Vancouver Street Food

I’ve just returned from 2 weeks (June/July 2011) in Vancouver feasting on their amazing street food.  Below are places I’ve checked out and my views, plus I’ll continually update it with new places that sound interesting for my next trip.

My top favourites are:

Fresh Local Wild and Tacofino Cantina.  See below for why!

If you come to Vancouver and want to try their street food, you NEED the Vancouver street food app. It shows a map with all the food truck/cart locations (even when they move), a red or green dot showing if they’re open, and info on what each serves and what their hours are for the next few days. SO useful! You can get it HERE.

Asian and fusion

Bun Me. Robson & Hornby and roving. I love banh mi sandwiches (Lao ones better than Vietnamese), and these guys do an ok version. Choice of lemongrass chicken or tofu. The idea is great, as are the warmed baguettes. But they were skimpy on the herbs (essential for good banh mi), and my chicken was a bit gristly.  I also skipped the mayo, so can’t report on it.

Cartel Taco. Hamilton & Dunsmuir. 11-3 M-F. Amazing bulgogi tacos (with free-range ethically-treated beef or pork), the soft taco shells are the best I’ve tried in Van City.  Bulgogi was tender, and it and the sauce both had complex flavours.  I’ll be back! Follow them on Twitter @carteltaco. Graham and Annabelle are super nice too.

Cartel Taco's Graham & Annabelle

Coma. March 2012 update:  Sadly, the Coma Food Truck has closed, blaming Vancouver bylaws.    Railway & Dunlevy, Cambie & Eighth, Fourth & Vine. Korean bibimbap, japchae (sweet potato cellophane noodles with veg), Korean BBQ beef or pork burrito, grandma’s kimchee quesadilla. Chef Jay Cho is Cordon Bleu trained.  Despite much searching, I never was in the right place at the right time to try them. @ComaFoodTruck

Fasttrac Fusion.  Cambie & 49th.  “Beef & lamb skewers, teriyaki subs & fish balls”.

Roaming Dragon. Burrard & Robson, & soon at Burrard & Smithe. Bulgogi tacos (could there be a better idea?!). Duck confit salad, chicken and pork sliders, soba salad, pork, tofu or chicken banh mi.  The Smithe location will have comfort food, like grilled cheese, mac and cheese, eggs Benedict. I tried the Korean short rib beef taco which had great flavours. I love how Vancouver chefs use shredded seaweed as a garnish. I also ordered the lemonade, flavoured with basil, and with lychee pieces in the bottom. Was like a natural bubble tea.  This is a great truck.  @DragonTruck

Oops, forgot to take photo before I took a bite!

***** Tacofino Cantina. Davie & Denman (4-7), and Howe & Robson. Tuna ta-taco, plus others. Chocolate diablo cookies, plus as an ice cream sandwich. The tuna ta-taco is marvellous – super flavourful and fresh tasting. The fish tacos are also delicious, with a burst of flavour from the salsa and lime. The black bean feta taco, with sour cream and salsa, is a bit more traditional tasting, but still excellent. The diablo cookies have a nice chili zippiness to them, and match wonderfully with the fresh lime and mint slushy drink. Overall my favourite fusion food truck!  @TacoFinoCantina

Phenomenal tuna ta-taco

Chocolate diabolo cookie

Lime mint freshie

Tacos: 2 fish and 1 black bean

Chinatown Night Market. Keefer Street in Chinatown, weekends 6:30-11:00. Not much to buy at this night market, but there is a fair amount to eat, much of it cooked to order. I ate a Korean green onion cake and lamb and chicken satays that were pretty good. Several doughnut/waffle type options for dessert too.  You won’t miss anything by skipping it.

Non-Asian seafood

Feastro the Rolling Bistro. Cordova & Thurlow near the Olympic flame (the big purple truck).  Fresh, local, sustainable seafood. Prawns, crab cakes, oysters. On Canada Day, with the limited menu and extensive crowds that the holiday entails, I had a marvelous prawn bisque, and a good breaded fish taco and sweet potato fries.  @coastfeastro

***** Fresh Local Wild. