Ever since I can remember, street food in Toronto has consisted solely of hot dog vendors and chip trucks. And while they certainly have their place in the world, for a city full of adventurous food lovers, there is opportunity waiting to be filled with so much more. A couple years ago the city ran a test of its A La Carte international street food program, but it was administered with such little vision and poor organization that it was, for the most part, a flop – as if the whole project had been set up to fail from the beginning.
Enter the Toronto Underground Market. Along with Food Truck Eats, it’s been one of the first breakouts of the street food and home-grown movement, feeding hungry diners in search of inexpensive gourmet food in monthly events held at the Evergreen Brickworks, with upwards of 30 vendors ranging from small catering companies to passionate home cooks.
One look at the line-ups at TUM and FTE and you’ll see that not only is there a large and voracious community of food lovers in Toronto, but a high demand for quality street food that is not being met due to restrictive municipal laws. In one of the world’s most multicultural cities, we can and should have so much more choice on our streets than merely that between generically chemical-laden street meat and greasy chips. I have enjoyed both, for the record – but there’s much more to street food than this.
Today the Toronto city council voted on a motion that would allow food trucks to rent space in commercial parking lots. Though they’ve passed the decision to the Executive Committee, there’s hope that soon Toronto’s streets will be offering up more exciting fare.
I had the opportunity to volunteer at last month’s TUM – the best way, in my opinion, to experience the event. For an hour and a half of light work, I gained complimentary admission to the event, a drink ticket, and first access to purchase food from vendors before the legendary lines began to form – not to mention a free dinner from popular pop-up taco purveyor La Carnita. Here are some highlights from the photos I took before the venue filled up:
And a few more photos from around the Brickworks:
The next TUM event will take place on June 9th. Come be a part of the street food revolution and gorge yourself on some delicious food! To attend, follow @TOundrgroundmkt on Twitter for up-to-the-minute event news and:
a) buy a ticket to the next event online when ticket sales open (they sell out fast!)
b) sign up to volunteer, which gets you admission and the other things I mentioned earlier
or c) wait in line at the event to get rush tickets.
Hope to see you there next time!