A Whirlwind Sampling: Toronto Food Trucks

Back in May, Mack and I headed to Toronto – I was the tagalong as Mack was attending a conference. It was great because I could hang out with Amanda during the day, and the three of us would hook up for dinner each night. I can say that I really am starting to appreciate their food scene, and look forward to even more visits!

While Edmonton’s policies surrounding food trucks could be much improved, I’m sure Toronto’s trucks would consider themselves lucky if they were governed in the same way. At present, groups like Food Truck Eats are trying to lobby the City to allow new trucks to vend curbside downtown, but brick and mortar restaurants are stifling change. As a result, we found that most trucks were restricted to private land and parking lots – to the point where it can actually be an income-generator for these owners. Or, most trucks seem to simply vend outside of Toronto in more hospitable towns like Hamilton.

Parking lot seeks truck

Parking lot seeks trucks

Though we were in Toronto for less than a week, we were able to hit up five trucks. It definitely helped that there was a small gathering of trucks our very first day in town!

Amanda alerted us to an event at the University of Toronto that was taking place that Saturday afternoon. After checking into the Hyatt, Amanda met us at the hotel and we walked over to the campus, eagerly anticipating our first taste of Toronto food trucks.

Food Truck Eats

Food trucks!

There were three trucks set up alongside a science expo for children. To our surprise, though several hours of service had already passed, most of their menu items were still available (I will say that the generators seemed noticeably loud, though as Mack commented, the fact that they were placed against stone buildings, which did the opposite of dissipating the noise, didn’t help matters).

Toasted Tangerine

Loved the wild colours of Toasted Tangerine

Amanda and Mack

Amanda and Mack

The toasted ravioli ($7) from the Toasted Tangerine was an all-around hit. Crispy pockets of ravioli were served with a marinara dipping sauce. Great finger food, and for next time, if they made them one-bite ravioli, I think it would be even more appealing. Their pulled chicken sliders with habanero pineapple slaw ($8) were tasty, but Drift’s similar jerk chicken is bolder in flavour.

Toasted Tangerine

Toasted ravioli

Toasted Tangerine

Pulled chicken sliders

From El Gastronomo Vagabundo, we tried their crispy pork schnitzel ($8.50). Street consumption-friendly, it had been cut into thin strips that were easy to eat and share. With a nice breading, it also benefited from the wide of crunchy lime slaw. We also loved their potato wedges ($6.50), elevated with sweet chili oil, sour cream and green onions.

El Gastronomo Vagobundo

Pork schnitzel

Dessert was from the Cupcake Diner. Unlike the other two trucks, the cupcakes were obviously baked off-site, so this was probably more of a catering vehicle than anything else. Still, Mack and I both couldn’t pass up trying the cookie dough flavour ($2.75 each), which was not only topped with a cookie sliver, but also had dough baked right into the cake!

Cupcake Diner

Happy with our cupcakes

Our next two truck encounters were over the lunch hour in downtown Toronto. I’d been keeping my eye on Twitter, ready to pounce and plan our days around their service. We lucked out with Buster’s Sea Cove, a brand new truck that had opened a few weeks prior. A St. Lawrence Market favourite, they are known for their tasty seafood entrees. And though they were brand new, their popularity was obvious – when Amanda and I arrived, there was a small but ravenous crowd already gathered!

Buster's Sea Cove

Buster’s Sea Cove

Parked in a private lot without immediate seating options, it didn’t seem like the ideal location for food trucks. But with its proximity to several towers, it seemed like most in line were content with taking their lunch back for desktop consumption. Amanda and I ended up hoofing it over a few blocks to the picturesque St. James Park.

The menu was small (just three items), but they all sounded so good it made selecting just one difficult! The grilled swordfish sandwich ($13) I ended up with was delicious – flaky, with fresh tomatoes and red onions served on herby, aromatic focaccia. I probably could have done without the token pre-boxed side salad though, as it didn’t really add anything.

Buster's Sea Cove

Grilled swordfish sandwich

Amanda’s shrimp tacos ($8) were also pretty tasty. Breaded and fried shrimp had been drizzled with pico de gallo and salsa verde.

Buster's Sea Cove

Shrimp tacos

The next day, Amanda and I had lunch nearby, this time from Caplansky’s Deli, though their truck is fondly known as “Thunderin’ Thelma”. Caplansky’s is another well-established restaurant, a deli located in the trendy Kensington neighbourhood. But they famously wanted to expand their business to include a mobile component, and presented their case to the Dragon’s Den investors, only to be rejected. The owners went ahead anyway, and Thelma is now regarded as one of the successes that made it even without the requested financial support.

Caplansky's Deli

Thunderin’ Thelma

Similarly located in a private lot (they apparently pay $300 a month to park there), we encountered a situation opposite from Buster’s –there was absolutely no line. Visibility from the street was definitely an issue (being tucked next to a building), and possibly competition as well – McDonald’s was just across the street.

Caplansky's Deli

The best in town

Regardless, we had heard far and wide about their Montreal smoked meat sandwiches ($7), and couldn’t wait to try them ourselves. We took our boxed lunch over to a park bench next to the Metropolitan Church and dug in.

Caplansky's Deli

Sandwiches

The sandwiches were unreal. The meat was juicy, slightly honeyed, and the rye held up to the moisture – no soggy mess here!

Caplansky's Deli

Mmmmm

The reuben spring rolls ($5) were overpowered by a bit too much hot mustard, but they were crispy enough. And for dessert: the maple bacon doughnuts were warm, and balanced sweet and savoury flavours well, even if we didn’t discern too much bacon flavour.

Caplansky's Deli

Maple bacon doughnuts and reuben spring rolls

I was happy to have been able to try a slice of Toronto’s food truck scene. I do hope it continues to grow, in spite of the lack of policy changes. Until next time!

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