All-night foodie raves are the latest street food trend unlikely to appear in Toronto

All-night foodie raves are the latest street food trend unlikely to appear in Toronto

(Image: samthor)

It’s no secret that when it comes to street food, Torontonians are a little behind the curve. So when a new curbside craze sweeps across the U.S. and Europe, bypassing Toronto entirely, we’re not exactly surprised. This time around? Late night “food raves,” like San Francisco’s Underground Market, which started with eight vendors in a friend’s apartment and has ballooned into something much bigger.

Toronto has been stiffed with an anemic selection of street fare in part by oppressive street food regulations and city micromanagement. But we’re not alone—many cities across North America are inhospitable to street vendors, with heavy fees for permits and insurance. Montreal won’t even let so much as a pretzel cart sully its street corners.

In San Francisco, Iso Rabins started the Underground Market in December 2009 to encourage entrepreneurship in young vendors. The New York Times reports:

The goal is to be an incubator for culinary start-ups, and be a profit-making venture. Vendors pay $50 to reserve a cooking space and return 10 percent of sales over $500 to ForageSF. “The feeling in the food community is that if you’re making money, it’s not something you’re passionate about,” Mr. Rabins said. “But if we actually want to change anything — dedicate our lives to it — we need to make money doing it,” he said.

Rabins and his fellow food aficionados avoid city bureaucracy by operating as a private club. “Members” can join for free and are asked to sign a disclaimer stating that they understand that food may not be inspected. The lack of red tape doesn’t seem to faze San Francisco foodies—more than 2,000 have been gathering in the Mission district every month to commit random acts of foodie-ism. They dine on the likes of paella and homemade Oreos, wash it down with Napa Valley wine, and then dance late into the night. Toronto may have had its moments with illegal, late-night indie dance parties, but we doubt we’re going to see anything quite like this any time soon.

They Gather Secretly at Night, and Then They (Shhh!) Eat [New York Times]