The first ever Hawkers Market in Edmonton took place on Saturday, November 30 in the basement of the Mercer Warehouse (otherwise known as Vacancy Hall). Originating in Vancouver, Hawkers Market intends to “create a space where vibrant and exciting local food can be discovered…a place to conduct commerce, rapidly test ideas and meet customers face to face.” As a result, I expected the event to be similar in nature to the Toronto Underground Market I attended last year, which is set-up as an opportunity for start-up food businesses to grow and make a name for themselves in a competitive market. No doubt, one of the busiest vendors at TUM that night was La Carnita, which is now one of the most popular taquerias in Toronto.
Mack and I were given free admission tickets, but I did purchase two $10 advance tickets for my sisters. Menus weren’t available in advance, but when we arrived, we found that food averaged between $5-7.
With my sisters
Given it was Hawkers Market’s first time in Edmonton, a few hiccups were to be expected. For one, the start time was 5pm, though this was inconsistent on some of the advertised Eventbrite information. As well, with some power issues and poor ventilation, it will be interesting to see if Vacancy Hall will continue to host this event.
Eight vendors were set up along the periphery of the room, with a DJ adding to the party atmosphere. Though we were somewhat surprised to see that five of the vendors were existing or soon-to-be food truck operators, in a way, the timing perfectly complements the food truck off-season. That said, we were hoping to see more newly-established businesses, but I am guessing this will come as word spreads about Hawkers Market.
The Bully Food Truck team!
Drift’s mini truck replica greeted guests walking in, but perhaps even more enticing was their menu offering, a Burmese dish of khao swe ($5). One of Nevin’s family recipes, the coconut chicken noodles were served up and ready to be customized with an assortment of toppings: green onions, cilantro, fried onions, chickpea chips and sticks, boiled egg, lemon and red chili flakes. It was fun to make the dish to our taste, delectable as it already was.
Khao swe from Drift
Notably, Drift was also selling their signature ketchup and spice, nicely packaged for holiday giving. If you missed it, you can now pick up the products at Acme Meats!
Give the gift of Drift
Amanda high-tailed it pretty quick to Sailin’ On, her favourite food truck. We shared an order of chili-lime tofu tacos ($9), with refried beans, vegan cheddar, veggies, salsa verde and lime. She wasn’t disappointed with her pick.
Chili-lime tofu tacos from Sailin’ On
I didn’t expect a restaurant like XIX Nineteen to participate in Hawkers Market, though in hindsight, it was an opportunity to interact with a whole new group of potential patrons. Felicia ordered a dish of rabbit and gnocchi poutine ($5 without the meat) to try. It was a creative dish well-suited to the environment it was being cooked and served in, and the gnocchi was tasty in and of itself.
Gnocchi poutine from XIX Nineteen
In that same vein, Casa Doce, a food truck which has mostly operated in Sherwood Park this past year, showcased their Mexican cuisine to a different audience. We tried their jalapeno and queso fresco tamale ($5), topped with beans and pickled onions. It was piping hot, and definitely meant to be shared by a group.
Tamale from Casa Doce
It was exciting to see two brand new vendors launching at Hawkers Market who don’t yet already have an existing storefront or truck. Parts & Service is a forthcoming food truck, their name inspired by some of the off-cuts of meat they will be using. That night, they were serving up duck confit and roasted bone marrow ($5); we ordered the latter. Served with crostini and topped with fennel salsa, it was a memorable dish that immediately set them apart from other trucks.
Roasted bone marrow from Parts & Service
Unfortunately, we missed sampling the dessert from Paper Bag Donuts, courtesy of Red Ox Inn’s Sean O’Connor. To be honest, I saw a tiny sign with the letters “PBD” on the corner, but didn’t investigate any further – our loss. Hopefully Paper Bag Donuts pops-up again soon!
The one vendor that wasn’t quite like the others was South Island Pie Company, which had presence at the City Market this summer. They weren’t sampling any products, and instead, were selling frozen pies for takeaway. We did pick up a pair on our way out, as we were heading home and could stash them in our freezer, but given they were the odd booth out, we hoped they were successful through the night.
South Island Pie Company
So while the majority of the vendors weren’t necessarily new, I think Hawkers Market still accomplished their mission of increasing the exposure of small food businesses. It sounds like a second Hawkers Market is scheduled for February 22, 2014, so keep an eye out for more details!