Dine Out Vancouver: Street Food City

January 17th, 2012

Tacofino Cantina | Mom’s Grilled Cheese | Soho Road

Recently, Vancouver witnessed a proliferation of food trucks offering speedy dining options in the downtown core – a welcome breath of fresh air to an urbanite’s steady rotation of stale lunch haunts. From January 24-26, to coincide with Dine Out Vancouver, there will be a traffic jam of sorts on the Georgia Plaza in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery where several of these tasty to-go lunch options will convene to create a ‘Street Food City’ for 3 days from 10 to 3 pm. Here are 3 of our favourites:

Starting last summer, crowds of people queued in front of a brightly painted food truck at the corner of Robson Square – naturally we had to check out all the commotion. Taco trucks roam all over Mexico but as its name suggests, Tacofino Cantina originated in Tofino. It now trolls the streets of Vancouver in a bold orange truck that you can’t miss: it’s painted with the Virgin de Guadalupe holding a taco. This cantina serves up Baja-style tacos including fish, beans and pork that are fresh, simple and satisfying. Their Fish Taco is a battered and deep fried cod dressed with traditional accompaniments of shredded cabbage and home-style salsa – Tacofino adds a spicy mayo to bring the components together. The Black Bean Taco marries creamy refried beans with sour cream and rich feta cheese and these ingredients are set off against a bright and chunky salsa. Both were generously stuffed and these two options made for a filling lunch. Be prepared to be patient: although Tacofino Cantina says they make fast slow food, because the tacos are made to order, you may need to wait. You will be salivating by the time you take your first bite.

If the masses of people that swarm the Mom’s Grilled Cheese truck on a daily basis are any indication, it must be true that cheese does make us happy. The large truck stationed outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Howe Street is a recent addition to our city’s food truck roster and has quickly emerged as one of the most popular lunch destinations in the city. As we loathe crowds and line-ups we were reluctant to visit Mom’s Grilled Cheese, but the seductive smells emanating from the truck as we passed by became impossible to resist. The concept here is incredibly simple – you pick the bread, cheese and accompaniments and owner Cindy Hamilton and her team transform your selections into an indulgent and delectable grilled cheese creation. Served in a cone with a pickle and kettle chips on the side, Mom’s offers a satisfying meal for less than $10. This is diner food done right and we have to admit that we had no idea that a grilled cheese sandwich could be so good. The bread – we opted for multigrain but sourdough seemed like the most popular selection – was crispy without being greasy, and the gooey, creamy cheese center was decadent and expertly prepared. Those with dietary restrictions rest assured, gluten free and vegan options are available, and Mom’s also offers chilli and tomato soup served in coffee cups for easy transport. There is nothing more soothing on these cold, wet winter days than the nostalgic comfort food served at Mom’s Grilled Cheese.

Soho Road has quickly become our go-to lunch spot in the city. We had walked by the unassuming small black cart parked on Smithe street in front of the court house many times without any knowledge of the tasty tandoori delights being created inside. The service here is exceptional; proprietor Sarbjot Mund seems to really care about the happiness of his clients and in addition to his friendly banter, hands you a steaming cup of delicious chai before you even have a chance to order. Nothing makes waiting for food in the rain more enjoyable than a warm cup of this surprisingly not too sweet drink. With a tandoor oven built into the cart, the naan and kebabs are fresh and made on site. We bypassed the tandoori and butter chicken and chose the vegetarian option — an expertly spiced vegetable curry wrapped in crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside naan bread and topped with diced vegetables and sauces. The flavour balance is impeccable – between the naan, the filling, and the sauce there is a lot that goes into one of these wraps but the result is both unique and harmonious. Soho Road is worth the trip for the naan alone, their fresh, perfectly charred version is one of the best that we’ve had in the city.

Other food carts convening at the outdoor food court include:

It’s All About the Grill
The Juice Truck
Coma Food Truck

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