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why montreal has no mobile food

Anyone know why Montreal has no mobile street food?

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  1. City by-laws prohibit it and have since at least the Drapeau era.

    1. You can go to St Laurent BLVD this weekend the street is closed off.. There will be a lot of vendors selling food on the street.

      1. The original reasons apparently had to do with hygiene, also I've always heard that Mayor Drapeau thought food carts/trucks were "ugly" (of course isn't this the same mayor who greenlit any number of atrocities, including the Decarie Expressway & The Big O? I digress...)

        Interesting piece on the history & present situation of street food in Montreal by Hound Cédric Sam (sorry Cédric, I can't remember your CH handle)


        10 Replies
        1. re: kpzoo

          There's also a very powerful downtown merchant's lobby, basically mall owners, who would rather have people eating their garbage fast food instead of having a choice. I'm sure our hygiene is the mall owners' #1 priority :)

          1. re: kpzoo

            Hygiene, schmygiene. Give me my street vendors!

            One of the things I love best about NYC is the sheer volume and variety of delicious street foods, anything from hot dogs to souvlaki to ice cream. It's so disappointing that Montreal hasn't seen the light yet.

            1. re: phedre

              Someone told me once that Toronto's hotdog vendors were all part of a money laundering ring .. so maybe it's not so bad we don't have street meat here.

              1. re: Plateaumaman

                Yeah, because there's none of that going on in New York - that's for sure. Just because someone said it doesn't make it so. Jean Drapeau instituted many idiotic rules and regulations, that have since been championed by restauranteurs in the downtown core, who are afraid to lose their businesses. Money talks and City Hall listens.

                1. re: maisonbistro

                  It's a shame, really, that we don't get to enjoy a good dog or a shish taouk or some halal or mexican food during our ho so short summer. I'll be in NYC in a few weeks and really enjoy it. Whatever the reason they give, they (city hall) should rethink it. Then again, we whine that it's all because Jean Drapeau but don't you wish we had a proactive mayor like him instead of the yes man we got now? Maybe it's just the rain, but I'd move to Quebec City for the life the city has while Mtl is standing still. But I digress.

                  1. re: Campofiorin

                    It's not about health, and it's not about Drapeau anymore. That man's been dead for a 100 years, and everyone who's followed him has had ample opportunity to change the rules. He didn't write them in stone.
                    And as for the health argument, oh guess what? We wouldn't exactly be trailblazers, going where no city has gone before, edgy, and out there.

                    I can't think of a major city in the world from Stockholm to Bangkok to Chicago to Vienna (oh god, bratwurst in an impaled bun...!) that doesn't have street food.

                    It's just a disgrace that a bunch of greedy businessmen have so much pull in city hall.

                    1. re: bomobob

                      I say we start a "bomobob for mayor" campaign!! At least we'd have decent street food as a result (and probably a much better mayor than the last few...)

                      1. re: cherylmtl

                        Not only would we have great street food, but we'd also have astronomical fines for speeding, red lights, stop signs, and people who text while driving.

                          1. re: bomobob

                            Bomobob, sign me up as your campaign manager! Dang the food tin those photos looks awesome...

          2. well would it be profitable? I mean, our summers ARE about 3 to 4 months long.. the rest of the year is sub zero weather, i doubt people will want to sell hot dogs or shish taouk when it's -30 with wind chill. Plus with the snow, it won't be very mobile...

            15 Replies
            1. re: mak2k

              Trucks are heated and unfazed by snow.

              Buying and eating a bag of just-roasted chestnuts from a sidewalk vendor on a snowy day is one of the great Manhattan experiences.

              1. re: carswell

                good point, but i wouldn't want to WAIT in line when it's -30 with wind though

                1. re: carswell

                  You mean COULD be one of the great montreal experiences. Man give me a hot dog with saurkraut and a pretzel with yellow mustard and Montreal turned into Heaven.

                  1. re: carswell

                    That's actually one experience you can partake in here... there's that little choo-choo around McGill College and St. Catherine's that sells roasted chestnuts during the winter :)

                    1. re: afoodyear

                      Small businesses in Montreal have a hard enough time surviving, I for one am glad there is no competition from street vendors. I really don't think we have the volume of sales and the type of economy that can support all that.

                      1. re: afoodyear

                        Ha! Was just off searching for a link to Haldane's article about him. www.hour.ca/food/food.aspx?iIDArticle... That said, I didn't see him downtown or at the market last winter. Whether that means he's given up or I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, it points to an inescapable truth: one occasional chestnut vendor does not a vibrant street food scene make.

