When I first moved to Toronto eight years ago, I spent oodles of hours traipsing around the city using only my two feet and a heartbeat. It’s the single, most effective way to really get to know a city. Stopping at concerts and street festivals along the way required many a pit-stop for a bite to eat to keep the energy levels up. Rather than always sitting down at a bar or restaurant, grabbing a bite on the move worked out to be more convenient and considerably less offensive to the wallet. However, street grub back then was limited to subpar hot dogs and greasy pizza, and often required a light beer buzz for it to pass as adequate nourishment. Enter the food truck. Ready-to-eat, gourmet cuisine at a fraction of restaurant prices.
This phenomenon has caught like wildfire over recent years and has changed the alfresco dining scene in New York, Los Angeles and London. Closer to home, Vancouver and Toronto have caught on and the food truck is fast becoming a part of our foodie landscape. We decided to look at five of the top food trucks from each city to see if and how the GTA folk do their food-trucking compared to our counterparts in the West… let’s get trucking.
Eli’s Serious Sausages, VC
Known for: Locally sourced sausages.
Try: At the time of writing, there are only two options available at Eli’s truck: the traditional bratwurst and the currywurst, and a bratwurst served with Eli’s homemade curry ketchup. Served in a German style “Schrippen” bun.
Stuft Gourmet Sausages, GTA
Known for: Sausages. Big sausages.
Try: The Creole turducken sausage (turkey, duck and chicken seasoned in Creole spices) with the sweet chipotle BBQ sauce. There are five sausage variations to choose from and four sauces.
Cost: $9 for the sausage, $1 for sauce
Musings: While VC offers just one product, it is locally produced and of the highest quality. However, probably not somewhere you’d visit often due to the lack of options – unless you’re really into German sausage. TO’s truck offers five choices, all with unique flavours and homemade sauces to accompany. Although it’s a few bucks more, you definitely get alotta meat for your money.
Verdict: Both worthy opponents but we say size and selection win this one. GTA takes the sausage.
Taser’s Grilled Cheese, VC
Known for: Cheesy goodness, fried in bread.
Try: ‘So Gouda’: Smoked bacon with caramelized apples, Gouda and Havarti served on San Francisco sourdough. This is one of four sandwich options.
Cost: $6 for each of the three ‘gourmet’ options but only $3 for the classic grilled cheese.
Gorilla Cheese, GTA
Known for: Samesies.
Try: “The Lumberjack”: Cheddar, bacon, Granny Smith apples and real maple syrup on white bread. One of 15 sandwich options including dessert sandwiches.
Musings: VC wins by a mile when it comes to value. But again, TO offers more in variety and unique flavour pairings.
Verdict: It’s a tough call but GTA takes the Big Cheese title.
Chouchou Crepes, VC
Known for: Authentic, French style crepes.
Try: The buckwheat smoked salmon crepe with cream cheese and lemon (GF).
Curbside Crepe, GTA
Known for: Fair trade crepes.
Try: “The Fun Guy”: Gruyere, roasted mushrooms, scallions, spinach, toasted walnuts and mascarpone.
Musings: Although Curbside offers a ton of veggie options, there are no gluten-free choices. The VC buckwheat is a delicious spin and apparently pretty difficult to make and as a result, is pretty difficult to find.
Verdict: VC’s commitment to French authenticity with a gluten-free spin wins.
Daily Catch Seafood, VC
Known for: 100% Ocean Wise grub from the sea.
Try: Fish (cod) and chips.
Buster’s Seacove, GTA
Known for: Legends of the St. Lawrence Market gone mobile.
Try: Fish (haddock) and chips.
Musings: Researching both of these fan faves has made this a tough call. Both have a loyal following and by all accounts provide delicious seafood including options with flair. VC offers crispy fish tacos and assorted flavoured vinegars to douse your chips in. GTA whips up a mean clam chowder and some popular fish sandwiches.
Verdict: Both trucks have a lot of love in their respective cities and aren’t afraid to experiment with their seafood driven menus. This one is a tie.
These next two aren’t really in the same category but both are well-known and respected in their respective cities and it’s because of the quality and originality of their products. So let’s try this out…
Aussie Pie Guy, VC
Known for: Savoury pies with unexpected but delicious fillings.
Try: The “Hip Pie”: A mild lentil curry with organic cauliflower and tomatoes in a flaky pastry made from rice, tapioca and quinoa flour (GF) (Vegan).
Fidel Gastro’s, GTA
Known for: Only the best goddamn sandwiches in town.
Try: “Sgt. Slather”: BBQ pulled pork, guacamole cream and crushed tortilla chips
Musings: This is my favourite category because not only do I want to marry sandwiches but I want to have a love affair with pies. I am a true savoury chick, and I have loved sandwiches for as long as I can remember. Ham, jam, Spam… I’ll take ‘em all. As for the pies, well, in England when we went to watch a football (soccer) game, rather than hot dogs and beer, we eat pie and beers. And it’s awesome.
Verdict: I couldn’t pull another tie so I had to call this one! I know how good the sandwiches are at Fidel Gastro’s (and really, if you haven’t tried one… I’m sad for you) but the pie thing excites me. I have such fond memories of going to see Queen’s Park Rangers (a London football club) with my best friend and her father when we were teens. We drank beer and ate delicious meat pies from a truck and they were amazing! So nostalgia wins here, Vancouver takes it!
Wrap-up: This was pretty interesting to research. Both cities have a growing “food-truck” family who provide quality and affordable food convenience to the population. I did notice that in Toronto and the surrounding areas, we appear to be huge fans of meat… mostly in sandwiches and tacos! Pulled pork is a huge favourite, not that I’m complaining. We offer a slew of original, unexpected combinations and brilliant flavour pairings so the customer can have a new taste experience every time.
Vancouver, on the other hand, favours minimal menus. The benefit of this? If they only have four choices, that means they only have four things to cook and less kitchen pressure means it’s gonna be good! They also have more options as far as cuisine goes. They have juice trucks – at the time of writing, I have yet to see or hear of one in the GTA and I think that would be a big hit. They also have trucks dedicated to waffles, dim-sum, pakoras and even coconuts.
So, the moral of the story is… food trucks rock! Here in the GTA, we need to work on having more options because we are a multi-cultural city and the more options, the better! Vancouver could, and surely will, get a bit more creative with their offerings. But the quality is there and I’m sure the fans will stick around for the progress!
So go enjoy your cities folks. Walk until your feet bleed and fear not! Your local food trucks will be there for nourishment. Walk on, my friends. Walk on.