Monday, May 7, 2012

Street Food Block Party

I spent Saturday evening with 3,000 other people out at the Brickworks, where we stuffed our faces with items created by some of Toronto and area’s finest food trucks and vendors.

Called the Toronto Street Food Block Party, the event, hosted by the Toronto Underground Market and Food Truck Eats, had over 30 food and booze vendors selling everything from pineapple-flavoured beer to at least a dozen different versions of tacos (it was Cinco de Mayo after all).

The sold-out event, which cost $20 to attend, was very, very busy but despite that fact was quite well-run and most line-ups were tolerable. Below are some of my highlights, some areas that could use improvement and some tips for next time (and yes, I’m sure there will be a next time).

Oh, a quick note about the photos. They were all taken by my friend Linda.

What I Liked

  •  As a picky eater, I was quite pleased with the variety of food available. Often times street food = meat but at this event it also meant grilled cheese, fish tacos and wood-fire pizza.
  •  For the most part, I found the prices to be quite reasonable (though the $5 fry cones made an appearance). Alcohol was a fair $5 a glass while everything else seemed to range from $3-$12 for the lobster rolls. Some vendors, like Sullivan and Bleeker, even reduced their prices, charging $5 for a cake jar that normally sells for $6.
  • And the line-ups weren't too bad, for the most part (La Carnita and Rock Lobster Food Co. had the worse one; thankfully squid tacos and lobster poutine don't interest me). When you did have to wait, you always felt like you were moving, which kept everyone’s spirits up.
  • While you had to buy tickets for alcohol, the food vendors took cash, which made me happy as I hate having to deal with tickets.
  • I was glad to see that Second Harvest had a presence and that the organizers tried to use this event to educate attendees about Toronto’s overly strict street food laws.
  • Update: I've been asked what the best thing I tried was. I'm going to have to go with Elle Cuisine's flavourful, melt-in-your-mouth cornbread grilled cheese/chicken sandwich though Sullivan and Bleeker's s'more cake jar and Buster's Sea Food's fish tacos were also great. On the beverage side, it's a tie between Tromba Tequila's very sweet and very delicious drink, which featured grapefruit bitters, and a brown sugar vanilla lemonade I bought from a mystery vendor. This drink was surprisingly refreshing and something I wish I could buy in a store. 
This amazing cornbread grilled cheese by Elle Cuisine
 contained smoked chicken. I wish I was eat it now.

Tromba Tequila
What Could Be Improved

  • My biggest issue with this event was the lack of seating. While some tables (including picnic tables) were set up in set up in the barn-like space that housed the party, they were few and far between. This does make sense since you don’t want tables and chairs to eat up floor space that could otherwise be used by people standing in line. But it would have been nice if seating was available somewhere; it certainly would have resulted in me staying longer (my group left around 8, meaning I missed the second 9 pm menu). However, given the layout of the Brickworks and its touchiness about where you stand (multiple people were yelled at for standing on bits of grass or rocks), I don’t know where this seating would have gone.
  • Though now that I think about it, maybe they could ditch the band stage and fill that area with picnic tables. While the live music was fine, I preferred whoever’s iPod playlist was playing between bands and I don’t think I'm alone on that. 
  • Husband was disappointed by the number of food vendors though I thought there was plenty. Of course, I certainly would be fine with more vendors being present.
  • In particular, I would like to see more cocktail vendors next time. Yeah, OK, there aren't cocktail trucks driving around out there (oh, imagine that for a moment) but then there aren't beer or wine trucks either and both of those beverages were represented (though to be fair, there was one lone tequila vendor who was mixing up a very tasty drink).
  •  More garbage bins would have been nice. On the plus side, the bins that were there were being emptied quite regularly.  
Sullivan and Bleeker's cake jars. I tried the s'more
and the Oreo flavours. So good!!!

The line-up to get in (at 5 pm).


  • The single most important thing: Get there before the doors open.  This is extra important if you’re driving because parking is really, really limited at the Brickworks. The fact that we showed up there at five, when it started, and got a spot was a true miracle. Getting there early will also mean that you don’t have to wait an hour-and-a-half to get into the event.  
  • If you do show up late and can’t find parking, don’t park along the road unless you want a ticket; when we were leaving we saw several dozen illegally parked cars all spotting yellow slips of paper on their windshields.
  •  Plan your visit by researching the vendors ahead of time and studying a copy of the venue map that TUM emails to all ticket buyers. This way you can get in-line at the more popular places first, as well as not waste precious minutes going, “Where is so-and-so set up?”
  • Bring Tupperware so that you can take home yummy things like cupcakes that don’t need to be eaten right then and there (letting you try even more stuff).
  • Be prepared to stand in line: Wear comfortable shoes, have a smart photo for entertainment/communication with friends and remember, all that waiting will be worth it (usually).
  • If you’re pressed for time/money, or can only stand in so many lines, skip the vendors who you can often find around town, like Gorilla Cheese, or who have their own restaurant (like Caplanskys)
  • While the Brickworks does have bank machines, stock up on cash before you get there and ideally bring mostly fives, tens and change.

The first photo was taken shortly after 5, the second,
after 7. Yep, it got packed.
Cupcake from the Cupcake Dinner. Husband & I tried
the chilli chocolate & red velvet; they were a bit dry but
the buttercream icing was perfect.
Buster's Sea Cove, home to some tasty fish tacos as well
as lobster rolls and shrimp sandwiches.
Babi & Co's sate babi, a type of Indonesian street food;
Husband loved it.

Me eating a fish taco; the fish part was
excellent, the taco shell so-so.
A beef taco from Caplanskys; Husband said
that it was OK but not amazing.
Mint mini-cupcakes from Sullivan
and Bleeker; didn't get to try these sadly.

1 comment:

  1. The grilled cheese looks so deliciously buttery... I would not have thought that was what it was, it looks like a pastry of some sort.