beef brisket from Buster Rhino BBQ)
The event was a huge success both for vendors, eaters and Second Harvest – earning close to $4,000 in donations. The third instalment of Food Truck Eats will return to the Distillery District on October 1st when I’m sure there will be more vendors and even more people lined up. Hamilton will also play host to their own food truck rally on September 16 featuring the popular (and some of my favourite) Gorilla Cheese, Cupcake Diner and El Gastronomo Vagabundo.