All photos by Michael Kolberg
This Friday, Food Truck Eats brought their travelling food show to Liberty Village for a lunch time tasting. Blue Donkey Streateary, Caplansky’s Deli Truck and El Gastronomo Vagabundo were parked outside Liberty Towers Presentation Centre from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. At 1 p.m. my editor asked if I was hungry. I was.
Like anyone in this city with even a passing interest in they’re surroundings, I’d heard a lot of talk about this phenomenon but never participated. As a food truck neophyte I wanted to understand what all the buzz was about. Was the food as good as people say? Are the line-ups that long? Is it really all that different from other fast food? So I hopped on the streetcar and I headed down to Liberty to see what the big deal was.
As I rarely visit the area, a solid grasp of Liberty Village’s geography continues to elude me. But thanks to the dozens of people streaming back to their offices with trays of smoked meat sandwiches, it wasn’t hard to find the Food Trucks. At around 1:15 I arrived to discover a cluster of about fifty people patiently waiting in line-ups that snaked through a parking lot. At times the line-up for Caplansky’s truck, the longest by far, meandered through parked cars, over a patch of grass and onto the sidewalk.
I spotted Martin and Brilynn standing nearby the El Gastronomo Vagabundo. They had just met in line.
Hey there, do you mind if I take a photo? What’d you guys order?
Brilynn: Ceviche. I was going to take some photos.
How is it?
Martin: It’s good! Do you want some?
Yes. (I taste the ceviche and I confrm that it is good.)
Martin: I was hoping to get the Pork Belly Tacos but they’re sold out.
Brilynn: I think this was the third last order of ceviche, too.
Martin and Brilynn are both avid followers of the food truck movement and recommended that if I was interested I should follow Suresh Doss on Twitter (@spotlightcity). They always check FoodTruckEats.ca to find out where the trucks are going to be. Martin says that even though he works from home at his place in Parkdalele, not too far from where we are today, he would willingly hop on the subway to get to an event. Travelling to get to a food truck strikes me as counter intuitive.
Steve, Coulson and Taylor were in line for Caplansky’s.
How long have you guys been waiting?
Taylor: About ten minutes.
Is it worth the wait?
What are you guys looking forward to?
Taylor: Whatever Zane (Caplansky)’s got going.
Steve: We work in the food business, so we like to come and support what’s going on.
So you come to a lot of these events? What’s your favourite food truck meal?
Taylor: Zane’s smoked meat.
Coulson: El Gastronomo always has good stuff.
They start chatting about something their friend did at Toronto Underground Market, another alternative food event. The conversation is making me really hungry.
I find Ming at the front of the line sitting on a concrete parking bumper. He has just got his food.
What did you order?
Ming: Smoked Meat Poutine.
How is it?
Ming: I haven’t tried it yet. (He tries it). It’s good!
How long have you been waiting in line?
Ming: About an hour.
What brought you here today?
Ming: My friends told me about it. We all work here in Liberty. We wanted to get the Pork Belly Tacos but they were sold out.
An hour for poutine? I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around it although I may just be weak from hunger. I get in line at Blue Donkey Streatery because the El Gastro truck that everyone’s been raving about is now completely sold out of food and the Caplansky’s line hasn’t budged. It’s during my twenty minute wait that I notice that I’m standing in a parking lot surrounded by construction sites. Liberty Village is very much a work in progress. I realize that the city’s regulations means they can’t just park their trucks anywhere which must be frustrating for truck operators. But the parking lot leaves something to be desired.
I make my order: Spicy Pork Gyros for $6. It arrives quickly and I find a bench. The food is fresh and delicious, better than average. If you were to ask me how it was, I would say, “It’s good!” Perfect lunch. If I was sitting in a restaurant I imagine it would cost a fair bit more. But I can’t help but think the whole process would be more gratifying if I had stumbled upon a truck by chance instead of having made a trip.
I forgot to take a photo because I am a bad foodie. I wipe my hands clean with my napkin and look over at the Caplansky’s line. The guys I talked to haven’t even ordered yet. I’m glad I went with my truck, even if I had to take the streetcar to get to it. Maybe we all should have shown up earlier though. We could have had a chance at those Pork Belly Tacos.