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Street Food in Vancouver

It's looking up:

The city is looking to Portland as a model. What would you like to see served on the street?

I would like

Chip Wagon Fries
Roti (of all sorts).
Satays, Lamb Skewers (Xinjiang), Filipino BBQ
Jianbing (Chinese Crepe), Popiah
Roujiamo (Chinese Hamburger).
Banh Mi
Chicken Rice
Noodles (Hokkien Mee, etc).
Meat Pies (Aussie, Samosa, Empanadas, etc).
Grilled Chicken

I hope the health authorities will take a much less draconian approach to street food. Otherwise this whole thing will be a massive waste of time and a lost opportunity.

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  1. I'm simple to please, I have a short list [wink]:

    - Chinese steamed buns
    - Wonton noodles (or any noodles)
    - Chinese donut (you tiao - 油條) with sesame pastry (shao bing - 燒餅)
    - Pho
    - Chinese stinky tofu (okay, that'll likely *never* happen)
    - Taiwanese oyster omelette (蚵仔煎)
    - Taiwanese pork on rice (rou zhao fan - 肉燥飯)
    - Japanese dons
    - Gyros/shawarma
    - Swedish tunnbrodsrulle ("hot dog" ..... sort of)
    - Croque-Monsieur
    - Crepes
    - Perogies & piroshkis

    1 Reply
    1. re: LotusRapper

      I guess pho would never happen if raw meat is involved. It'd have to be with meatballs, fishballs or vegetarian ......

    2. Because these bring back nice travel memories:

      Taho (sweet tofu pudding)
      deep-fried anything (kushi-katsu, chicharones, filled pies like old McD's apple pies)

      5 Replies
      1. re: el_lobo_solo

        El lobo solo, I saw pupusas at Duffin's Donuts, at the corner of 41st Ave & Knight. About $3 each IIRC. If you've never been, it's a great spot (open 24 hrs), with fresh donuts, hot Chinese deli foods (until 8pm or so), banh mis, tortas, burgers & fries, fried chicken etc. Nothing gourmet, but you won't find a better variety and selection of "fast food" like they have anywhere else anytime in the day/night:



        1. re: LotusRapper

          It's been a while since I've been there, so thanks for the tip.

          1. re: el_lobo_solo

            El Rinconcito Salvadoreno on Commercial is a pupuseria (in case you haven't tried it).

            And since this is Chowhound, Arepas would be a fitting addition. This is (Chowhound founder) Jim Leff's now famous "Arepa Lady" article http://www.thesquaretable.com/fall02/...

            Rinconcito Salvadoreno Restaurant
            2062 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5N4A9, CA

            1. re: fmed

              Great article. I love the 7 train because it crosses so many cuisines. A place I can never get to because of the time of the year are the food carts in Red Hook.

              1. re: fmed

                Yes, fmed,

                Arepas with Vatapa. Good memories from Bahia.


        2. that article is quite a good read

          1. I would love to see a samosa stand with different filings ....also a roti/parantha stand where they sell different ones with different fillings (they do this in India-places that just sell assorted filled paranthas filled to order)...maybe even a roti wrap stand where they have a seasonal veg choice as well as a couple of others to roll the roti's around with raita as an optional topping mmmmm I am getting hungry just thinking about it.....
            ...and of course tacos

            I hope the people that open these stands up use as much local/sustainable as possiblle-maybe I am hoping for too much:)....

            1. - this is vancouver- so expect a opposition from already existing restaurants. especially in the downtown core. this town really needs to grow up. japadog is- imo- over- rated, but has pushed the envelope somewhat- a good thing. people tend to forget that we have roasted chestnut carts as well. not just weiners.
              pretzels, knish. brisket- curry bun. fresh pomegranate drink.

