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New Street Carts - How are they doing?

Everytime I walk past one of the new street carts, I feel a twinge of pain. The owners (or staff) always look so lonely, when the hot dog carts close by are doing a booming business.

Has there been any info on how these people are doing? Seems like they spent a huge amount of cash, to be hamstrung by rules and bureaucratic taste taste bungling. Personally it all seems tasteless and kind of cardboard, seeing as the food is mostly if not all cooked elsewhere and then heated or kept at temp on the carts.

Was the pilot project doomed from the start? Some of my best meals have been from street vendors in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kathmandu, Beijing, Harbin... in some cases better than the Michelin 3 star resto's in HK.

I want these people to succeed, it just looks a little hopeless.

Any thoughts?

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  1. I don't live downtown and have never seen one of the carts... but that is quite surprising to me

    I wouldn't buy a nearby hotdog if I had one of these within the immediate area...

    if the food is good; people should buy it

    guess it begs the question: is the food any good though?

    1. I believe that the city's bureaucratic meddling doomed this from the start. I very much hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

      1. There's usually a small line-up at the jerk chicken cart at Yonge & St Clair at lunch time. (haven't tried it yet myself)

        1. Like so much in our over -bureaucratized city, they're of a dull essence. If I were a visitor I might confuse one with a bus ticket stand.

          1. i'm with you
            i saw the korean lady at yonge/eg one day on a rainy day smiling at passers-by trying to drum up business and it broke my heart! I really hope these people can make a living as they were brave enough to go out there and try something different.

            The city HAS doomed these carts and i really feel for these poor people. Anyone can knock out a bulgogi and make a ridiculously tasty dish for $6 but only if you can get it right off the griddle!

            5 Replies
            1. re: CoffeeAddict416

              i drive by Yonge and Eg occasionally - but never at lunch time.
              any time mid-day, she indeed looks lonely - between 3-6 i have not seen anyone eating there.
              frankly, why would you?
              who wants pre-cooked food?
              i hope the city reimburses these poor souls who had a dream of making delish ethnic food, but were screwed by the Rules

              1. re: atomeyes

                Just saw a preview from CityTV where they say a New Cart vendor is being hassled by the city for doing exactly what they told him to do.. and they said it would be in his best interest if he did not go to the media

                1. re: OnDaGo

                  Disgusting. This whole program is a joke. Way to go, City Hall.

                  1. re: OnDaGo

                    He's the Afghani food vendor and was given a spot by the city in front of the war memorial which stands at the north part of Queen's Park. Allegedly two military guys walked by and told him that he couldn't sell food there because it was disrespectful to the war dead. Then a municipal worker came afterwards and told him the same. He was supposed to begin selling in May and still has no spot for his cart.

                    1. re: Zengarden

                      Err... This is why we can't have nice things!

              2. My heart really does go out to these poor people who mistakenly took this up as a business idea. Go into business with Toronto city government in charge.....bad idea.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ziggystardust

                  Haven't been following this... how did the city screw these guys over?

                2. Just an idea. If these vendors paid the City big bucks (presumably) to set up their business and take part in this pilot, experimental project, shouldn't it be only fair that the City does something to help promote them and raise a bit of publicity for these people? Something like even just listing them on some website, and where you can find them.. Some brochures, posters, along the lines of Loblaw's latest promotion titled 100 Tastes of Canada... or is it already been done?

                  Unlike real restaurants, you can't locate these vendors under the Yellow Pages.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tarteaucitron

                    It almost seems like they wanted the project to fail so that they can say, "See! Told you so! Street dogs forever!"

                    1. re: tjr

                      I've thought that all along.

                      DT

                  2. A few weeks ago I saw the Thai cart at Mel Lastman square/North York centre. The lines were incredibly long and the 3 nearby hot dog carts were getting zero business. Didn't have the time to wait in line so I haven't tried the food yet.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JumboMumbo

                      Glad to hear that at least someone is busy.

                      Glen.
                      legourmet.tv

                      1. re: JumboMumbo

                        There are indeed lines at the cart in North York Centre during the weekday lunch rush. Except when its raining.

                      2. i don't see how they can go wrong with cheap souvlaki's... i'd buy em

                        wait, is there a souvlaki cart?

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: duckdown

                          Yep. It's one of the ones out in front of city hall, I believe.

                          1. re: tjr

                            cool

                            then definitely... if i saw a souvlaki stand near a hot dog stand, i definitely would take the souvlaki

                            1. re: duckdown

                              Where are these carts? Walked by yonge and eg today and could not spot the cart. Maybe if they were more visible they would actually get more business.

