2011 Street Food Landscape To Be Injected With More Awesome

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Tonight we can bring you some very promising “almost” news on the Vancouver street food front. I say “almost” because none of it is official, but rather pooled together from reliable sources. I ask those journalists who are reading this to confirm what I am about to write, because I am now going to go out and celebrate for the next 72 hours…

Word is City Hall is going to vote next Thursday on increasing the number of street vendors from 80 to 140 by this summer. If all goes according to plan, applications for these new slots will be made available to the public next month. So hoorah for that, and the 15 new vendors that will then be allowed every year thereafter, until a presumably arbitrary ceiling is reached (or we all explode from over-consumption in the year 2213).

But that isn’t the especially awesome part. Are you ready for this?

Instead of allowing just any operation to set up shop with little or no experience or passion for the food that they serve (as was the issue with last year’s ill-advised lottery), this new proposal calls for the creation of a committee made up of local food experts representing a broad spectrum (sustainability, nutrition, cooking, etc.). This committee will decide the fate of each application based on merit and promise. Chance doesn’t enter into it.

Each applicant will be scored on a range of criteria (taste being one of them), and those with the highest point scores will then be permitted to choose their own location in the order of their ranking, instead of being randomly assigned.

In other words, if your application sucks and your food tastes like a monkey’s ass, don’t even bother trying. If you’re application is just OK and your food is just sort of meh, you might luck out and get a location in funeral parlour’s parking lot next to some dude selling Latvian postcards (nothing wrong with that). If, however, your application rules and your food tastes like Jesus and Buddha tag-teamed in a golden kitchen, well then…welcome to wherever you want to go, and I’ll take two, please.

How freaking amazing is that?

  • http://www.eatpnw.com Brad

    I’m not too sure about this, I like the idea that they are entertaining more street vendors, but at the same time I don’t like the idea that there will be an “American Idol” type system voting people in. It just asks for all sorts of favoritism and corruption. If street vendors are true businesses and if their product is not good, then the public will tell them by not buying from them. It should be the same as any other business in the city of Vancouver, and should not have any special rules because it is something new.

  • http://www.eatpnw.com Brad

    Sorry, another quick follow up…

    If the “American Idol” judges of the new street vendors were to have voted on some of the street carts in Portland, I am sure they wouldn’t have been allowed.

    Old trailers, school buses, and sheds parked (permanently) along the city streets would NEVER happen in Vancouver (nor do we really have the real estate for them), but those are the absolute best food carts in Portland.

  • http://www.thereisalwaysroom.blogspot.com Heather

    That is great news! I am glad they are changing from the lottery system. I hope some of the spots that didn’t open, such as the library, will be filled soon. How do you get onto the tasting panel? That would be an awesome job.

  • http://twitter.com/StreetFoodApp Toby

    Awesome. Looking forward to our new downtown lunch choices getting even better.

  • Conrad Yablonski

    Does this mean the end of lemonade in winter?

  • http://www.filistix.com Ariel

    We’re a street food cart from Edmonton and are interested in expanding to Vancouver? How can we get more info on this?

  • Boy C

    I have a problem with this as well. With such a tight knit community in this city, there may be a problem with corruption, bias, and bribery with this idea. I think having a selection process is sound when it comes to choosing the total number of vendors, but having them graded so that the top rank gets first choice in location is where problems are going to occur.

  • Scout Magazine

    That was my first thought, too. I think this would be ameliorated if the judging of the food and concepts were blind. If you think that willy nilly, let the strong survive is the way to go, let me remind you that we live in Vancouver, and we must still humour the nanny, just as long as she continues to let us play…

  • Boy C

    This selection process is still boggling my mind. What’s to prevent a potential vendor to produce something different to what they will sell in practice? Two situations come up. The vendor may alter themselves to achieve a higher score, or when business comes to practice, they may need to remodel and adapt what they are selling to the given market/location. If this is the case, what’s the point of having a comittee?

    I’ll stop overthinking. More street carts please.

  • Scout Magazine

    Good points, Boy. I’ve seen that in restaurants and especially in cooking competitions, when a chef tries to cook beyond his/her restaurant’s menu/concept. It’s only natural. I suppose the point would be to discern which concepts have game and which ones don’t.

  • http://foodists.ca Miles Harrison

    Damn!
    I was going to apply for a Deep Fried Monkey’s Ass vendor license.

    Seriously, this sounds like totally the right way to make this happen. I can’t wait to see who jumps on board with this and am really curious as to who the opposition will be and what their arguments will reveal.

