Five things we learned about Toronto’s street food scene from the Globe’s profile of Suresh Doss
On Saturday, the Globe and Mail ran a profile of Suresh Doss, the 34-year-old computer systems engineer and publisher of Spotlight Toronto who’s behind Food Truck Eats. Doss’s tireless energy for the cause has some vendors suggesting he may be some kind of god, or at least, in a memorable phrase, “part elephant.” Below, five things we learned about the front lines of Toronto’s street food scene.
1. We have a lot to thank Miami for
Doss took a research trip to Florida last spring and had an epiphany. Miami’s food trucks drew huge crowds for super-popular rallies of 10 to 15 vendors. Doss saw that if Toronto borrowed the rally idea and threw festivals on private land, he could drum up support for food trucks while bypassing the bylaws that keep them off the streets.
2. Festivals are a shot in the arm to local BIAs…
In Hamilton, the Ottawa Street BIA was reluctant to host a food truck festival last year because local restaurants were skittish about the extra competition. But the event was a huge triumph: tons of people came out, and that meant a whole lot of cash flowing into the ’hood (plus a good chunk of return customers to the retail strip). It worked out so well that the BIA is hosting one of the largest food truck festivals in the country next week.
3. …which means more street food won’t necessarily cause a “restopocalypse”
Doss points out that eateries and bars in the Distillery District and Bay-Adelaide Centre benefited from his festivals—after all, people often need a beer after munching on their gourmet grilled cheese.
4. The next frontier: making food trucks more permanent
Doss, along with many Torontonians, hopes that food trucks will be a regular fixture on city streets and not just some occasional party. His grand plan is to split the city into roughly 10 zones, each with its appointed space for carts or trucks. But to make sure local restaurants don’t freak out, a converted shipping container, rigged up with a basic kitchen, could be rented out to local businesses so they could also have some presence on the street.
5. Sadly, Toronto’s still far off from making this happen
Right now, it looks like food trucks will be stuck in festival mode (with the exception of Food Cabbie and Caplansky’s Delimobile, which have maintained a precarious presence at Queen and Mutual). But Doss hopes that next month he can persuade the Planning Committee to pass a motion formalizing the trucks’ right to operate on private lots—and that could open the door to more lasting street food options.