                              1. re: pancake

                                Its in front of the McDonalds on the northeast corner.

                                (but lunch at Sandwich Box on the southeast corner would probably be much more rewarding)

                              2. re: duckdown

                                Even if the souvlaki was cooked several hours beforehand in a different location and just kept warm at the cart?

                                Because that's what these carts are. There is no food preparation happening at them, they're just glorified heat trays.

                                While the city originally had good intentions for this program, it became a huge clusterfuck, and is pretty much doomed for failure thanks to the overprotective nannies at City Hall. Sigh.

                                1. re: gregclow

                                  yea, even then...

                                  if it's pre cooked for safety and then charred up on the grill, in a grilled greek pita with tzatziki and lettuce... i'd take that any day over the dog.. hell, maybe more than one ;) but one could argue that i've never had a "really" good hot dog like i keep hearing about in chicago and NY

                                  the biggest challenge with the carts that i can see is having a very low price point though. if the souvlaki sandwich is 6 bucks, but 2 sausages are 6 bucks.. doubt anyones buying souvlaki

                          2. I got some Biryani from the cart in front of Nathan Phillips square yesterday and it was actually not bad; definitely not great (and definitely suffering from sitting around on the cart all day being reheated), but up there with hot dogs as a street lunch option.

                            Although I agree with everyone that the city screwed these poor vendors over, the biryani vendor (at least) wasn't doing himself any favours with his signage. From what I understand the carts themselves have to have those ridiculous 'a la cart' signs in what should be the place to advertise the kind of food they're selling, but the sign that did list the available food was poorly lettered and somewhat confusing.

                            If they would spend a little money making a nicer sign (with pictures, even better) I think people would be more likely to try it out. As it is, it's not even that clear that they're selling food at all.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Strongbad789

                              I had some the other day and I got the same taste (of reheated food). It's 5$ but I am not sure if I want to try it again.

                            2. Been covered in some media lately...

                              http://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2009/...

                              http://torontoist.com/2009/06/toronto...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: OnDaGo

                                The story about the vendor who was told he can't sell in his assigned location is here: http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_3571...

                                It shows what a bunch of screw-ups we have working (I mean heating chairs) at the City. Soon they'll all be told to take the garbage that their customers creat back home for storage still the strike ends.

                                1. re: foodyDudey

                                  Terrible story about this Kebab Vendor getting the run around. Anyone know how he made out?

                              2. Here's an update on Citytv's site citing the A La Carte program a failure so far w/ some 2 years to turn it around.: http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynew...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: GoodGravy

                                  Great viewpoint on the issue.

                                  Do hot dog vendors have to fork over $30,000 to open up their carts? That seems like a ridiculous sum given that you only have 8-9 months of the year when weather is good enough to be open (unless your cart is winterized).

                                2. An update on the program:

                                  http://www.thestar.com/news/article/9...

                                  Looks like the rules might be relaxed a bit.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                    I look forward to something new. I feel that the existing few that got stuck with the "New Carts" should be grandfathered in some how to any existing or new program that comes up at the cart owner's discretion.
                                    That being said, I understand how this can impact a restaurant owner that pays rent. , up-keeps a storefront etc., only to have a cart operator move in front of, or in close proximity to his or her operation. Some will say that they are not losing anything to the person that only wanted to get something grab-and-go, but others will say that they will have lost out due to convenience. Allowing too much could hurt the low end to middle restaurants in some way.

                                    1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                      Hopefully Councillor Cesar Palacio can get it right.

                                      I've been fortunate enough to have traveled the world and enjoyed a huge variety of street food. It is always the most affordable, usually the most interesting, and often the best tasting food available. Most importantly, I have never had a "problem" from eating it.

                                      I hope Torontonians (and visitors) are allowed to enjoy what every other great city offers.

                                      1. re: PoppiYYZ

                                        I hope so too - I think that it's worth going on a blitz to support it. I want a Toronto TreatBot!!! (http://www.treatbot.com/

                                        )

                                        But really. It's such a fun foodie thing that Toronto is missing out on. Here's hoping.

                                        1. re: ekim256

                                          They are kaput now.

                                          1. re: Wiley

                                            Was in North York (Yonge & Finch) and saw a Korean Cart.
                                            Felt like a little snack, so what the hell!

                                            Tried the beef & kimchi dumplings $1 for 2pcs, went for 8pcs w/ spicy sauce.
                                            (Obviously, they are smaller than what you get at a restaurant)

                                            Pretty good. Price is very reasonable. They're menu has a bunch of different Korean street fare like noodles, kebabs, etc.

                                            Definitely, will be back to try the rest of the menu.