              1. That article provoked some pretty happy food thoughts at the breakfast table this morning.

                Here are a few preliminary ideas:

                -Poffertjes: puffy little pancakes (Dutch), size of a toonie, served with butter, icing sugar and cinnamon. The kids haven't ever experienced this part of their cultural heritage, but like the sound of it. Not realistic to make at home, but very fun to watch someone else flip them around.
                - Belgian (or Dutch) fries, of course, with mayo and all the other toppings, especially peanut sauce.
                - Noodles or fried rice cooked on a wok hotter than we can get it at home. Any origin, no, correction, let's have a choice: several origins.
                - Gelato
                - Satays. Charcoal grilled if possible.
                - and yes, pho please, and bahn mi.
                - oh, and how about a drive-through, or -around I suppose, coffee cart while we're at it.

                Should we be discussing location? I realize they carts might be only semi-mobile, and probably downtown, but if they could show up at the kids' weekend or evening ball games it would be highly appreciated.

                I can't wait.

                17 Replies
                1. re: waver

                  Now and then I see these old self-serve car wash places in the burbs and I think, hey, they'd be perfect for re-zoning and converting to street food "courts". These lots already have power lines, water drainage and special lighting. Some have several (top)covered car bays for cars to park and get vacuumed or dried, so imagine these bays being converted to "drive-thrus" adjacent to food vendor carts.

                  One can dream ...................

                  1. re: LotusRapper

                    I have doubts.

                    If my experience with street food @ events like the various Car Free Days/Farmer's Markets around the city is any indication there's a thick/wide pile of deep fried gunk to wade through in order to find something edible.

                    And the prices!!!

                    The reason people in developing world countries patronise street food is because it's *cheap* and fast-cheaper and faster than making your own.

                    Here in Vancouver we can expect to be grossly overcharged as per SOP-all of a piece with the 'It's Better to Pay More' mindset of so many credulous Vancouverites.

                    1. re: Sam Salmon

                      You've got a point, Sam.

                      I'm thinking of the $7.00 pupusas at the Jazz Festival.

                      1. re: Sam Salmon

                        great point mr cynical... hehe just kidding. i have to agree with you.

                        worse is the people that are jumping in simply as a business idea to make money or earn a living. which in itself is not bad. but how passionate or good are the products they deliver? bet some are getting in for the license to good locations. see i am cynical too.

                        street food in developing countries = opportunity for some to get into business because they have a good product and not as much capital or business sense.

                        all things said, i am hoping they will serve good food and people will support them so they wont have to overcharge for the novelty of eating at a food cart.

                        agree with fmed about the health board (+city hall) and the process for getting into the 'cart food business'.

                        some of the current businesses that could do well in this format:
                        Bo Laksa
                        Taco Taqueira
                        Pupusas (rinconcito and el caracol)
                        Ba Le
                        Saravan Bhagavana/Dosa House

                        1. re: betterthanbourdain

                          Yeah, I think the places with the best street food are the places where it's not regulated at all. The thought of how it'll work in Vancouver, with, like, carefully regulated ten dollar tacos, really doesn't appeal.

                          Right now, there are lots of other places that fulfill the same role. I would love it if I could grab something cheap right at the Richmond-Brighouse station, before I go into the city, but, hey, the Public Market is a block away, and there are plenty of other quick options within a two or three minute walk.

                          I say treasure your public market food courts and your nearly-streetside fastfood places (like the average shawarma place, just a kitchen, a counter, one or two tables), because I think the world of Vancouver City Hall-regulated street vendors will be a bit bland.

                          1. re: DylanLK

                            well said dylan.

                            without refrigeration and running water, most cart will be very challenged if they city is strict on HACCP and sanitation. $7pupusas $10 tacos hehe... .

                            anyone know the location(s) of the proposed street vendor?

                            1. re: betterthanbourdain

                              Yes - you can certainly get "street food" now - just not on the street. The Asian food courts around town have plenty. (A friend and I were just at President Plaza food courts for some Tianjin Flavours goodies.)

