Recap: What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

I can’t tell you how many times I checked the weather forecast in the days leading up to our second What the Truck?! event on Friday. Early on in the week, things weren’t looking good, with showers predicted on the day itself and even on the following days. Thankfully though, as Friday approached, our optimism was rewarded, and save for a few threatening clouds, we were able to stay dry!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

McIntyre Park

For a second year in a row, Old Strathcona played a welcoming host to WTT. And like last year’s event at McIntyre Park, we found it again attracted many young families – it was a wonderful sight to see so many children enjoying themselves in the green space.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Dinner time!

In response to the crush of lines at our last event on 104 Street, we increased the number of food trucks to fifteen. This, coupled with a steady crowd over the course of the evening, really helped to minimize the line-ups. I know I was personally able to try several more trucks this time around!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Food truck cul de sac

We made the effort to try some of the vendors new to WTT. I was perhaps most looking forward to the Perogy Princess, as it has been the most talked about truck this season. Their prairie poutine was a fun twist on one of my favourite dishes – perogies drowned in gravy and topped in cheese curds.

Perogy Princess

Prairie poutine from Perogy Princess

Afterbite Mobile Kitchen’s pizza rolls were an instant hit with the crowd – and after trying them myself, I could see why. How could you say no to deep-fried morsels filled with cheese, and an assortment of pizza toppings?

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Pizza rolls from Afterbite

The chicken flautas from Casa Doce were a meal in itself, which I didn’t expect. They came with a generous portion of pico de gallo and a fresh underlay of lettuce.

Casa Doce

Chicken flautas from Casa Doce

There was also quite a bit of chatter about the duck tots from Attila the HUNgry. It was definitely enough for two, tater tots topped with Thai-braised duck legs, hoisin aioli, lime sriracha, herbs and peanuts.

Attila the HUNgry

Duck tots from Attila the HUNgry

We were fortunate to have great community support for this event. It was wonderful to work with the Old Strathcona Business Association, specifically with Tineke De Jong, who secured sponsorship for the street closure. The Strathcona Community League also stepped up to sponsor our event insurance. In addition, Capital City Cleanup came through with some volunteers and clean-up supplies – the volunteers made sure the site remained spic and span during and after the event!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Capital City Cleanup

A big thanks also to DJs Polyesterday and Chesterfield for the tunes in the park!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

DJ Polyesterday’s fans start young!

Keep an eye out on our website for more details about our next two events in July – we’ll be at Baconfest on July 4, and back at the Boyle Street Plaza for a burger-themed Truck Stop on July 10. Hope to see you there!

Recap: 4th Street Promenade What the Truck?!

Though we were hoping for a big crowd at our first What the Truck?! of the season, I’m not sure any of us knew just how many people would turn up for the event.

What the Truck?! on 104 Street

Our front yard!

Last Saturday, we hosted twelve trucks on the 4th Street Promenade. It was the second What the Truck?! to take place on that particular street, following up on our 2012 appearance in conjunction with Al Fresco.

What the Truck?! on 104 Street

Overhead shot

Thankfully this time around, the weather held up, and those who attended were able to enjoy eats ranging from S’wich’s root beer-braised brisket sandwiches (delicious, may I add) to poutine and fish tacos. It was great having three new trucks on hand: Big City Sandwich, Incredible Edibles and Nhon Hoa.

What the Truck?! May 24, 2014

Big City Sandwich

We heard that many people weren’t able to stay due to the lines, but were happy that area restaurants welcomed patrons with open arms! In recognition that lines seemed longer than usual, we intend on expanding our line-up at the next event. That said, we still always recommend arriving as early as possible to guarantee yourself the best food selection, and to take the opportunity to meet your line neighbours! We always feel that What the Truck?! is as much about socializing as it is about the food.

What the Truck?! on 104 Street

I loved that Evoolution was out handing out samples to folks in line

A big thank-you to DJs Thomas Culture and Polyesterday, who helped create the party atmosphere that night. And without our sponsors – Capital City Cleanup, the Downtown Edmonton Community League, and in particular, the City Market, the event would not have been possible. A special shout-out also to the Blue Plate Diner, who helped us out that night as well.

If you missed out on the fun, not to worry – our second What the Truck?! of the season is taking place in Old Strathcona on Friday, June 13 from 5-9pm. Stay tuned to the website next week for a list of participating trucks.

