Bite into Vancouver’s food truck craze
Story by Adrian Brijbassi
2. Vij’s Railway
3. Le Tigre
4. Reef Runner
5. REEL Mac and Cheese
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Pamela and Gerry Healy had one day to spend in Vancouver on their world tour and the couple from Sydney, Australia didn’t head straight for Stanley Park or one of the city’s beaches or even to the historic Gastown neighbourhood. Their first stop was a food-truck tour.
“We don’t have any food trucks in Sydney. There’s not enough room on the footpaths for them,” Gerry Healy said, lamenting the tight streets Down Under. “We looked online at what people were saying about the tour and it seemed like a good way to see the city.”
The Healys joined three other couples on a tour of five food trucks, gnoshing on each of them. While food trucks have been hit and miss as far as profitability goes in other parts of Canada, they are thriving in Vancouver. The city provides 130 food vendor licenses, including for hot dog carts. Increasingly, a number of those licenses are used by elite chefs who spin off their cuisine into low-cost menu items that feed the lunch crowds who pour out of office buildings for something tastier — and often healthier — than the typical fast-food options.
Among them are: Vij’s Railway, serving mostly vegetarian cuisine inspired by recipes from Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala; Le Tigre, run by former Top Chef Canada contestants; and Tacofino, a wildly popular mobile taco stand that takes its name from its hometown of Tofino.
Visitors who sign up for the Vancouver Foodie Tours will taste a handful of the 16 food trucks that’s on the company’s roster. The trucks visited rotate daily. On the tour I took, Japadog was the first stop. It has a brick-and-mortar eatery on Robson Street as well as two food trucks. Japadog was founded in 2006 by a Japanese salesman who saw an opportunity to import Kurobuta pork (made from black Berkshire pigs) and serve it as hot dogs that are topped with a variety of condiments, including wasabi mustard. The Kurobuta sausages come in combinations such as Terimayo (with mayo and seaweed) and Okonomi (topped with spicy bonito flakes). Prices range from $6.95 and up. I’ve tried other items on the Japadog menu and none come close to the flavour (or value) of the grilled Kurobuta.
The other spots visited on the tour included EAT Chicken Wraps, which is more adventurous than it sounds. It serves a range of wraps seasoned with spices that cover the gamut of Vancouver’s ethnic makeup. I tried the Hoisin Wrap ($7), which featured five spices and was served on a crispy Chinese pancake.
Mom’s Grilled Cheese serves up the beloved sandwich in a silvery truck that resembles an American diner. Tacofino and Le Tigre were the final two spots we visited.
The food truck tour starts at 11 am daily and covers less than two kilometres on foot. Between stops, the tour guides recount stories about the city’s architecture, history and landscape.
“We’re real foodies, so we were looking forward to doing this,” said Sean Hinson, a world traveller from Little Rock, Arkansas who was visiting Vancouver for the first time with his wife, Kristen. “We’re open to trying anything, which is what I think the definition of a foodie is, and a tour like this is great for that because you have so many flavours and different types of cuisine that you’re trying.”
MORE ABOUT VANCOUVER FOODIE TOURS
Cost: $49 per person
Other Tours: Granville Island Market Tour ($49) and Guilty Pleasures Gourmet Tour that covers some of the city’s popular restaurants ($69).
More Trucks Info: If you want to visit other trucks, download the Vancouver Street Food App.