                        Imagine the draw downtown if you knew you could get a great krautdog, kielbasa, arepa, bag of roasted nuts, tamale, pad thai, etc., etc., fast and inexpensively while transferring between busses or before popping into the movies or just to tide you over until dinner. Imagine how great it would be on those minus 30 days to warm up with a cup of mulled cider or hot chocolate when skating on one of the outdoor rinks or shopping your way down St-Denis. Imagine the life that such vendors might bring to the moribund stretch of Ste-Catherine between Atwater and Guy.

                        Several times this winter I found myself in the Quartier Latin with 20 minutes to kill and a hole in my stomach to fill. Other than Subway, McDo and the other fast food chains, there was nothing savoury to be had. I might as well have been in the Lachine Industrial Park. That's just stupid and gives the lie to Montreal's claim that it's a user-friendly, food-centric city.

                        1. re: carswell

                          In the absence of real mobile food, I often rely on Une Crêpe? spots while shopping, where you can get great food on the go, made to order. The Mt-Royal location has a pick-up window on the street (almost in front of the Mt-Royal metro), and boy does it smell great!! The crepe comes in a wax paper cone which makes it perfectly portable.There's also another location on St-Denis, just below Sherbrooke, and a third one on St-Viateur W close to J-Mance (never been to that one).
                          They were even featured in the Washington Post!

                    2. re: mak2k

                      There are plenty of people making a full-time year round living doing it in Ottawa, and some of them just have carts, too.

                      1. re: mak2k

                        I don't know what Montreal you live in, but the one I live in is not not subzero 8 months a year. More, like 3-4 months. Besides, hot food on a cold day is always welcomed.

                        1. re: Campofiorin

                          I would totally stick my head out from the underground city in -20C for an Italian sausage with peppers and onions. Mmmmm.

                            1. re: alexthecook

                              looks delicious.
                              laughed out loud at "perkily perfect versions" !!

                              1. re: alexthecook

                                Too bad they don't have a place here...I'd totally keep up with the Japanese lessons for that.

                          1. re: mak2k

                            There are tons or food carts in Winnipeg, which is orders of magnitude less pleasant in the winter and winter lasts a good deal longer. It was snowing there up until very recently, for example. Thus, this reasoning can't be correct.

                            1. re: The Chemist

                              oh wow.. i did not know that! guess i was wrong.

                          2. Maybe health reasons an issue as how do these guys wash their hands and utensils??

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Matash

                              yeah, because restaurant kitchen staff is soooo much cleaner..... Trust me, you would be horrified by what goes on in most restaurant kitchens at some time or other.

                              1. re: maisonbistro

                                If anything, I'd feel better seeing a sausage (for eg.) cooked & coming off the grill under my very eyes than wondering how clean a kitchen is.

                                And who needs to clean utensils if all your working with is tongs?

                                1. re: Shattered

                                  Montrealers innovate: there used to be a da giovanni on ste catherine downtown which had a little ledge and through an open window you could get a cheap slice of pizza and/or beverage, great to eat on the run when shopping,running errands but they closed up and i havent seen other open windows except for macdonalds ice cream window in summer. Maybe we just need more of these open windows to bypass the mobile street food constraints. Sometimes we make our own street food by buying a baguette and slice of pate, bagels and salmon spread, Lebanese takeout treats at Palma on Beaubien and heading for a park. One of the joys of jazzfest, francofolies,just for laughs festival is that montrealers can have assorted food on the street!

                            2. In addition to what everyone else has already posted (Drapeau's influence, the restaurant and mall owners' lobby) I would also suggest that, after many years of no street food, that a sizable portion of the Montreal population has a negative view of it. I have no statistics to back this up, but many people I know from Montreal see street food as unhygenic, promoting litter and unhealthy. Many Montrealers I know also won't go near a cart in Toronto or NYC.

                              Anyone know if there's been any surveys telling us what the population as a whole thinks?

                              My guess is that the local culture just doesn't want this kind of service in our streets. (even though I would support allowing street food of all kinds!)

                              1. Bookmarked this some time ago. It offers more detail, if that's what you're after. http://www.montrealfood.com/jan2002.html
                                Considering that until Drapeau newsstands were plentiful in Montreal – I remember the one at Pine/St-Laurent – it's unlikely food hygiene was the original issue. Now, it's just the standard excuse.
                                For years now vendors of inedible goods have been allowed to set up in the street, provided they buy a permit. (By my thinking Spider-Man is still an outlaw.)

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: wapiti

                                  At least you can set up a bbq and drink wine in many parks here. Can you do that in Toronto or NYC?

                                  I did see a bunch of people setting up a (mobile?) lobster restaurant at the Old Port today. Anyone know more about that?

                                  1. re: Plateaumaman

                                    Where exactly at the Old Port. Much of the port is federal property and so, like McGill's campus, would be exempt from Montreal's interdictory bylaw.