2013 What the Truck?! Roundup

While I did recap the first three What the Truck?! events that took place this year (Ginger Beef Throwdown, Old Strathcona and The Quarters), I fell off the wagon this summer and failed to keep up with the rest.

Louise McKinney Riverfront Park

Louise McKinney is a beautiful location to be sure, one that provides a gorgeous vantage point and approach to the river valley. However, we knew that the gradient and the few access points might act as barriers for some, but we were hoping that the trucks would be enough of a draw on August 24, 2013.

We had to change our original site map on the fly due to a concurrent event taking place in the adjacent park, which worked for the most part, but wasn’t perfect. Due to the same event, on-site parking was even more scarce. And so, in order to prevent drivers from looping through the vending area, Mack and I ended up having to second our family members to act as parking attendants and control vehicle access. While a majority of people were understanding (and took advantage of our recommendation to park along Jasper Avenue), it really was disheartening to see the number of drivers who didn’t hesitate to spew vitriol when told there was no on-site parking available. Mobility challenges and families with young children aside, I couldn’t fathom why some didn’t want to take advantage of an absolutely gorgeous day and spend more time outdoors.

What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney

Louise McKinney

That aside, for those that did take in the event, we heard pretty positive feedback. The relatively smaller crowd meant shorter lines, and everyone seemed to appreciate the location’s proximity to our river valley.

What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney

Beautiful vantage point

It was great to see people sprawled out on the grass, picnicking with their buffet spreads, or utilizing concrete parking curbs as benches.

What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney

Al fresco!

I was able to try Yellow Bird’s gyu-don beef rice bowl. The one dish filled me up for the rest of the evening, a tasty combination of beef, egg and veggies.

What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney

Gyu-don from Yellow Bird

A big thanks to the Shaw Conference Centre, who allowed us to set up in their parking lot, and to the Downtown Edmonton Community League for sponsoring a number of our events this year (including this one).

Churchill Square

Our final What the Truck?! in Churchill Square on September 20, 2013 was our biggest event ever, and it was not only clear that the Square was bursting at the seams with vendors, but also that food trucks have been thoroughly embraced by Edmontonians.

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Churchill Square (photo by Dave Feltham)

We were really fortunate this season with good weather, and this was exemplified that Friday. It was a fitting finale for summer, and revelers came out in droves.

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The crowds! (photo by Dave Feltham)

Some of the lines were long and rather unwieldy, but I’m happy to say that it looked like most people were enjoying themselves, catching up with old friends or meeting new ones.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013

Dining out

And while we welcomed a few new trucks to our WTT family that day, we didn’t know that we were saying goodbye to one. It was the last service for The Lingnan Express – Miles sold the truck to another proprietor, who will be rebranding the truck to be launched in 2014.

We’re always indebted to DJ Thomas Scott and his friends, who bring just the right party atmosphere to our events. You rock!

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013

DJ Thomas Scott

And what can we say to thank our hard working volunteers, who perform thankless jobs like garbage collection? We couldn’t do it without you.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013

Super Su!

Thanks to everyone who came out that night and helped us celebrate a great year.

What the Truck?! Gives Back

We capped our season with a special service at the Bissell Centre. Our desire was to try and replicate the spirit of our other pop-up events, but of course, this one had one major twist: the food was free.

Six trucks served over 900 meals to underprivileged individuals that day. We can’t tell you how rewarding it was to see people enjoying themselves.

Bissell Centre Truck Stop

Bully at work

We always knew we were lucky to have such a great food truck community in Edmonton, but the participating vendors that day took that statement to another level. Thanks to The Act Out & About, Bully, Lemon Grass Grill, Little Village, The Local Omnivore, and Sailin’ On for your generous contributions.

Bissell Centre Truck Stop

Big hearts!

It was also a wonderful experience working with the staff from the Bissell Centre. The agency has had a rough month, experiencing a fire in their Thrift Shoppe, but the staff were more than accommodating to help us put on this event on their day off! Thanks to the staff and volunteers for their hard work.

Looking to 2014

You can be sure What the Truck?! will be back next year (we’ve already started brainstorming locations!), but perhaps the most exciting thing for us is an expanded team! We know this event could be so much more, but Mack and I aren’t able to grow it on our own. So we’ve invited a few more people to the table who will lend new ideas, perspectives and energy to the events. Welcome Caleng, Dave and Melina – I’m looking forward to working with you in 2014.

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square 2013

Team What the Truck?!

