Nearly two months past her original launch date, Zane Caplansky’s new food truck—named Thundering Thelma—has come roaring onto Toronto streets. It wasn’t Thelma’s mammoth size (18 feet long, eight wide and eight tall) that held up the launch, but rather a swath of new red tape that was laid down in May, one month prior to the scheduled launch. Caplansky estimates that missing half the summer has cost him well over $100,000 in revenue, but despite this baptism by fire, he’s all smiles and excitement as he and his team gear up for their first day on the road.
Although the city held up the launch of the revamped ’98 Purolator truck (he spent $50,000 on that revamp), the current licensing situation allows Thelma quite a lot of road-roaming freedom. The new rules of the Toronto food truck game are fairly simple: they can only operate on private property inside the downtown core and can only be on public property outside the core. Between Bathurst, the Don River and Eglinton, Caplansky has struck up deals with parking lots and landlords who will allow the blue behemoth respite.
“There’s an old saying in the restaurant business: location, location, location. And the truck has all three,” he told us as he settled his truck onto Queen Street East, prepping for her debut at the Beaches International Jazz Festival, where it will be stationed until Saturday night. “We can go where the people are—breakfast, lunch or dinner.” Sunday night the truck will head west to T & T Supermarket’s Asian street food festival. After that, the plan is to prowl the Toronto streets, tweeting furiously about the truck’s next location—some nights they’ll be feeding partiers on Ossington, other days they’ll nourish sunshine seekers on the waterfront. There’s even a scheme in the works to go up and feed cottage country, but for now, everything’s a little up in the air while they feel out their new terrain.
The evolving menu includes smoked meat on rye ($7), a barbecue brisket sandwich ($7), regular or smoked meat poutine ($4–6), three kinds of salad ($2–4), a daily soup ($4) and a pickle on a stick. To handle high volumes at events like the Jazz Fest, there’s a curtailed festival menu offering the two sandwiches, fries, regular poutine and slaw. Thundering Thelma does have one specialty on offer that the Caplansky flagship location lacks: maple–beef bacon doughnuts (3 for $3). (Earlier this spring, Glory Hole Doughnuts started following Caplansky on Twitter; Zane loved the company’s name and asked owner Ashley Jacot De Boinod to join his crew.)
A second truck, a ’68 Airstream trailer, is in the works, but franchising across Canada and beyond is Zane’s ultimate goal. He even brought his six-wheeled blue giantess to CBC’s Dragons’ Den in a bid to get some corporate backing. Tune in this fall to find out what Montreal-raised Kevin O’Leary has to say about Zane’s smoked meat.
Thundering Thelma, various locations (see the Twitter feed)