The first thing you learn about food trucks in Vancouver is that they aren't called food trucks — food carts is their name. Food carts sounds better, even if they are more truck than cart.
As regular readers know, living in a city where there are food trucks but they can't do what would make them really good leads you to be a little desperate for food trucks when visiting other cities.
Fortunately, chasing food carts in Vancouver was a lot easier than in Calgary and Edmonton, and offered some intriguing variety than Minneapolis couldn't match. And when they gather in one place … even better, but more on that later.
Finding Japadog in downtown Vancouver takes as much time as you need to reacquaint yourself with the area. Also, Japadog has 3 outdoor locations (and an indoor location). You can now do Japadog in New York City, but Vancouver still has the original.
Japanese style hot dogs isn't something you would come up on your own, and that's okay. I ordered the main hot dog. The pork is kurobuta. You get the caramelized onions, teriyaki mayo, and the green seaweed.
The pork was absolutely wonderful; sometimes the hype is right. Beautiful meat to eat. The overall dog was pretty mild; the spice of the teriyaki mayo does come through a bit.
Though the dog may look a little odd, especially with the seaweed, the squeamish shouldn't worry. And if you're really concerned, you can order the pork and put your own condiments.
Though I got the shaken fries later at the indoor location, they were a really nice pickup. The butter and soy sauce is the standard, but I loved the simichi and garlic. I was warned they'd be spicy but not hot: exactly what I got. And a bit healthier than ketchup as a condiment.
I saw the buttermilk-brined red snapper sandwich and went for that. This was the case of best intentions, but in the wrong setting.
The fish was quite good, but the rest of the sandwich suffered. The cole slaw was the literal definition of bland and had to be removed from the sandwich. The lettuce and tomato weren't that great, and the sauce was also bland. Get the tacos, get something else, but don't get that sandwich.
This is the trouble with food trucks/carts and restaurants. I wanted something different, but should have picked something else.
We covered Fresh Local Wild in the story on sustainable fish. They had a booth for seating at the end of the truck. Unfortunately, others had grabbed the seats, but if you get a chance, that would add well to the experience. Finding a place to eat is part of the problem with food trucks. Having seating is that much better, especially if the weather is less than ideal.
Food trucks parked here and there on downtown streets are good for the business lunch crowd, but if you don't work downtown or can't get away, you should have other ways to experience this trend. Enter the Food Cart Fest.
Now in its second year, each Sunday from noon to 5 pm, a series of food trucks and a few art-type related tents gather on the south side of False Creek just west of the Olympic Village.
The sky started out ominous for the Sunday I was there, but the sun did pop up not long ago the proceedings started.
The scene reminded me of going down Columbus in North Beach in San Francisco. So much selection with people trying to draw you in to eat. Where did I want to eat and what did I want to eat? Well, in North Beach, the selection is virtually all Italian.
I could have ordered 4-5 pies as much as I could have ordered one. Good options to choose from. I picked a classic in my head: chicken and mushrooms in a white wine sauce — the chook pie. The crust was gorgeous and lovely to eat. I did see dark meat chicken with some mushrooms, though I wondered if the inside came up short, or maybe my expectations were of a fuller pie.
The beef versions might be better as well as the apple pie option. That crust would make a lot of foods taste better; just wish there was more food inside the pie, especially for $8.
Tacofino was a truck I had passed up in downtown Vancouver. The line at the fest was considerably long, so I reflected back to my days of seeing lines outside a boulangerie in Paris, recognizing that a long line can mean the wait is worthwhile.
The Tacofino fish taco was crispy ling cod with cabbage, chipotle mayo, and salsa fresca. The mix of ingredients was marvelous, and honestly, worth the wait. Ling cod was a new form of fish to me, but I enjoyed the flavor. The salsa fresca made a difference, and the chipotle mayo helped, though the mayo trend in these fish tacos is overboard. A sprinkle of chipotle powder would have added the spice without the heaviness of mayo.
Ordering the Johnny cakes from the Jamaican food truck was more of a point rather than the food itself. The fact that you could order Johnny cakes for $2 was a redeeming point. Too often, food trucks get criticized for costly food items.
The cakes weren't terribly tasty, but they were filling. I almost got the jerk chicken poutine, and would have if I had more room in my stomach. I did try the jerk gravy and that was so good, I tried it with the Johnny cakes, producing an odd spicy but starchy snack.
The fact that this was a tiny sampling of food trucks speaks volumes to what Vancouver offers. Its better-known rival Canadian cities to the East — Toronto and Montreal — are only (somewhat) realizing the joy of food trucks. Whether Vancouver can rival food truck powerhouses such as Los Angeles and Portland can be answered by others, but the city can hold its own with most North American cities, and would blow out Chicago with both hands tied behind its back.
Wonderful variety, intriguing creativity, and very easy to find. Food trucks in Vancouver are showing the rest of the continent how it can and should be done in a large major city.