February 06, 2012

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things Toronto

Torontonians are hungry for food trucks.  Literally.  In one of the most multicultural cities in the world, full of talented food producers, it should not be this hard to find good street food.  Hot dogs and French fries don’t count.

Yet, Toronto insists on stubbornly refusing to update by-laws which make it difficult to create change.  The current by-laws restrict food trucks from operating on public property in the downtown core, an area bordered by Bathurst Street to the west, Eglinton Avenue to the north and the Don River to the east. 

Food Trucks @ The Distillery District

But wait?  What about the fry trucks that park in front of Nathan Philips Square? Those have been there since before the dawn of time and have special permits with the City.  That is the only place they can operate.  There has since been a moratorium on new street vending permits for public property in the downtown core.  New food trucks don’t stand a chance, at least not in Toronto.

It’s a different story in Alberta, where Calgarians petitioned the City to eliminate outdated and misguided laws.  The mayor of Calgary was even on board with the movement and actively encouraged it.  As a result, the city loosened up on some of their old restrictions and Calgary’s food scene is now thriving.  In comparison, Toronto’s by-laws are antiquated and embarrassing.  But what is perhaps most embarrassing is an unwillingness to make changes.

 Some innovative Torontonians, however, are thinking up creative ways to get around the city by-laws, like partnering with property owners who have private space available.  This past summer, the city’s first Food Truck Eats event was held at the Distillery District.  Five food trucks, all selling high quality, gourmet food for $5 or less per serving, were present.  Organizer Suresh Doss, (@spotlightcity) predicted a turnout of 500 people.  Over 3000 foodies showed up and stood in line to get a taste of innovative food truck offerings such as wood fired pizza, Vietnamese sandwiches and Indian ice cream.  The vendors sold out in three hours. 

With the popularity of TV shows like Eat St., Torontonians have caught a glimpse of  the wide variety of food trucks that exist elsewhere in North America and they want more of it closer to home.  In a survey conducted by The Street Food Vendors Association, respondents complained that Toronto didn’t have enough variety of street food, needed more food trucks and needed to allow the food trucks to be mobile. 

For a mayor who clearly likes to eat, it’s surprising that Rob Ford and the Toronto City Council haven’t stepped in to help remove the barriers for new food trucks. That small change would make one of the world’s greatest cities, even better.  Or at least on par with Calgary.

A wonderful info graphic from Toronto Food Trucks, explaining why it's so hard...

How to Start a Food Truck in Toronto
Created by Toronto Food Trucks


bellini said...

It is the same here in the valley, no food trucks to be found not even a chip truck within a 100 km radius. I had my fill of chips when I visited Ontario last summer, so I am good for another few years. For food trucks I need to head to Vancouver or even Portland or SF.

buy coffee canada said...

"For a mayor who clearly likes to eat, it’s surprising that Rob Ford and the Toronto City Council haven’t stepped in to help remove the barriers for new food trucks..."

Ben said...

That's so sad! One of the things I love about being back in Mexico is the street food. So much of it and so delicious!

I really hope the laws in Toronto change soon...

Eri said...

Now I understand, cause I was wondering where are the food trucks of Toronto! Too bad, hope they change it..