                              In Singapore (and a number of other metropolitan Asian cites) the "street food" scene is technically illegal and have been regulated and herded into Hawker Centers (eg Glutton's Bay).

                              Our Asian Foodcourts really aren't that different from those centers - with the one big exception of being indoors. The City can take the lead an build a few semi-outdoors foodcart centers with shared facilities - like this: http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/inde... which is a private development in Portland.

                              If Vancouver does follow the Portland model the I expect to find a few gems amongst the drek...(eg Nong's Khao Man Gai, Koi Fusion, etc in Portland).

                              If the overly paternalistic health regulators have their way, however, I expect nothing really worthy of eating. Those who grew up in Asia are probably more savvy to the perils of streetfood and would rather trust their own instincts and common sense than trust the views of a health inspector anyway. (Furthermore, Asians who grew up with this scene will not stand for $10+ street snacks).

                              Also to note - Portland and Vancouver have significant differences in their urban designs - Vancouver just has a greater density of restaurants right downtown along with a greater density of urban dwellings. In Portland, there are large areas of downtown that are under-serviced by restaurants. These are the areas where foodcart pods work.

                              Where in Vancouver can these food cart pods work? Where can they be located that won't raise the ire of bricks and mortar restaurants? These potential locations are few and far between. I can see them at Skytrain stations and Bus Exchages, or along the seawall - perhaps replacing the dreadful concession stands that operate there now...or at UBC (which is not within the City's jurisdiction) and at Industrial parks like the Airport (not governed by the City of Vancouver either).

                              And despite the fact the foodcarts typically offer different foods from what restaurants serve, the restaurant associations will never be happy with the perceived inequity in taxation and regulations. The City needs to find some sort of balance.

                              In any case, as long as the City gives the streetfood carts a chance to take root, the scene may blossom. Once the novelty wears off and market forces take hold, those who are charging too much or are being too clever will merely be driven out of business....and hopefully take out $1 pizza and cheap sushi places with them.

                              1. re: fmed

                                I agree that food courts here are somewhat like street food in other countries, BUT I think proprietors need to have to guts to stick to doing ONE THING and doing it WELL. Case in point, last time I was in Portland, I had amazing thai-style chicken rice at this one food cart downtown and that's all the girl there does is chicken rice (photo attached). Succulent chicken, perfectly aromatic rice, killer sauce...this cart had everything you'd want and nothing more.

                                Another cart specialized in korean/mexican fusion tacos. Damn tasty food, created by the coolest, most passionate people who aren't afraid of just doing one awesome thing. The vast majority of food court places here try to do too many things in a feeble attempt to please everybody. Singapore was a dream! This one place had the best oyster omlette, another had the best chicken rice, another the best char kway teow, etc etc. That kind of scene that Singapore has and that Portland is growing is hard to develop if it's not happening organically...

                                *** the two Portland places I mentioned are the same ones fmed cited above... great minds think alike?? ;)

                                1. re: flowbee

                                  I totally agree with the ONE great thing. The more limited the menu, the better the chances of excellence. Most of the food court stalls have dozens of items - all of them are usually bad or at best mediocre.

                                  1. re: fmed

                                    Sometimes I despair: I don't know if we have enough people to support one-great-thing types of places. Or enough people willing to try or branch out from their usual preferences, which as far as I can tell from observation, are coffee, sushi, and -- this is not a food item -- Lululemon pants.

                                    1. re: _js_

                                      How about MEC or Taiga gore-tex ?

                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                        That's formal wear (for going to places like Lumiere).

                                2. re: fmed

                                  good points...
                                  i like the UBC idea.. have you been to the food market downstairs not sure what you call it. not in the actual campus...
                                  someone can help me out here... best opportunity here with students but not sustainable year round.

