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Keep on Truckin’

Can gourmet food trucks survive in a city with four seasons?

by Leslie Clark

There’s no denying that the street food trend is booming these days. It’s easy to see the draw of inexpensive meals you can grab on the run. The newest incarnation of food trucks has been reaching beyond the typical street meat and fries to include offerings like specialty tacos, Asian fusion and classic French cuisine. Unfortunately for Torontonians, our participation in the trend has been limited to Food Network shows like The Great Food Truck Race and Eat St. that profile the unique and inventive delicacies served on wheels to the lucky inhabitants of sunnier cities. Places like San Francisco and Los Angeles play host to an abundance of food trucks. Is this something that could ever translate to Toronto?

Ken Ho’s Chinese food truck is a common sight around the University of Toronto campus in good weather. Photo by nayukim on Flickr, March 24, 2008

A select few seem to think so. Back in July, the first ever Food Truck Festival rolled into the Distillery District. Visitors devoured wood oven pizzas, barbecue pork buns and grilled cheese sandwiches made on trucks that hailed from places as varied as Hamilton and the Niagara region. Then, on November 18th, the Food Truck Eats Mini-Festival brought the flavour and creativity of six different trucks to the vacant lot at Yonge and Gould. These events were well-received and encouraging for cheerleaders of the food truck trend.

Fish and Chips outside city hall. Photo by Benson Kua on Flickr, July 26, 2011.

There are, however, logistical concerns to be dealt with. In good weather, it’s easy to imagine lines stretching around the block. But what about during the city’s harsh winter months? It remains to be seen if patrons, no matter how enthusiastic, will brave the snow in high enough numbers. If not, the operators of the trucks won’t be able to make a profit, or regain what they’ll spend on their hydro bills. The only way to know if the trend will survive Toronto’s climate is for a few adventurous entrepreneurs to try it out. In the meantime those trusty yellow hot dog carts, with their quick-to-prepare menus and much lower operating costs, may have to tide us over this winter.


  • Cyber Guy

    You may be right, but how do you think climate change will factor into the future success or failure of food trucks on Toronto’s streets? Perhaps some still consider this topic a hot potato, but it’s undeniable at this point in the process, and southern Ontario’s winters are milder than ever. Heck, even up here in the nation’s capital snowfall is greatly reduced and the canal just barely iced over in time for Winterlude. Might I suggest an insightful article delving into the effects of climate change on the foods we love to eat, and the venues where we eat them. Your article about shark fins was informative too, but sharks may not prowl the oceans for much longer, at least not in catchable numbers. Instead, jellyfish could become the seafood of the future. I’m just saying we live in a pivotal time (paradigms are shifting) and our food trucks stand to benefit from milder winters. Good reporting and I look forward to your next article!

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