See you next year!

September 20, 2013 What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

It’s been an amazing year for food trucks. The growth in the Edmonton scene has been unprecedented, with at least a dozen new trucks joining the scene in 2013, offering cuisine ranging from tacos to banh mi to the ever-popular poutine.

This year also saw changes to Edmonton’s street food policy, with longer hours of operations, and more clarity around where food trucks can park. The new regulations should make it easier for even more trucks to join the city’s fleet.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

This Friday, we want to celebrate this banner year in Edmonton’s food truck scene with the largest What the Truck?! in our festival’s history. This Friday, join us on Churchill Square to sample fare from 16 vendors, including two of the most recent newcomers, Knosh and Black Bull Grill. You can take a look at the menus here.

What: What the Truck?! at Churchill Square
Where: Churchill Square
When: Friday, September 20, 2013
Time: 4-8pm
Check out the Facebook event to RSVP and spread the word!

What the Truck?! at Churchill Square

This time last year on the Square

We’ll have DJs Thomas Scott (Urban Monks) and Polyesterday helping us set the tone that night, two of our What the Truck?! music veterans.

Hope to see you there!

What the Truck?! in Louise McKinney Riverfront Park: August 24, 2013

Since our successful Blink: Urban Picnic last year, Mack and I have mulled over other ways to animate the river valley. Even temporarily, it was great to see Louise McKinney Riverfront Park being used for something other than a quiet stroll or a cycle through.

Although the Park is home to several festivals, including this past weekend’s annual Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival, and Hip Hop in the Park, for most of the summer, it lays dormant, and is without a doubt one of the most underutilized green spaces in the city. It’s a shame, given its proximity to the core, and with beautiful views of the valley and the river, Louise McKinney should be a better fixture on the event scene.

Louise McKinney Riverfront Park

I recognize the gradient, and the access points down to the riverfront could be a barrier for some. And for others, its lack of casual, commercial activity (save for the Urban Green Café), doesn’t provide enough of an excuse to make the trek down worthwhile.

Louise McKinney Riverfront Park

Our upcoming What the Truck?! on Saturday is an attempt at enlivening the space, just for an evening.

What: What the Truck?! at Louise McKinney
Where: Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, 9999 Grierson Hill Road
When: Saturday, August 24, 2013
Time: 5-9pm

We’ll have ten trucks on hand, including two of the newest to join Edmonton’s fleet – Lemongrass Grill and The Crooked Fork.

Lemongrass GrillFrench Quarter Farmers' Market

Lemongrass Grill and The Crooked Fork

You can check out the menus here and judge for yourself, but it’s hard not to love the variety food trucks bring to the table (or in this case, park).

Hope to see you there on Saturday!

Recap: Truck Stop in The Quarters

We usually avoid organizing What the Truck?! events in July because of how busy the Edmonton event calendar gets in the middle of summer, but the Boyle Renaissance Plaza venue was too good to pass up. It was an opportunity for food trucks to animate an area that should be more visible and appreciated, and we were happy that Edmontonians responded with a good turnout, in spite of several concurrent festivals.

Truck Stop: The Quarters

Perfect weather for food trucks!

Though we estimate that a total of 1,000 people came through that evening, about 100 took a tour of the new facility, explored the community centre and learned about the programs offered by the YMCA.

Truck Stop: The Quarters

Boyle Street Plaza

Those who attended may have noticed some coloured coupons floating around that day. The Boyle Street Community League had stepped up to purchase vouchers that were distributed to low-income residents and community members so that finances would not be a barrier to partaking in the event. We were floored by their generosity and inclusivity.

Truck Stop: The Quarters

Gorgeous green space

City of Edmonton staff were on hand to provide face painting to children and adults alike, and Virgin Radio provided the soundtrack for the evening.

Truck Stop: The Quarters

Mindy Cooper of Virgin Radio

Mack and I also made sure to line-up before the crowds gathered (good thing too, given three of the trucks sold out!). We were able to share the green curry chicken sandwich from Swich and the pulled pork poutine from La Poutine. Yum!

Swich

Green curry chicken sandwich

La Poutine

Pulled pork poutine

Thanks to everyone who came out! We’ll be announcing the details of our next What the Truck?! event taking place in August next week. Stay tuned!

