After years of waiting, Toronto gets its multicultural street meat alternatives

After years of waiting, Toronto gets its multicultural street meat alternatives

Eight is enough: Come summer, these food vendors will be slinging fare street-side (Photo by Davida Aronovitch) 

Toronto has chosen its street food vendors—finally. The eight alternatives to hot dogs were announced by Councillor John Filion at city hall this morning. The more health-conscious options—which run the gamut from biryani to kimchee—will hit selected high-traffic streets in time for the Victoria Day long weekend. While the aim of the program is to showcase the city’s culinary diversity, we’re worried that it turns the city’s beloved hot dogs into underdogs. A full list of the new options after the jump.

The announcement of the winners of the A la Cart pilot project has been a long time coming. Talk of this program—which aims to redefine the city’s concept of fast food by making it ethnically diverse—started in 2007, and the gruelling application process for vendors began back in December. Apparently getting licensed to hawk street-side kimchee is as tough as getting into university.

“It’s important to set the bar high,” said Filion. Out of 19 candidates, taste tests of the offerings of 13 produced the final lineup of eight (it was supposed to be 15, but not enough applicants made the cut). Each vendor had to demonstrate compliance with safety standards and pass an assessment by the city’s executive chefs. “If we passed their test, hopefully we will appeal to the rest of Toronto, as well,” says Azim Lila, a Tanzanian-born Indian whose Afghan samosas are surely the embodiment of Filion’s cultural fusion concept. With spiky hair and Versace glasses, he doesn’t look like the average street vendor, either.

But not all Torontonians are ready for the rebranding of Queen Street as Sesame Street. “What’s your beef with hot dog vendors?” asked one belligerent reporter at today’s press conference. While Filion assured him that he has none, he also felt there were many delicacies that could better represent a city as food savvy as Toronto. A selection of hot dog dealers will also be offering veggie dogs, nuts and seeds as part of the program. But we’re not convinced that the councillor understands the sacred bond between a city and its curbside sausage. “I eat veggie dogs,” he admitted. “I haven’t had a hot dog in 20 years.” Who put a health nut in charge of street grub?

The chosen eight street vendors are:

• Nancy Senawong: pad Thai with fresh rolls at Mel Lastman Square
• Noorullah Iman: Afghan/central Asian chapli kebabs at Metro Hall
• Seemab Ahmad: central Asian/Persian biryani at Nathan Phillips Square
• Blair Bonivento: Greek souvlaki at Nathan Phillips Square
• Issa Ashtarieh: Middle Eastern chicken and beef kebab wraps at Queen’s Park
• Andnet Zere: Eritrean injera at Roundhouse Park
• Young Jin Kim: Korean bulgogi with seasonal kimchee at Yonge and Eglinton
• Bridgette Pinder: Caribbean fusion jerk chicken at Yonge and St. Clair