Street Food

The Act: Nathan McLaughlin, one of the three owners of the Next Act Pub, runs the truck.

The Act: Nathan McLaughlin, one of the three owners of the Next Act Pub, runs the truck. “We do What the Truck twice a month, and we’ll do Interstellar Rodeo, Taste of Edmonton, Canada Day Fireworks. We just started in June, so we’re still figuring out what’s good business. “We always have the Act Burger, and a feature burger such as the pb&j with peanut butter, bacon jam, cheddar. Our fish sandwich is really gaining popularity at lunch; maybe because burgers take eight minutes, the fish only five. “We’re thinking about another truck on the road, next season, with air conditioning. Cooking burgers is hot work.”

Call it a truck, a card or a pod, street food is going mainstream in Edmonton.

Filisticks: Join the lineup for tasty Filipinoinfluenced fresh food like si sig, pork belly with ginger soy, hot chilies and lemon. The food on a stick concept? “Oh, long gone,” says Ariel. “The prep was just too much, I would have had to make my aunt a full time employee.”

Filisticks: Join the lineup for tasty Filipinoinfluenced fresh food like si sig, pork belly with ginger soy, hot chilies and lemon. The food on a stick concept? “Oh, long gone,” says Ariel. “The prep was just too much, I would have had to make my aunt a full time employee.”

Though food from a cart is a mainstay of street life around the world, we were slow to make the concept ours. For several years, the only street food you could find in downtown Edmonton was a poutine guy and the occasional Fat Franks hot dog (there’s a guy who has been selling pea meal bacon sandwiches at St. Albert Farmers Market for several years, too). When Ariel Rosario’s and Raoul Canefranco’s cart called Filistix showed up on Rice Howard Way five years ago, it was revolutionary — and, a bit ahead of its time. “I had lived in Germany where street food is standard, in the Philippines, everybody eats on the street,” said Ariel. “But it was really hard at first — people would stop, peer in the window, move on. We really didn’t know if we could after the first couple of years.

“We were on Rice Howard Way, we were at the City Market on 104 Street and at the Folk Fest, but it was still a tough go.”

Along with the bright green Holy Guacamole boler (round trailer) and Dos Amigos, they were a terrific option at the Saturday City Market. Sadly, these two are gone, perhaps casualties of arriving too early to the street food revolution.

Now, Diana Neubauer’s Fork and Spoon Brigade is a semipermanent fixture at the City Market. Her bright red and stainless truck specializes in hefty, and delicious, stuffed crepes filled with scrambled eggs, Irving’s bacon, tomatoes and lettuce.

Ariel credits the Food Network and shows like Eat St. in helping Edmontonians understand it’s ok to eat from a truck.

Eva Sweet, Bubba’s, Nomad, Drift and several others have all found homes at different farmer’s markets, on street corners or, in the case of Bubba’s, on an empty south-side lot.

Some restaurants are going mobile: Funky Pickle Pizza, the Act (from the Next Act) and the Lingnan are three most likely to be found around town.

Nomad is two NAIT culinary guys, chef/ proprietor Mike Scorgie and Allan Suddaby

Nomad is two NAIT culinary guys, chef/ proprietor Mike Scorgie and Allan Suddaby, who practice nose to tail cooking. “We buy a Berkshire from Irvings, take it apart and cook it.” They use every bit if it, in melt-in-yourmouth kasekrainer (cheese sausage) or roasted pork belly and dumplings. They work with a long list of local farmers and ranchers. “We do a lot of brisket, too — 70 kg a week, and smoked chicken,” says Mike. Menus change daily.

Lorne Merrick’s Fat Franks is Edmonton’s original street vendor. Merrick started 17 years ago with one hot dog cart. His company now operates 29 carts in Edmonton, including three permanent locations on Whyte Avenue, in the Central Academic Building on the U of A Campus, the 106 Street building on Macewan campus, and in Fort McMurray. Fat Franks will open their first diner-style restaurant this fall. “We’ll have 32 different items and draft beer,” says Merrick.

He credits Fat Franks success to versatility. “We can go more places than a truck, we have the indoor steamer carts for large conventions, we’ve got it covered. Our season is a bit longer, 7.5 months on average.

“I’m glad to see more choices,” Merrick says. “The trucks are a great addition — make the streets safer, and more fun.”

Food trucks are cool, and we’re flocking to them. People drive to a food truck, and they make dinner plans for a What the Truck gathering.

Nevin and Kara Fenske’s Drift truck is known for its amazing back bacon sandwich

Nevin and Kara Fenske’s Drift truck is known for its amazing back bacon sandwich, which is featured in the Passion for Pork Promotion (passionforpork. com/recipes/back-bacon-brie-sandwich) “Our most popular sandwich is a play on b.nh mi, made with pork belly. “Things are going well, we’re gaining momentum,” says Nevin.

Finding the best spot to keep everybody happy, including city crews replacing trees or doing routine street repair, can be an issue. For example, The Act started off at the Boardwalk, then Churchill Square, near the Citadel. They are now at their third location on 107 Street. Why could this be a problem? It’s a question of having to establish a new clientele every time. Lunchtime crowds generally won’t walk eight blocks for a sandwich, and the season is short.

The recent dustup between a food truck parked on a city street and a nearby restaurant illustrates what can happen when someone thinks their fixed location business is being sideswiped by a mobile eatery.

Some municipalities have established distance restrictions. London, Ontario, for example, requires trucks to be over 100 metres from existing establishments. The City of Portland now encourages new carts to organize themselves in pods. Some feel these sort of mini neighbourhoods of food carts have revitalized some otherwise sketchy neighbourhood parks in the process.

Let’s hope the City of Edmonton adopts a similar enlightened attitude and allows food trucks to continue to bring vibrancy, the enticement of wafting aromas and great food we can eat out of hand to our downtown city streets.

One burning question remains: Where’s the pyrohy truck?

Where to find food trucks

Trucks change their locations due to construction (The Act had to move due to a tree planting), seasonal parking restrictions, or to go to a festival, event or farmers market. Lunch and evening locations differ. Most trucks tweet their menus and locations daily. Check websites for the latest locations, and What the Truck for the next gathering.

Drift: driftfoodtruck.ca
Eva Sweet: evasweet.ca
Fat Franks: fatfranks.ca
Filistix: filistix.com
Fork and Spoon Brigade: whatthetruck.ca/trucks
Molly’s: twitter.com/mollyseats
Nomad: nomadkitchen.ca
The Act: nextactpub.com, twitter.com/theactfoodtruck
What the Truck: whatthetruck.ca