  • Jimmy

    For those of us who have spent the last umpteen years investing in our bricks and mortar restaurant, the slanted playing field just tipped over. In principal I have no problem with this. However, given the tax load we shoulder in Vancouver, the lack of competition from the supplier end, (reflected in pricing), the fact that we have to be open EVERY DAY, the bureaucratic maze that gets harder to navigate, the gut punch of the increased drinking-driving ‘enforcement’ and the public’s response to it, this is hard to take. I suppose if I knew then what I knew now, I would have waited and got in on the food cart craze.

    Among other ideas being tossed around is allowing mobile vendors, that is to say, they can stop wherever there is business, like ice cream trucks. Good in one sense, but bad if you have worked your ass off developing a location, only to have a food cart show up and cream off your business.

    I’m sorry, this is policy that is easy to sell to the public, but has been mishandled from the beginning, first in the lottery based rollout, and now, with no consideration given to ramifications to existing business. (By the way, where is the BCRFA on this?).

  • RK

    From all my conversations, the majority of the street cart vendors in Vancouver are suffering.

    Location aside, until the city relaxes their regulations a bit and the province relaxes the liquor laws…street food is an nearly-restaurant-priced meal served on the cold January streets of Vancouver.

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  • http://www.eatpnw.com Brad

    I think until the city of Vancouver starts to relax, and allows people to have fun without people always complaining about one thing or another, the food cart scene will never be like it is in a city like Portland.

  • pablopicante

    Portland’s street cart scene is indeed robust, but their’s is a strange approach: rather than sporatically spaced apart throughout the city they have what they call “pods” of trucks – usually on the perimeter of parking lots in the downtown core. more akin to an outdoor food court really.
    i was just there over new year’s and most were closed due to the offices being on holiday so we had to slum it for deli lunches at places like “kenny and zukes” and “kornblatt’s”.
    delicious wonderful slumming… :)

  • http://www.eatpnw.com Brad

    Portland does indeed have many “pods” of carts throughout the city, but there are many carts also on their own, a couple that immediately come to mind is the Grilled Cheese Grill and the Chili Pie Palace.

    I understand them being closed during holiday seasons as well, but we recently went down on a weekend and all of the food carts we wanted to go to were open on the weekend (Saturday), where as here in Vancouver, I couldn’t find one that was open on a Saturday the last time I went out.

  • David J. Cooper

    I was about to say exactly what Jimmy said, just not as well and with many spelling errors.

    I would like the number of licenses to stay more or less the same but why not ditch some of the crappy hot dog carts and replace them with something decent.

  • http://vancouverstreeteats.ca/ James

    The selection process sounds a bit gimmicky IMO. If it puts a stop to people selling/renting their spots (that they had no intention of occupying) and having friends and relatives putting in multiple ballots then it’ll be an improvement over last year’s ‘lottery’.

  • Boy C

    I concur with RK’s and Jimmy`s comments. Business doesn’t look so brisk for the street carts this time of year, and location definitely plays a major role. I doubt the broadway/granville re-up business is anywhere near as good as their art gallery location taking all their efforts into consideration.

    I worry if vancouver can even sustain such an increase in street cart food, and if a committee chooses them based on cooking/sustainability/local etc… mandates that would require perhaps higher price points and perhaps longer wait times, would the committee and local government be committing the vendor and bricks and mortar restaurants to inflated competition and perhaps failure?

    I`m all for good quality food and good quality ingredients at a fair price, but that fair price is seemingly creeping above the $10 mark for a decent filling meal, so will we be able to find some seriously cheap, fast grub to fill our stomachs? I guess my question is: with street carts executing more restaurant style foods, edging towards restaurant pricing, and with certain carts forcing restaurant wait times, what market are they really filling?

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  • temad

    Firstable I’m glad that this year the spots are not chosen by the LOTTERY system… but still This is just the street food, my questions are does it really have to be fancy? I doubt that ok healthy option is a Good point but why does the street foods are the only one to be the HEALTHY FOOD? How about the restaurants? If you want to pay more than $10 on the street I rather spend my money on restaurants than street food. My understanding of streeet foods is variety of options and cheap price compare to restaurants and I wonder how all the vendors are going to survive if they have to use Organic local sustainable items I’m sure it’s not cheap for food cost… I’m not against the program but let me ask this DO ALL THE RESTAURANTS IN VANCOUVER USES LOCAL INGREDIENTS FOR SURE? I highly doubt that well excpet for some restaurants.

  • Neil Wyles

    I can respond to the food needing to be healthy.

    You are operating on City property and they call the shots.

    It is there bat and ball, and if you do not play by their rules, you may not play.

    No have little or no control over what restaurants serve, but they do control this and they will.