Truck Stop: Boyle Renaissance on July 25, 2013

It isn’t by accident that our What the Truck?! events have taken place only in centrally-located, mature neighbourhoods. We knew early on, for a grassroots festival like ours, we needed to choose areas of high residential density and ideally, areas which also boasted high levels of foot traffic. Given we had a promotional budget of $0, we needed to encourage the chance that visitors could stumble upon the festival.

Of course, our secondary reasoning for the venues we have chosen in the past relate to our desire to animate underutilized spaces by showcasing their potential, and encouraging the use of alternative modes of transportation by ensuring pedestrian and transit accessibility.

This is why our upcoming event The Quarters is so exciting. The area has fallen into disrepair over the years, but the City has a grand vision to breathe life back into the area, which will include parks, a direct connection to the river valley, and new commercial and residential developments. One development, the Boyle Renaissance, is well underway, and can be seen as the herald of change in this neighbourhood.

Boyle Renaissance

Boyle Renaissance

Located just east of downtown, the completed first phase not only includes both affordable and market housing in the Welcome Village, but also a community centre. Mack and I toured through the facility in March, and were really impressed by what we saw. The building houses the Boyle Street Community League and also functions as its multi-function community hall – a gym, meeting rooms and even a kitchen can be rented through the league. We’ve been told that certain choice times in the gym have already been fully booked for the year by sports teams.

Boyle Renaissance
Welcome Village

The YMCA occupies the second floor of the building, and runs several programs out of the facility, including a family resource centre, child care centre and a collective kitchen.

We also appreciated some of the aesthetic features, including built-in projection equipment to allow art or films to be showcased just behind the glass walls, and a communal table that will be installed in the outdoor courtyard.

Boyle Renaissance
Community centre

When the City approached us earlier this year about organizing a Truck Stop event at the Boyle Renaissance, we knew it was the perfect fit. Though it may not have the foot traffic of Downtown, Oliver or Old Strathcona, we hope that through events like this, more Edmontonians will be exposed to up-and-coming neighbourhoods like The Quarters.

Join us on July 25, 2013 for our next Truck Stop in The Quarters!

What: Truck Stop: Boyle Renaissance
Where: Boyle Renaissance Plaza, 103A Avenue & 95 Street
When: Thursday, July 25, 2013
Time: 5-8p.m.

Expect children’s activities, music, a movie projection and tours of the new facility. And of course, food!

We are thrilled that four of the food trucks that debuted this year will be joining us that night. This will be one of the best opportunities to try food from several of the newest trucks in town, all in one place!

Menus will be posted at the What the Truck?! website on July 18, so check back then. Hope to see you there!

Recap: What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

I’m always a worrier before our events, and on Friday, with the overcast skies threatening rain all afternoon, I really wasn’t sure how things would turn out at our first What the Truck?! of the year.

But after it poured in the hours leading up to the start, the skies cleared, and we were blessed with sunny (and dry) skies. And thankfully, the crowds followed!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

After a series of successful Truck Stops in McIntyre Park last year, we started considering the location for one of our larger festivals. Central, accessible, with lots of built in seating and grass, it turned out to be the perfect setting for a celebration of food trucks to usher in summer.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

It was particularly gratifying for Mack and I to see so many young families in attendance. We always strive to make our events family-friendly, but it seemed even more children were in attendance this time around, dancing, playing with one another, and taking advantage of the open space.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

It’s always great to see familiar faces at What the Truck?! – we really appreciate the support – but it’s also nice when we run into those who are attending the festival for the first time!

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Allan (of Irvings Farm Fresh) at his first WTT

Mack and I were also excited to try the new food trucks for ourselves (it’s almost embarrassing to admit). Paul Lampa of The Food Fighter laughed when I told him I wouldn’t be sharing my chicken parmigiana sandwich – I knew why after I attempted to finish it on my own. I should have weighed the sandwich – it was beyond generous, and I was defeated by the layers of breaded chicken topped with cheese and a subtly sweet tomato sauce.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Paul of The Food Fighter

Mack chose the cheesy beef sandwich from The Local Omnivore, after learning that they brined the beef for twenty-one days before smoking it.

What the Truck?! in Old Strathcona

Mack with his cheesy beef

At the end of the night, most of the trucks had sold out of food. Thank you to those who attended for making the event a success – we hope you had a great time! To help us with the planning for future events, we would appreciate it if you could fill out this survey about your experience.

