Vancouver’s street food menu expanding

The City of Vancouver will hatch a pilot project this summer that will allow mobile kitchens on wheels to join the few dozen cart vendors selling street food.

The move will likely expand the menu available on city sidewalks from pre-cooked packaged foods such as hotdogs to more freshly prepared fare. The city soon will issue a call for expressions of interest seeking vendors who want to offer streetside food service, according to the acting manager of streets administration.

Grant Woff said the city is starting to implement the pilot project and looking for street locations where catering trucks or trailers can set up. The city already has 60 locations for cart-based vendors and is identifying new spaces to accommodate larger carts, Woff said.

“There a huge amount of interest in this,” said Coun. Heather Deal, who first proposed allowing fresh food and food preparation in a motion to council two years ago. “I get more e-mail about this than any other topic.”

A 1978 bylaw limits street food in Vancouver to hotdogs, popcorn and chestnuts.

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The pilot project will launch in July with bylaw changes to follow, she said. “Once we get a report back on that we can look at making permanent changes later in the year.”

“Refrigeration and running water were always the sticky issues, but if every other city in the world can do it why can’t we?” asked Deal. “We got some great examples of street food during the Olympics and some of those were in tents but others were mobile catering trucks and we are looking at those options.”

Portland, Ore., has a vibrant street food scene driven mainly by truck- and trailer-based kitchens, more than 400 of them with diverse ethnic menus. Deal would like to see Vancouver emulate Portland’s example.

Vancouver is hoping to avoid the debacle created by Toronto, when the city insisted on designing the carts that vendors would use. The result was expensive, unwieldy and boring, Deal said. “We want to set some minimum standards and a maximum size, and let the city’s entrepreneurs show us what they can do.”

Vending trucks are governed by national standards, the same standards that apply to mobile catering, according to health protection manager Angelo Kouris of Vancouver Coastal Health.

“You are very limited in what you can do with a hotdog cart,” he said. Safe food handling requires adequate refrigeration, hot holding capabilities and a water supply, he said.

“We are going to go with a new cart definition that is going to be an enclosed unit, like a kiosk, or it can be small kitchen on wheels,” Kouris explained.

Outfitting a catering truck costs upwards of $200,000, according to Paul Fenton, co-owner of Feastro, a gourmet truck-based food service that operates on the Sunshine Coast.

He said Metro Vancouver municipalities have been very difficult to penetrate. His application to locate in West Vancouver was recently rebuffed by council there and attempts to gain a foothold in Vancouver have been frustrated to this point.

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