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Food Truck Festival - Distillery District - July 2, 2011

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I saw a tweet about this earlier and they just mentioned it on the radio so it reminded me to post about this. Here is a Toronto Star article about it:


Basic summary, from 11 am to 3pm - July 2, 2011 ( a Saturday, the day after Canada Day).

All food items $5 or less

Hope to see more food trucks in the future, even if not in Toronto but in outside areas where they are more supportive of this type of thing. I am definitely planning on going if nothing else but to show support for new alternatives to "street" food in Toronto.

Distillery District
55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

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  1. What an outstanding idea. I'm there. Thx!

    2 Replies
    1. re: magic

      Great idea. I wish the hours are extended.

      I wonder if 5 trucks & 7 tents will be enough?

      1. re: 5andman

        This is just the first event.
        by the third event, looking at probably 12 gourmet trucks, if all goes according to plan.

    2. Are food trucks offering items other than hamburgers and hot dogs allowed in Toronto?
      I know they had some sort of pilot program for carts other than hotdog carts but I don't think it was successful was it?

      3 Replies
      1. re: hal2010

        For starters, there are the Chinese food trucks at U of T.

        1. re: hal2010

          I think it depends on bylaws (territory).

          I remember an article about the soon-to-be Caplansky Truck.
          It can park on one side or area of Bathurst, but not on the other?

          356 College Street, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

        2. On another, related note, The hot dog vendor outside Mt Sinai Hospital is now serving:
          - Hot Beef sandwiches,
          - Baked potatos (regular & sweet),
          - Elk and wild boar sausages!

          The beef and potatoes are being supplied by Barbarian's.

          1. Just a heads up that is there is also free concerts for Toronto Jazz fest going on at the Distillery on the same day. So, if you aren't sure whether a trip just for the food trucks is worth it, it might give you an added incentive. I will definitely be heading there on Saturday.

            1. I'll be there! So looking forward to this :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: artsekh74

                I think that it will be a splendid event... I'll be there!

              2. There will be a gaggle (herd? pack?) of chowhounds there around 11:30 -- see you around the food!

                4 Replies
                1. re: TorontoJo

                  I'll be there too! See you around!

                  1. re: jlunar

                    Cool -- let's hope for the rain to hold off!

                  2. re: TorontoJo

                    I'll be checking it out! They had me at Porchetta & Cupcake.

                    1. re: always_eating

                      I hadn't seen the full list of vendors before but I googled around today and found this site with details:


                      Just was checking the twitter feeds and sounds like it is already busy down there! Hope they have enough food for everyone, I am waiting for "someone" to get ready so we can leave and head down there :



                  3. Didn't know it finished at 3, so early...........Wanted to go but was planning on later.

                    Please make it into an all day to night event for the next one.

                    1. Totally insane line ups. 2 hours for El Gastro -- only to find out they were out of everything except for pork buns. Fortunately, I was there with a group, so we did a lot of divide and conquer. Tried just about everything and brought samples to our friends stuck in the crazy lines. Worst lines were El Gastro, Gorilla Cheese, the wood fired pizza and Simple Eats (for lobster rolls and catfish tacos).

                      Fried lentil balls (I'm sure they have a real name that I missed) and samosas from Tiffinday were surprisingly tasty (especially the lentil balls).

                      Smoked chicken croquettes from Geoff Hopgood (formerly of Black Hoof) were really excellent -- really tasty, creamy filling. My favourite item of the day.

                      Cava was serving kingfish ceviche, shrimp tamales, mushroom tamales and ice cream with anise sugar churros. The ceviche was declared pretty good, the shrimp tamales were very good and the churros (which we got without the ice cream) were excellent.

                      Marben had their rockin' ice cream sandwiches -- chocolate chocolate chip cookies around chocolate ice cream -- a great deal at $3 for a generous sandwich.

                      Buster Rhino had pulled pork sandwiches and beef brisket sandwiches. They were fine, but the ratio of bun to meat was way too high.

                      Simple Eats had really excellent mini lobster rolls, and some tasty and very generously filled catfish tacos.

                      Someone had bahn mi-like sandwiches. Generous size, but once again too much bread to filling. Flavourful, but not a favourite of the day.

                      Pizza was expensive at $5 for half a small pizza. It was a decent pie, but you can get just as good at any of several places in town for less hassle and equivalent or less price.