Events like this cannot happen without support from the community, and we were incredibly fortunate to work with great partners and sponsors. The Old Strathcona Business Association stepped up as a partner from the moment we approached them; a special shout out to Tineke for all of your work! The Strathcona Community League was a sponsor early on as well, and helped us spread the word in the neighbourhood. DJs Thomas Scott (Urban Monks), Rob Clarke and Polyesterday also donated their services – who didn’t want to dance along with them?

Thomas Scott, Rob Clarke, Polyesterday

DJs Thomas Scott, Rob Clarke and Polyesterday

A final thank you goes to our wonderful volunteers, who were game for anything we threw at them that night! If you found the site spotless, you know who to thank!

We are in the process of planning our events for the rest of the year, but you can expect two more What the Truck?! events this season, and at least one Truck Stop in the coming months. Check back on What the Truck?! for details!

You can see more photos from the event here.

Recap: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Last Friday, we kicked off our 2013 What the Truck?! season with a Ginger Beef Throwdown. Partnering with the Royal Alberta Museum , the event was organized in conjunction with the current Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit, which examines the history of Chinese restaurants in our province in the twentieth century.

Although we knew the event would draw a crowd, we never anticipated the sheer number of early birds that staked out a place in line well before the start time. The glorious weather definitely helped, as did the scheduling just before the long weekend, but most of all, I think it speaks to the fact that Edmontonians love food trucks!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

The line

I have already written about the rationale for our food ticketing system and the “intentional bottleneck” that we created, and in spite of fielding many complaints, I don’t think we could have done it any other way. Given the constraints of the museum space, as well as a desire to streamline food access to enable sampling of multiple dishes, we were happy with how things worked out overall. That said, we could have done a better job in communicating the reasoning behind the system – hopefully those that left hungry and frustrated will give future What the Truck?! events another chance.

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Controlled chaos

It also bears saying that the trucks just rocked it that night. They pumped out servings like nobody’s business, and continued to push the limits of their capacity. Thanks to The Act , Bully, The Lingnan Express and Smokehouse BBQ for a memorable start to the season!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

The trucks

As for the food, while we didn’t vote ourselves (The Lingnan took home the crown), we were able to sample Bully’s BLT and The Lingnan’s traditional ginger beef. After the craziness, they really hit the spot! For a more comprehensive look at the dishes that night, check out Teresa and Diane’s posts.

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

Bully’s BLT and The Lingnan’s ginger beef

Partnerships have been vital to What the Truck?! from the beginning, so we appreciated the opportunity to work with the Royal Alberta Museum for the first time. With over 400 people who checked out the exhibit that night, it was counted as a definite success for the RAM!

Without question, this was our most labour-intensive event to date, as we not only had to facilitate the food tickets, but also drink sales. Because of these responsibilities, we could not have run the event on our own, and were indebted to the generosity of our volunteers. Thanks to my Mum, Dad, Felicia, Caleng, Linda, Phil and Robyn for all of your help!

Lastly, thanks to everyone who came – we hope you had fun! We are already in the throes of planning for the next What the Truck?!, which will take place south of the river in June. Stay tuned for more details next week!

Truck Stop: Ginger Beef Throwdown

It’s finally starting to feel like summer, and you know what that means – food truck season! Mack and I are still in the midst of finalizing the What the Truck?! calendar for the year, but we’re excited to announce our first 2013 Truck Stop, taking place next week!

What: Ginger Beef Throwdown
When: May 17, 2013
Time: 5-8pm
Where: Royal Alberta Museum, 12845 102 Avenue

Our Pulled Pork Throwdown was so well received last year that we didn’t hesitate when the Royal Alberta Museum approached us earlier this year with an idea to partner on an event.

To celebrate the RAM’s newest exhibit, Chop Suey on the Prairies, this Truck Stop will serve up different versions of ginger beef-inspired dishes, a staple on Chinese restaurant menus across the prairies in the early twentieth century. The Act Out & About, Bully Food Truck, The Lingnan Express and Smokehouse BBQ will be throwing down the gauntlet and doing their best to earn your vote. Four trucks, four dishes. You decide who made it best.

Ginger Beef

The Lingnan’s ginger beef

The museum will be open until 8pm that night so attendees can visit Chop Suey on the Prairies. Admission will be by donation (the rest of the RAM will be closed). This Truck Stop will be a great opportunity to not only taste some unique interpretations of a classic Chinese-Albertan dish, but to also explore some of the roots of our ethnic Prairie cuisine.

Check back on the What the Truck?! website on Monday for menus. Hope to see you there!