                                    1. re: carswell

                                      It is in front of the bike path around rue des Soeurs Grises and rue McGill. Looks pretty promising, big pots of water.

                                      1. re: Plateaumaman

                                        Sounds like federal government land.

                                    2. re: Plateaumaman

                                      Really? I know for a fact that you can bbq in many city parks in Canada . Please Plateaumaman, in which Montreal park(s) is it legal to drink a bottle of wine? We were told quite the opposite.
                                      We were reprimanded quite harshly by two cops on bikes in a large Montreal park recently. We were given a warning and told that a new era had begun! Apparently it has always been against the law in Quebec but they had just looked the other way.
                                      No more! We had just sat down with a pleasant picnic lunch and a bottle of wine. Two middle aged people who felt very silly , and a bit embarrassed by it all.

                                      1. re: eatwell

                                        I always went by this article that states clearly that wine is accepted in the last paragraph .. it is an old article but full of info:


                                        Doesn't sound like you had a nice encounter in the park at all and you shouldn't feel silly or embarrassed. According to someone on this more recent page the rule states you can have beer or wine if it is part of a meal so your picnic should have been fine:


                                        And I was in fact asking a sincere question as to whether you can bbq in parks in NYC or Toronto.

                                        I don't crave hotdog vendors myself but a warung or two would be nice.

                                        1. re: eatwell

                                          Alcohol laws and regulation are under provincial jurisdiction, and open booze outside a bar or private home is illegal in every one of 'em (strictly speaking, office Xmas parties are illegal without a special event license, though of course its never enforced).
                                          I always took this notion that it was somehow legal in Montreal with a grain of salt, that they were just turning a blind eye (heck, I see people openly smoking joints all the time too, with cop cars going by).

                                          So your post confirms it. Too bad you dealt with some very uptight cops, most still realize they have bigger fish to fry.

                                          1. re: Shattered

                                            I could've swore I read somewhere on an official Montreal website at one time or another that alcohol was allowed in public parks as long as it joined the company of food. I wish I knew when and where that was now!

                                            1. re: afoodyear

                                              I wish I could find it, too. The bylaw link is dead in the thread Plateaumaman posted below. But from reading that thread, it looks like its mostly a case of just turning a blind eye.

                                              I really don't see how drinking it public parks could somehow be exempt from the black-and-white provincial laws on this issue. And the thread's contention that boroughs have different rules doesn't make sense, either. Cities can get permission from Quebec for special status, but sub-city govts?
                                              Pure speculation on my part, but maybe in the past it was allowed so often at special events at parks that people just started to think it applied to parks all the time.

                                              1. re: Shattered

                                                Fresh link on Tam Tam bylaw:

                                                And the NDG/Cote-des-Neiges link freshened up for you:

                                                And a conversation on another board that includes someone's story about police discouraging alcohol in Parc Lafontaine:

                                                1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                  Cool, thanks for the links. So the Tam-Tams are covered under the street sale bylaw, and NDG/CDN allows drinking at same street sales/ special events, plus at picnic tables.

                                                  1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                    I think it's the tamtams one that you posted I was thinking of. I attributed 'tam tam' to "park" :o

                                            1. re: Maximilien

                                              Oh, that's very cool! Now I can stop for a lobster roll while dashing around on Bixi.

                                              There's a thread about drinking in parks with lots of useful links on the by-laws:

                                              So it is best to hang around picnic tables and avoid NDG/Cote-des-Neiges parks.

                                              1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                Very interesting link, re: by-laws. When the police stopped us they quoted a by-law and gave us a web address. I don't know if I should say exactly what park we were in - but, I will say it was a large, very pleasant park that has lots of free summer things...located in the Plateau.

                                              2. re: Maximilien

                                                I tried the Muvbox yesterday (old mobile container ship transformed in restaurant).

                                                Yes, great concept. The lobster rolls were really good, not too greasy and a little crunchy with the celery. I didn’t try the clam chowder, but heard good comments about it.

                                                The only thing is that they serve on paper plate. I know, it goes with the concept, but its still a little sad to eat lobsters dishes without “decorum”!

                                                Pretty cool to see it opening. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zSVSI...

                                                Next to Café des éclusiers (de la Commune and McGill)

                                                1. re: eatkat

                                                  Excellent, I look forward to trying it. What are the prices like? Thanks for the video link.

                                            1. re: fraisefatale

                                              I would run one of those in a NYminute. Brownies, homemade marshamallows, cupcakes, my killer peanut butter-banana-chocolate loaf.......

                                              Honk Honk....

                                            2. I believe the law here states that all eating establishments MUST have a serviceable washroom for patrons. That said, I have been in some pretty skanky washrooms in Montreal restos, so I'd take a truck on many days! Anyone read about the mobile cupcake truck in Manhattan? Damn, they have street food and good cupcakes combined - we have neither!