                      The steamed pork buns from El Gastro had way too much bun and not enough filling. They did have a really refreshing cucumber and lime drink that totally hit the spot at the end of a hot day. The other items on the menu looked delicious, but as I said, they were all out by the time we got to the front of the line (and bless sweetie for being patient enough to stand in line for 2+ hours -- we kept her fed!).

                      Cupcakes from Cupcake Diner looked pretty and had some nice flavour combos, but I was too hot by that point to actually try any.

                      There was an apple pie and a strawberry rhubarb pie from someplace, but once again, I chose to pass on trying them. The group seemed to think it was decent filling, but too thick crust.

                      We missed the ice pops, but they looked pretty and refreshing.

                      We also passed on the grilled cheese, because I don't need to wait in line for 2 hours for a grilled cheese, no matter how good. :)

                      I think that's everything. I may be forgetting one or two items we tried. It was hot, and things started to blur for me.

                      Not surprisingly, the attendance was way higher than I think was expected. I hope that the city takes notice that there is a desire for this kind of food, and NOT just in a festival setting. The problem with food trucks in a setting like this is the sheer volume, which they wouldn't normally face in a day-to-day setting. I'm sure the next two will be a success as well. Wake up, city council! Pass some non-draconian street food laws, please!

                      1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

                      488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                      Buster Rhino's
                      2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

                      The Black Hoof
                      928 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: TorontoJo

                        You didn't miss much from Cupcake Diner. Though I wish I had thought to ping someone (anyone!) from the group to help me try 6 flavours. A lot went to waste.

                        Pies came from Baker Street.

                        Writing up my notes now!

                        Baker Street Cafe
                        385 Rd Richmond, Ottawa, ON K2A0E7, CA

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          How early did the line ups start?

                          1. re: petek

                            We got there around 10:45 and already some line ups, and of course some tents not even set up to serve yet. Maybe a 5 minute wait for Buster Rhinos, wish they had brought ribs, but was happy with the pulled pork, kind of inconsistent on serving size though. We had one bun that was overflowing with pulled pork and one that was skimpy. I waited maybe 15-20 minutes for pizza at about 11:30, we all really enjoyed it (had fiore di latte) and the kids dug the apple caramel pizza. The pies from Baker Street were tasty and a good deal at $2.50 each. But their location got lost in the pizza line up. Cupcakes were fresh and flavourful but too much icing to cake for most of us in our group.
                            Never did make it to El Gastro because of the line ups, wish I had started there when the line up was maybe 15 min!
                            By the time we left at about 1:00 the lineups were well over an hour just about everywhere. I stopped at Brick St Bakery to buy a loaf for tonight and was talking to people in line who gave up on the food trucks and decided to get sandwiches there instead.
                            Overall a great event that I will return to, but I hope that in the future it is better spaced out and a longer day.

                            Buster Rhino's
                            2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

                            Baker Street Cafe
                            385 Rd Richmond, Ottawa, ON K2A0E7, CA

                            1. re: petek

                              There were substantial lineups at 11am when things opened so not sure when people started milling about.

                              It was wonderful to see such great turnout although it meant that I didn't get to try much! Next one is August 20th.


                            2. re: TorontoJo

                              we got in line shortly before noon for the grill cheese and by the time we got to the front they sold out of bacon. The woman taking the cash said they had brought enough bacon for 200 sandwiches and were sold out quickly. (they were shocked at how many people came out to the event)

                              I LOVED the cava shrimp tamale ! I tried a bite of my friends and by the time I went back the line up was to long. (I would have waited but my friends were tired)

                              also, no idea who it was but two guys sold cotton candy (made fresh)...which might have been my favorite but I have a slight addiction to sugar (also, only 3 bucks was a good deal)

                              I agree with TorontoJo's approach best way to handle that event was divided and conquer, that way you got to try more places.

                              unsure if I will go to the next event , it all depends on how the fix the line up situation, I found with the long lines that wrap around like it did I ended up missing stands since lost behind the line.

                              I do not know if people have found ways around Toronto by-laws since I noticed behind the Community Centre on dundas and bathurst there is about five big metal packing crates (I guess how you would describe it) selling grill cheese sandwiches, bubble tea, a vegan place and a travel agency (no idea for that last one). So maybe they found some loop hole, I guess maybe hope to have more late night choices

                            3. Lined up 2 hrs for El Gastro to find that only Pork Belly sandwiches were left, it was okay. Too much bread to pork ratio and not enough fat on the pork belly. It was an interesting event and worth the experience but will probably opt out in the future until they bring in more vendors with more variety. We also tried the Shrimp Tamale at Cava and it was pretty good. We had to top off at the Burger's Priest before returning home.

