It may make you look like a keener, but getting to Food Cart Fest Vancouver early pays off. You’ll be greeted by few to no lineups at over 20 of the city’s top food carts, and you’ll be able to score seats in the coveted shady areas.
Now in its second year at its location between the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village (215 West 1st Avenue), the fest takes place every Sunday until August 31 from noon to 5 p.m. A sister fest launches August 2 at Surrey’s City Hall Plaza (13450 104 Avenue, Surrey) and runs from noon to 5 p.m. every Saturday until August 30.
Situated in a massive repurposed concrete lot, Food Cart Fest Vancouver gets a whole lot of unrelenting sun and heat when the weather’s good. Fest veterans come prepared with parasols, jaunty straw hats, and plenty of sunscreen. This year there’s an artificial turf area complete with umbrellas, lounge chairs, a DJ, and Ping-Pong tables. Look out for urban gardening demos and a kids’ bouncy castle.
Of course, the main attraction is the diverse gorging that can be done, especially if you invite a gaggle of friends who aren’t possessive of their food. (Sharing is indeed caring.) On a recent visit, carts in attendance included Ze Bite (a crêpe or baguette with rosemary ham, grainy Dijon mustard, tomato sauce, and greens for $8.50), Mogu (featuring a pork katsu sandwich with house-made red miso sauce and Asian hot mustard coleslaw for $8), JJ’s Trucketeria (garlic fried rice with Filipino barbecued pork and a fried egg for $9.50), and Slavic Rolls (a pastry cylinder with a filling such as Nutella or Bavarian cream for $5.99). All trucks post a list of local ingredients they’re using.
Other food vendors were also on-site, such as the Pie Hole with its sweet and savoury pies, Delish Gluten Free Bakery, and Lukes General Store.
After much debating, we decided to start at Varinicey Pakoras with a small order ($5.50) of the original pakoras, which feature battered and deep-fried onion, ginger, carrot, kale, yam, and Swiss chard. The pakoras arrived crispy, with subtle spicing, and were especially delicious dipped in the cooling raita and sweet mango chutney. Tip: try not to dig in too quickly, lest you burn your fingers and tongue.
Fliptop Filipino Fusion Food Truck’s pulled-pork sandwich ($8) was a daunting and unwieldy tower of slow-cooked pulled pork, barbecue sauce, roasted-garlic aioli, achara (pickled green papaya and cabbage), and crispy leeks—all on a sweet pan de sal bun. Sadly, some of the tender pork hit the pavement despite our best efforts to contain it all, but overall we loved the combo of textures and ingredients.
Community Pizzeria sells Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizza, baked at 900 ° F in a wood-fired oven. Frankly, we were in awe that staff could stand to be in the truck on an already blazing summer’s day. The prosciutto and arugula ($11.50) version was a refreshing choice in the heat, the fresh, peppery greens pairing well with the salty prosciutto. The crust had great char and a nice chew to it—pretty darn good for food-truck pizza.
The gargantuan lamb kebab pita ($9) from Mangal Kiss Mid East BBQ was packed with organic greens, cucumber, radish, daikon, fresh mint, hummus, fig vinaigrette, harissa aioli, and zhug (Middle Eastern hot sauce). Each bite offered a zippy and crunchy mix of veggies alongside the tender ground-lamb kebab.
By that point, it was time to surrender and finish with frozen yogurt at Sweet Ride. We opted for the crowd favourite, Sweet Monkey ($8), their signature plain, tart frozen yogurt topped with Nutella, peanut butter, banana slices, Skor bits, and a Belgian Liège waffle. We weren’t fans of the froyo’s sandy texture but happily scraped off and ate the sweet goodies that accompanied it.
Our wait time at each truck ranged from five to 10 minutes, although by the time we were done, the more popular trucks, like Mom’s Grilled Cheese and Pig on the Street, had lengthy lineups. But judging by the satisfied expressions of visitors chowing down, the food at this year’s Food Cart Fest is well worth the wait. And if you can get there early and beat the crowds, even better.
Entry to Food Cart Fest Vancouver costs $2 per person, or it’s free with a nonperishable-food-item donation. (It’s also free for Vancity and Car2Go members, children under 13, and seniors over 65.) For more information, see the Food Cart Fest website.