                                              1. I have a theory, based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever, and I am too young to remember before the early 70s, when food stands were made illegal.

                                                The same law which made food stands illegal also made outdoor news-stands illegal, too. But what does one have to do with the other? Hygiene is not a news-paper stand issue. And they're both so convenient, it's hard to imagine this was demanded by a hygiene-conscious population who also don't like to read news.

                                                So, what else occurs at portable news-stands and food-vendor carts? Illegal businesses. Drugs, for example. So, my theory -- based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever -- is that Drapeau, meaning to wipe out illegal businesses being done by street vendors of all types, made them all illegal.

                                                Again, no evidence. Just a theory. Can't prove nothing. But it explains why you would hit both newspaper stands and street food vendors in one swoop.

                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: poutineguy

                                                  No, it was supposedly about the appearance of them being "eyesores" or something to that effect. But then again, who knows??? Anything's possible...

                                                  1. re: cherylmtl

                                                    I think you're right. That would explain why newspaper boxes were banished along with newsstands.

                                                    1. re: carswell

                                                      Except here's the thing: "beautification" does not make sense for the reason of such a drastic step.

                                                      What's the remedy to address an eyesore? It isn't closing every single newspaper stand and food cart in the city, regardless of how they look. That's waaaaaay overkill, which disproportionately affects the poor, working poor and working class families whose breadwinners rely on them, the downtown workers who benefit from quick access to cheap food, when all you need do is pass a simple "beautification" law -- like the requirements one has for buildings and other businesses. Public vendors have licenses, especially food vendors, you just make their licesnses dependent upon a clean "beautification" record, and voila, problem solved. Take the trans-fat foods problem -- the remedy has not been to close the restaurants, it's to make the high trans-fats foods illegal, and voila, there goes poutine from public buildings in Gattineau.

                                                      Closing every single business -- regardless of what they did to the beauty of the city -- just does not make sense as a remedy.

                                                      This was a law passed, intended to hurt a specific group of people, by taking away their access to a livelihood. So the question which remains for me: who were these people, who ran newspaper stands, and food cards? And what did Drapeau have against them?

                                                      1. re: poutineguy

                                                        "Closing every single business -- regardless of what they did to the beauty of the city -- just does not make sense as a remedy."

                                                        Since when does something have to make sense to become the law, especially around here?

                                                        Drapeau was a man of big ideas and fixations. He wanted to vault the city into the future, and to do it he championed initiatives grand and small: Expo 67, the metro, the Olympics, cleaning up the various vices, removing clutter from the streets, etc.

                                                        Apart from being potential havens for illicit activity, food carts and newsstands have the much more mundane commonality of blocking sidewalks, looking tacky or garish, and generating litter. To many of us, they're part of the vibrancy of big-city life; to the mayor they were 19th century relics and incompatible with his vision for the future.

                                                        Once you get those things off the streets, it's almost inevitable that restaurateurs and magazine shops will do whatever they can to keep them off. Doesn't matter whether they were behind the original initiative or not; once you've removed that kind of competition they have every reason to fight to keep it away.

                                                        Also, your theory doesn't account for the aforementioned newspaper boxes.

                                                        1. re: Mr F

                                                          To return briefly to the topic of drinking wine in the parks, I sent a note off asking the Ville de Montreal and got this reply from the communications dept:

                                                          "It is autorized to have alcoolic drinks in parks with a meal only in the
                                                          area where there are picnic tables."

                                                          So ... no drinking wine on picnic blankets. Is that what the police said, anyone? ... And a spell checker for the city please!

                                                          1. re: Mr F

                                                            The municipal government has no business supporting bad businesses that couldn't compete with a hot dog cart. Maybe it would force some restaurants to stop serving bottom of the barrel garbage that plagues this city and force them to start serving better food. I can't stand the argument that we must protect the crappy 99cent pizza (charging 2.50) restaurants. People line up for quality food, and if it means a hot dog cart knocks a few bad pizza places out of service, so be it.

                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                              Agreed, competition can only be good. Also, we need more picnic tables... =D

                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                I certainly don't agree with the situation as it stands. Simply saying that once you create that situation, by whatever means or for whatever reason, you give certain segments of the business community an overwhelming self-interest in fighting to keep things as they are.

                                                          2. re: carswell

                                                            Remember the newspaper stand on the corner of, what was it, Stanley and Ste. Catherine? And the balloon guy?
                                                            Damn underground city killed street life.

                                                              1. re: Plateaumaman

                                                                i was going to say the same thing when i read the article on saturday!!

                                                      2. I miss the chip wagons of my youth...

                                                        1. Let's start a petition lol (Sorry I'm a bit late on the topic folks, but I'm new)