                              1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

                              1. I'm sorry I missed so many of you! Wish I had been able to contact the CH group floating around, as I had too many cupcakes.

                                And with that, from the blog (http://bit.ly/jwilTQ ):

                                Since I was early, I felt that pouncing on the vendors that were still setting up seemed a little uncouth. But the trucks didn’t seem to have this issue – they were all ready to go! So I hit up El Gastronomo Vagabundo, mostly because I was standing right there and there was a line already forming, all before the official 11am start-time. After a 10-minute wait (and a slightly odd look from the kitchen staff when I presented my Tupperware for them to “plate” in), I scored my first food truck eat of the day.

                                The Giuseppe Taco (oven-dried tomato, basil, pesto, arugula, parmesean on a 100% corn tortilla), was a decent morning starter. A little salty, with crunch from the taco shell, and lots of green. The Buddha Belly (five-spiced pork belly, steamed buns, chili jam, cucumber, and coriander) I felt was too much bread and I wanted a thicker cut of pork belly. The Kim Jong Illin’ (Korean BBQ chicken wings, sesame, coriander), which I love for its name alone, was decent. I didn’t like my first wing as much as my second wing, so I’m somewhat undecided about it. I also snagged their Home Brew of cucumber pineapple lemonade. Really refreshing and not too sweet.

                                This Cajun Fish Taco from Simple Fish And Chips was quite a tasty bite. I say bite, because I had to share. They also had Wasabi Lobster Rolls, which I hear were really good as well.

                                Apple and Rhubarb pies were found at the Baker Street truck… van.

                                Cava had several things on their menu. I quite liked their Kingfish Ceviche (“Acapulco style”) with the fresh pop of peas. And between the two tamales, I enjoyed the mushroom and corn one (on the right) over the shrimp one (centre). The mushrooms were buttery and the corn sweet, so I happily hogged this to myself.

                                Xococava also had fresh churro (with star anise cinnamon) on their frozen yogurt with Ontario strawberry sauce. The churro, fresh and crispy from the fryer, was pretty darn good with the sauce. Having had my fill of the frozen yogurt a couple weeks before, I wish I had thought to ask for just two churros instead!

                                From Chef Hopgood came the tastiest thing I ate during Food Truck Eats: the smoked chicken croquettes. These creamy croquettes had a lot of flavour and worked really well dressed up in hot sauce, radish, jalapeno, kewpie mayo, and green onions. Also not to be missed was their delicious rhubarb slushie: tangy, sweet, and icy. Can’t wait to see what Chef Hopgood will do when he opens his own place.

                                Joshana Maharaj’s cardamom-strawberry kulfi was located next to Chef Hopgood’s booth.

                                And right next to Joshana, was Tiffinday. I wasn’t able to sneak in a menu shot.

                                Though I meant to get back to Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops, I never did. With yummy-sounding options like fresh Ontario strawberry, blackberry, watermelon, and honeydew (with cucumber, lime, basil), I will have to try harder next time. Also will have to try harder to get to that cotton candy man to the right. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

                                Buster Rhino’s was in attendance, but I decided to pass on them, since I already know their very tasty product and I think my sister has some of their brisket in the freezer, even. I missed the fact that they had sweet tea on offer though! I heard later they were giving the tea away for free after they ran out of meat.

                                The folks at Distillery Restaurant Corp were doling out Mekong Subs (for $5!?). On an early pass, I had seen ketchup and mustard on the table, which confused me given that Vietnamese subs don’t usually sport those condiments. The mystery was solved when I later noticed they were also grilling hot dogs. My food-snob DEFCON-3 alert was subsequently downgraded.

                                Marben had a table with lemonade and their fudgey chocolate ice cream sandwiches. I read on twitter that there was chocolate sauce involved with the sammy at some point, but it was definitely messy and tasty enough without it!

                                Chef Rossy Earle’s Supi Cucu had: Empanadas de Carne, Chorpian, Panamanian Tamales, and Salsa de Fuego Hot Sauce. Had pondered buying hot sauce for home later, but again – didn’t get back to them due to the mess of people.

                                I couldn’t resist the novelty of The Cupcake Diner. They had seven flavours to choose from: Classic Vanilla, Cookies ‘n’ Cream, Chocolate Banana, Caramel Apple Pie, Red Velvet, Strawberry Shortcake, and Peanut Butter Chocolate. I bought a half-dozen, skipping the vanilla. The frosting is American buttercream and bases are varied. I like that they didn’t get lazy and have only chocolate/vanilla bases. I thought the peanut butter, apple pie, and strawberry cupcakes were pretty good flavours, but I think this remains just a novelty for me.