                                  if i could , i would open a food court . rent it out for reasonable to the best food. think Bo Laksa, taco taqueira, o'tray. wangs, house of dosa, go fish, all under one roof.....they can sell anything but drinks.
                                  i sell the beverages and make money from drinks sale to start,,..
                                  be nice to have a food center with multiple aunthentic etchnic food in the city

                                  kits and english bay are now bloathouse and craptus club zones...

                                  1. re: betterthanbourdain

                                    Dude, you and me are the only ones who posting on Chowhound after 2 a.m.

                                    The university village food court is grim. I eat half of my meals in food courts and it takes a bit to turn me off. But this one does. It's in a basement. There are birds flying around.

                                    Vera's is there, though, and that taco place, and a new Indian joint, a few sushi places, a decent little bakery; Well Tea does okay, there, too. When Japadog sets up on campus, it has lineups. Although the options aren't amazing, UBC isn't such a dead zone.

                                    I think Skytrain stations are a good start. Especially Canada Line stops. Somebody set something up at the King Edward station, or Marine Drive, or right at Bridgeport, which has lots of foot traffic, since it's also a bus hub.

                                    1. re: DylanLK

                                      yes i didnt think the food was good at UBC, but more as a general idea. i know a couple of business owners there. Not sure how it is now. But in the past one of the challenges was dealing with the school calender which means many days in the year business could be dead. The fluctuations could spell trouble for less experience operators when dealing with par levels of prep food, ordering, staffing, etc etc..
                                      fmed is right the city is too far regulated and controlled, it will take some time and a higher population mass for a food center idea of this sort to ever come to fruition. a pipe dream it is... and yes, it would be hard to go against the 'big boys' with deep pocket..... . :-P

                                      btw i was at lumiere last nite, there wasnt any mec, goretex, lululemon in sight!...
                                      maybe the laid back west coast thing is starting to wain.... :-D

                                    2. re: betterthanbourdain

                                      I think that's the key point: rent has to be reasonable to support more exciting selections. Otherwise, we are going to be stuck with selections from corporations with deep pockets. Sure, small mom-and-pop operators with good and exciting offerings might be able to make a go at it for about a year -- then they fold up because rent is just too damn high. But, rent being within reasonable range to support the type of establishment doing one-great-thing (considering the lack of volume: we're probably a million people away for that to happen) is probably just a pipe dream. . .

                                  2. re: betterthanbourdain

                                    The City of Vancouver has posted the new locations up for grabs. http://vancouver.ca/engsvcs/streets/r...

                                    I'm still unclear how much it's all going to cost. I saw on the Roaming Dragon tweet that it's $2,400/month approx 150sf for a curbside?

                        2. i agree with all of you ( a first ) but one thing of note: street food carts have the potential to add some much- needed zest and sidewalk / plaza flair to our often boring ' burg. this is a city where sightseeing busses cruise- of all places- ROBSON st.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: slugsunderfoot

                            Ah see....they should just bulldoze most of Robson St to build foodcart pods. (There is a small "pod"-like section there that we could keep - the block with Kushi Box and Japadog as tenants.).

                            1. re: fmed

                              i wrote what i thought was an excellent reply to above post- but when i hit ' reply' - post would not attach. very frustrating. let's see if THIS one will.

                              1. re: fmed

                                - that robson st. should be bulldozed so that street- food carts might gain a foothold in the downtown was not in any way implied in my earlier post. my point was that tour busses choosing ' sweatshop alley ' ( robson between burrard & bute ) as a ' must- see ' on their list of vancouver must- see's is MEDIOCRE ( imo )
                                - THAT particular stretch of robson was, long ago, actually an avenue of note to take in as a pedestrian. interesting, intriguing little german and eastern european shops, delis, magazine stores, restaurants, etc.. - street- food carts could help in diluting SOME of the mediocrity evident in our downtown ( i am thinking robson square as one example- poorly planned from the beginning. sorry arthur ) robson between burrard & bute leaves me cold. hastings & columbia has more vitality.

