A number years from now, we’ll probably look back and say, “Remember when the only street food you could get in Vancouver was hotdogs and chestnuts? What were people thinking?”
Over the next four years, we’ll see 60 new street food vendor locations. Thirty will be Downtown and another 30 spread throughout other parts of the city. This expansion officially began on April 4 when the City of Vancouver announced the winners of the latest 19 street food vendor licenses, giving a hint of our future direction.
Last June, a pilot program was begun to diversify our street food options beyond pre-packaged, non-perishable items offered by the existing 60 licensees. The Engineering Services Department administered a lottery process that ultimately chose 17 vendors from 400 applicants. Six existing permit holders also converted to healthier, more diverse offerings. The impact was immediate. The public became more excited about food that could be bought on the street. Food carts were even included in this year’s annual restaurant awards presented by The Georgia Straight (Japadog) and Vancouver Magazine (Roaming Dragon).
As a result of that experience, the City decided to grant the next tranche of licenses via a two-step screening process. Over 100 applicants were initially vetted by City staff, being scored on the basis of Foodsafe certification, previous street food vending experience, unit readiness, identification of a commissary, and a waste management plan. The top 50 were then submitted to a selection panel and evaluated according to their business plan, qualifications, menu, organic ingredients, BC ingredients, fair trade ingredients, diversity/innovation, and contribution to Vancouver’s street food landscape.
Michael Kaisaris of The Re-Up BBQ said he’s happy with the direction the City is taking towards street food and felt they have every right to set guidelines for activities taking place on City property. He’s hoping that when City staff submit their report on street food vending on private property to Council in early 2012, it will open up even more opportunities.
The latest crop of operators was chosen by a diverse panel of stakeholders consisting of two chefs, a nutritionist, a Farmers Market Society representative, a sustainability expert, two business improvement association representatives, an analyst from the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, the head of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, two food bloggers, a member of the public who wrote a Master’s thesis on street food vending in Vancouver, and two youth representatives. The vendors chosen will offer a range of food from vegetarian to seafood to barbecue, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, fusion, and more.
Melody Fury, founder of Vancouver Food Tour, thinks the current food movement is about scaling back on food costs, environmental impact, and fancy presentation.
“We all want to eat healthier and more environmentally conscious, but we refuse to deny our taste buds the guilty pleasures of cheap and cheerful grub. The Vancouver street cart scene aims to combine the best of both worlds.”
Lest we become too anxious about becoming the next Portland or LA, it’s unlikely that other Lower Mainland municipalities will see street food developing to the same extent as Vancouver. Stacey Chyau of Tourism Richmond noted that they have a couple of food carts, like Tenku Bakudanyaki, but she isn’t aware of any discussions about further expansion.
“To be honest, we don’t have that kind of foot traffic for street food carts to get the kind of business they would in Vancouver.”
Street Eats Guide
- City of Vancouver Street Vending page
- 2011 Food Cart Vendors Google Map
- iPhone Apps: Eat St., Street Food Vancouver
- Vancouver Street Eats blog
* = April 2011 licensees
Brass Chicken Sandwich: beer brined rotisserie chicken in gravy, on a buttermilk bun, topped with crispy onions.
Location: Southwest corner of Granville & Georgia
* Cart Name TBA
Meat and vegetarian souvlaki.
Location: North side of 800 Dunsmuir
Indian teas, sweet and savory paratha.
Location: East side of 800 Howe
Chinese Skewer King
BBQ pork, lamb, tofu, and veggie skewers.
Location: Burrard & West Hastings
* Didi’s Greek
Meat and vegetarian souvlaki, tzatsiki and pita spanakopita, Greek salad.
Location: South side of 1700 Robson
Dim Sum Express
Assorted dim sum
Location: Howe & Canada Place
* Feastro the Rolling Bistro
Seafood taco, prawns, fish & chips, oysters, pork taco, seafood chowder, salad, prawn bisque, yam/sweet potato fries.
Location: Thurlow & West Cordova
* Finest at Sea
Fish sandwiches, fish tacos, coleslaw, vegetable kebab.
Location: Southeast corner of Robson & Hornby
* Gourmet Syndicate
Pork sliders, soba noodle soup, banh mi, rice balls, duck salad, trimmed chicken karaage, whole fruits.
Location: East side of 900 Burrard
* Hut, The
Veggie burgers, quesadillas, sweet potato fries, wraps.
Location: South side of 1200 Pacific Blvd.
* Kiss Kiss Banh Banh
Vietnamese sub sandwiches, salads and coffee.
Location: Northwest corner of Howe & Robson
Shish kebab, lafah, couscous, chickpea, beet, carrot & radish salads.
Location: North side of 900 West Georgia
* Mom’s Grilled Cheese Truck
American grilled sandwiches, soups, and chili.
Location: 600 Hornby
Canada’s first mobile tandoor oven.
Location: 400 Burrard
* Osa Tako Hero
Japanese deep-fried octopus dumpling (takoyaki).
Location: South side of 800 West Pender
Grilled meatballs with Caribbean, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, or curry fishball sauces.
Location: Northwest corner of Robson & Hornby
* Re-Up BBQ 2, The
Southern barbecued brisket sandwich, black bean & corn chili, Southern sweet tea, seasonal fruit soda.
Location: South side of 800 Robson Street
* Soho Road Naan Kebab
Chicken tandoori burgers, beef kebabs, masala fries, chai.
Location: West side of 900 Howe
* Trailer Name TBA
Asian grilled meat, fruit, veggies.
Location: West side of 100 Burrard