                                I had a lot of fun at Food Truck Eats, but there were only a handful of trucks and some improvements should be made on the line-up situation – less about the wait-time and more on the placement. Some tents and trucks were obfuscated by people lining up for other places and walking around in general was difficult, even solo. Nevermind those with strollers! Everything was centered around the stage, but I wonder if it would be possible to take over more of the main thoroughfare toward the gates to help ease the congestion next time.

                                And next time is soon! Suresh has already posted that part 2 of Food Truck Eats will be Saturday, August 20th, 2011, once again at the Distillery, with more trucks (yay!), more food, and, he wrote, more surprises.

                                http://www.foodpr0n.com/ -- food. is. love.

                                1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

                                488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                                Buster Rhino's
                                2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: jlunar

                                  As the one person in the group who got a Augie's Gourmet Ice Pop, I wasn't very impressed with the watermelon. The first few licks were excellent, but there was a bit in the middle which had no flavor. It was ok, and hit the spot on a hot day, but nothing I'd go out of my way for.

                                  1. re: jlunar

                                    Sounds like we had similar experiences about the good and just ok. I ate more than my fair share of those chicken croquettes! And we went back for a second round of churros because they were so good (we totally passed on the ice cream). She was nice enough to sell just the churros for 50 cents each. I totally loved the anise cinnamon sugar -- we even took the excess sugar from the first batch and dumped it on the second batch. :)

                                    I'm sorry we missed El Gastro's offerings. And we totally missed Rossy Earle's booth.

                                    And yes, you should have pinged us -- we would have been happy to share the cupcakes!

                                  2. I didn't end up getting there until closer to 1pm. I think the biggest issue might have been the tight spacing (would have been okay without that HUGE egg beater sculpture thing. I think that the sculpture has kind of ruined that space for festival/events since it takes up so much space!). The fact that the TD Jazz stage was there also added to the chaos so probably not that issue next time around.

                                    I ended up having the ceviche (once I found out there was no line up) but value wise not sure if it was worth $5.00 I really enjoyed the pie I had (peach).. Great value at 2 for $5 and no line up.

                                    Overall, I am planning to go to the next event and I think that the vendors will be better prepared to deal with the crowds. (I am sure the turn out was 10x better than expected).

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ylsf

                                      I'm hoping they'll spill out onto the main thoroughfare/walkway up to the gates next time. I felt like Luminato had too much space and this event, not enough!

                                    2. Looking at Rob Ford and his stance on supporting local business, you'd think he'd get rid of the red tape surrounding food trucks and carts in our city by now. I hope Buster Rhinos gets a food truck that would make my day er lunch... mmmm pulled pork or ribs on any given work day. Now that makes sense. BTW why do I always end up seeing these posts a day later =P. Would have love to take the family to this... although I'm not sure if SO would've put up with the line ups.

                                      Buster Rhino's
                                      2001 Thickson Rd S, Whitby, ON L1N, CA

                                      1. I went and had a great time. Some photos attached. I was amazed Cava didn't have more of a line-up. I really enjoyed everything they had on offer.

                                        I thought the lobster sliders and catfish tacos were also excellent. The Vietnamese sub was pretty good, too. Maybe too much bun, but it was really tasty bun. The only other standout in my mind is the Marben chocolate cookie ice cream sandwich. So good.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pincus

                                          That taco looks fantastic. I would eat the hell out of that.

                                        2. Terrible shame it was only on for one day. Hopefully this is just the start of new street food in TO.

                                          SF has really taken this sort of thing to a whole new level. Check out the pictures at http://offthegridsf.com/ and sigh...

                                          1. Great idea done really poorly. There were only about 3 main food trucks and some supplementary tents. At noon it took us 20 minutes to find the end of a line. What the line was for, it was hard to tell. After 30 minutes in a line that moved all of 10 feet we left. The trucks were in an alley and there was little room for them or for the 800 people in line. This should probably be held in some kind of mall parking lot where they can have way more trucks and a space for people to line up.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: mindme

                                              Agreed. It was an absolute zoo. Wall to wall people. Only 3 real food trucks. The pizza one doesn't count since it was more something you tow and set up at a location rather than truly mobile. The rest were tents. Don't call it a food truck festival when the majority aren't.

