Toronto is a city in transit; pop-ups become fixtures, parking lots become condos and old attitudes become antiquated as ideas about culture evolve. In a city that has, whether intentionally or otherwise, allowed the hot dog to reign supreme in the street food realm, it’s becoming apparent that it’s time for the ballpark snack to step aside and share the edible spotlight. In a place that is so accepting of so many things, it’s difficult to fathom why there is so much resistance to allowing street food, and more specifically food trucks, free reign.
City Council has been notoriously vehement in their lack of support for food trucks and very reluctant to examine antiquated laws with regards to mobile food service. Up until recently, food trucks were not allowed to operate on city property, relegating them only to private lots. Thanks to a recent development, helmed by Suresh Doss as project coordinator, the city has introduced a new project aimed at highlighting food trucks. The pilot project, which launched August 1st, will go on for 60 days with food trucks able to operate in five parks around the city. This is the first step in what will hopefully be a large-scale movement to allow food trucks to operate more freely throughout the city.
When it comes to street eats, there’s one man in the city whose name has become synonymous with the food truck movement. Suresh Doss, founder of the wildly popular Food Truck Eats events and all-around Toronto dining Renaissance Man, has brought his expertise to print with his new guidebook, StreetEats Toronto. It is the first comprehensive food truck, cart and pop-up guide of its kind in the city.
Toronto’s street food scene is relatively young when compared with other major cities around the world, but that isn’t something to focus on, according to Doss. With the list of culinary heavy-hitters growing by the day, Toronto’s culinary scene is no longer defined by what it is not.
“Chefs and cooks [in Toronto] are now more confident about what they’re making. They’re not comparing themselves to New York constantly anymore, whereas before we had a bit of an inferiority complex,” says Doss.
When asked what’s to be expected next on the scene, Doss explains that a new wave of ethnic food, beyond the Mexican and Asian foods we’ve come to know and love, will expand the city’s culinary mindset and solidify food truck culture’s democracy of access. While there are numerous outlets available for ethnic food scattered around the city, they are not always given the audience they deserve outside of their respective communities. Since so many of us are mobile, it only makes sense that our food should be too. Allowing food trucks to truly compete in the market will also open avenues for culinary diversity and entrepreneurship.
“I feel like we’re just reaching our adolescence when it comes to food,” states Doss in what is perhaps the most accurate statement surrounding Toronto’s current dining culture. It seems Hogtown is an awkward, gangly teenager on the verge of a culinary growth spurt. Hopefully in time, just like with old yearbook photos, we’ll be able to look back at the city’s current street food limitations and reminisce on how far we’ve come.