                                - as for the ' new ' look / design & ' theme ' of the block where japadog and kushi box have bedded down- the block itself looked much more interesting before. i appreciate that the falafel place and the hair salon were not turfed, and the block itself was maintained- but i expect to see the parking lot behind the block developed ( condo tower natch ) with the block becoming ' incorporated ' into the development itself.

                                1. re: slugsunderfoot

                                  Ah - I didn't mean to imply that you implied that Robson St should be bulldozed. Certainly nothing to see there that you couldn't see in any other mall in North America. (I'm excluding west Robson where all the Japanese and Korean food is, of course.)

                                  1. re: fmed

                                    We should have something like this here. Filipino food truck.


                                    1. re: CrispyLechon

                                      I think it will be a popular truck here. Adobo wraps (or pandesal bun sliders), BBQ pork skewers in hotdog buns...mmm....

                                      1. re: fmed

                                        Pandesal sliders with pork longanisa. Filipino deserts such as biko rice cake, cassava cake, anything with ube. Yum!!

                                        1. re: CrispyLechon

                                          LOL. Somebody needs to buy a food truck.

                                          1. re: _js_

                                            It would be cool to have a roving fleet of food specific jeepneys, as per the above ideas.

                                            1. re: el_lobo_solo

                                              Coincidentally, I had a good chat with the Roaming Dragon folks at the Summer Night Market this weekend. Part of their overall plan seems to be the design and distribution of food trucks for other vendors. Took a quick tour of their truck, which seems as high tech as they go: it felt like an episode of Knight Rider! Anyone interested should take a trip down; they're eager to chat with anyone that's remotely interested.

                                              Oh - and the food's quite good (had the sliders, tacos, karaage, duck confit salad and rice balls).

                                        2. re: fmed

                                          Wonder what music a roaming food truck would play as it meanders through neighbourhoods ? (thinking of Weird Al Yankovic's "Eat It !" take on MJ's "Beat It", LOL)

                                          What a sight that would be, seeing a whack of Chowhounds running to a slow-moving food truck !!!

                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                            Not in Vancouver but maybe worth a look if you are heading up to the Sunshine Coast this summer:


                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              Tomorrow's the deadline for applications: here's an update from the Westender http://www.westender.com/articles/ent...

                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                I suspect that the late spike in submissions are due to some groups submitting multiple applications for their operations. In any case...it's good to see the folks at La Tacqueria and Nuba, etc applying.

                                                This initiative is already a success in my books.

                              2. The 17 street food vendors have been chosen!!

                                Just looking at the list, only the bakery and stone ground pizza sound a bit different from the average snack joint. Perhaps instead of a lottery they should have had a cooking contest. Still, it'll be fun to start sampling - starting July 31.

                                •Chinese dim sum
                                East Side of 200 Howe Street, 100 metres north of W Cordova Street

                                •Korean food with meat and vegetarian options
                                South side of 400 W Georgia Street, 12 metres east of Richards Street

                                North side of 700 W Cordova Street, 14 metres east of Howe Street

                                •Chicken salad and fruit cups
                                East side of 700 Homer Street, 20 metres south of W Georgia Street

                                •Southern barbecue, rice, veggies
                                East side of 700 Hornby Street, 22 metres south of W Georgia Street

                                •Traditional Chinese and Japanese cuisine
                                South side of 700 W Georgia Street, 20 metres west of Granville Street

                                •Beef and pork skewers
                                South side of 900 W Hastings Street, 24 metres east of Burrard Street

                                •Greek donair
                                West side of 1100 Burrard Street, 28 metres south of Helmcken Street

                                •Modern satay barbecue
                                West side of 1100 Burrard Street, 25 metres north of Davie Street

                                •Fresh-squeezed lemonade
                                South side of 2000 Beach Avenue, 30 metres west of Chilco Street

                                •Fresh bakery
                                East side of 600 Granville Street, 50 metres north of W Georgia Street