                                              1. re: sbug206

                                                My thoughts exactly. Wanted to go, but after I heard about the numbers reaching critical mass and that there weren't many trucks but food tents from local restaurants, I decided against it.

                                                Hoping kinks will get ironed out by the next couple of festivals-will consider the next one.

                                                1. re: sbug206

                                                  We have to start somewhere! Toronto doesn't have the food trucks that you see on TV from other cities. I am glad they rounded out the offering with stands while we wait for our city to catch up with the times. Hopefully one day we will have the necessary amount of cool trucks in order for them to hold an event of their own. For now it creates great awareness for the city. Not everybody watches the food network to even know what a food truck can be! Personally I give high praises with this step in the right direction!

                                                  Too bad we didn't set up an information booth to educate the consumer and to lobby our local government with petitions.

                                                  1. re: sbug206

                                                    While there weren't many food trucks, it was still a good food event! Probably the best one in a long while (that didn't involve pre-buying a ticket). I really enjoyed it as what it was, though if I were looking for food trucks only, I would have been disappointed.

                                                    1. re: sbug206

                                                      The organizer (Suresh) tweeted that for round 2 he has 5 trucks confirmed and is working on having 10. Not sure about the number of non-truck vendors.


                                                      1. re: wontonfm

                                                        If its held in a bigger venue that can accommodate 10 trucks, I'd give it another chance. But throwing the trucks in a narrow alley and 800 people in a narrow courtyard seemed ill thought out.

                                                        1. re: wontonfm

                                                          A big box parking lot will work best with that many trucks. Only area I can think of downtown is T&T cherry st, but they do their own night market thing.

                                                          I was at the distillery area later in the day visiting a friend, it was still pretty packed with folks. Great space visually, but def not practical for the food truck event taking into account crowd flow, lineups etc.....

                                                          At the end of the day, I very much appreciate his effort. I do hope the implementation runs smoother for the 2nd event.

                                                          1. re: BusterRhino

                                                            I think given the circumstances it was run as well as possible. Usually it is the crowd that causes issues at these large events (people not respecting lines, etc) but I didn't see anything happening like that. Personally, I saw this thread as more people offering suggestions (and, if I was Suresh I would be searching out all reviews/discussions of the event for feedback). I think it was a great event/idea and that is why I made the suggestion. I went down already knowing in advance that the line ups for food would be over an hour long in some cases but I wanted to support the idea. As I said before I think the combination of having the TD Jazz fest on at the same time both brought more people to the event and caused space restrictions. There were a few tents that weren't part of this event (like the Mill Street beer tents) and while they may have added to the experience for some I would imagine they won't be around next time as they were likely part of the TD Jazz fest. I also saw an Eska water vendor set up, maybe also part of the TD Jazz Fest. If there aren't other events happening in the immediate area then I don't think the location is really an issue. What could be done to improve it for the next round would be additional signage and or pylons (as mentioned above) but I guess it really all depends on the turn out the next time around. I think being able to spread a bit more around the Distillery would be a huge added benefit (i.e. closer to the front gates).

                                                            It seems like the Distillery District vendors (at least Sweet Escapes, who tweeted about it) are supporters of the event and actually ended up doing brisk business that day in the end. So, if it is embraced by the DD then a greater presence/area would be awesome.

                                                            I am not sure why one poster refers to the area as an "alley"... It wouldn't call it an alley at that size. For those that weren't there but want a point of reference it was in front of Balzacs with some trucks parked in the parking lot but people were accessing it from the cobbestoned area.

                                                            Anyway, it was nice seeing you there again BR even if it was just brief and look forward to getting a chance to re-try some of your Pulled Pork at a future event or restaurant :)

                                                    2. I am not going to re-type up my suggestions for this event but just wanted to ask if any CHers were out under the trees (on opposite side of parking lot) eating ice cream from containers (maybe from SOMA?) in a large group. I always see familiar people around at different food events/restaurants and I still haven't figured out who the CH regulars are :)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ylsf

                                                        There were a group of us in front of Balzac's. Definitely not by any trees.

                                                      2. We've moved a discussion about what it would take to build a food truck culture to the General Chowhounding Topics board. You can follow the discussion here:


                                                        Please keeps post on this thread focused on your experience at the food truck festival.

                                                        1. A reminder that the second round is this Saturday.

                                                          Event page on Facebook:


                                                          Breakfast TV will be down there on Friday too according to that page with 5 trucks.

                                                          Suresh posted up a map on that page too. Trucks/or tents are more spread out this time.