                                •Healthy meals and snacks, roll ups, and sandwiches
                                West side of 600 Granville Street, 95 metres north of W Georgia Street

                                •Specialty noodles
                                East side of 6400 Cambie Street, 20 metres north of W 49th Avenue

                                East side of 1300 Main Street, 12 metres north of Terminal Avenue

                                •Authentic Italian stone ground pizza
                                West side of 1100 Station Street, or west side of 400 Burrard Street

                                •Fresh and frozen fruit, chocolate-dipped fruits
                                West side of 1200-1300 Arbutus Street, or north side of 100 W Georgia Street

                                •Central European foods from Poland and Russia using local organic products
                                West side of 1400 NW Marine Drive, or East side of 800 Hornby Street


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Kentan

                                  Must agree-it's a very pedestrian list-reads much like the Steveston Community Market vendors list.

                                  And WTH is Korean vegetarian?

                                  Grilled Cabbage?

                                  Southern BBQ with rice/veggies?


                                  1. re: Sam Salmon

                                    A good post in Scout echoing the idea that a lottery is probably not the best way to choose the vendors. But some hope that there will be some tasty food - the BBQ place could be one of them:


                                  2. re: Kentan

                                    Went to the Food Truck, located on the East side of 700 Hornby Street, 22 metres south of W Georgia Street featured in the Vancouver Sun http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Hitt....

                                    I guess the PR worked as they had run out of coleslaw & their Ice Teas by 1pm when I showed up and they only had enough Pulled Pork for a few sandwiches which they were selling for $4.75. Fine by me, as a Pulled Pork sandwich is all about the meat anyways.

                                    I thought the sandwich was tasty! The BBQ sauce was complex, tangy and had some heat. The Pulled Pork was tender with a smoky taste. I thought it was going to messy to eat but it wasn't. Each bite came away perfectly.

                                    Definately going to comeback to try the sandwich with the coleslaw in it. Next time I'll show up a little early. Not an everyday lunch thing for me but a very nice option to have.

                                  3. there's also this http://bakudanyaki.com/ in Richmond along with the ramen truck.

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: VancouverStreetEats


                                      link to which food carts are where, most of them should be open on this sunny gorgeous summer day, makes the walk to the cart and the standing in the sunshine worth it. Anyone care to hit the cart at arbutus and creelman, once we get too tired of baking in the sun.....only the city of vancouver could screw this up this badly, where people get lottery licenses for having a good idea

                                        1. re: bigeaterjustin

                                          I think that is where Roaming Dragon can often be found. Probably best to check their whereabouts on line before going though, as they do move around (per above, they've been at the PNE and they also go to the Richmond Night Market I believe).

                                          1. re: grayelf

                                            Specifally - check their twitter stream.

                                            1. re: fmed

                                              That is what I was trying to say, but I didn't know it was called a stream -- such a Luddite I am! Would just saying "check their whereabouts on twitter" have been correct?

                                                1. re: fmed

                                                  Roaming Dragon did not get a street food license, so they have to rely solely on special event permits and pvt property, its shitty because they are actually the only ones that had a real a fully fleshed out plan....they must have been too organized for the city of vancouver to consider them for a location.

                                                  Arbutus and Creelman is supposed to have Asian cuisine

                                                  1. re: bigeaterjustin

                                                    Yes. I had a chat with them at the PNE and they said that they were "renting" a license. I don't know if that fits with the CoV's intentions regarding licensing.

                                                    They had/have a spot at Kits Point at Arbutus & Whyte.

                                                    1. re: fmed

                                                      Roaming Dragon - spotted last week on Georgia between Burrard and Thurlow (I think. Hard to remember but def on the north side of the street there).

                                                      1. re: aussiewonder

                                                        Al Jazeera has an excellent series on YouTube on street food around the world-I wonder if Vancouver will make the grade-somehow I doubt it.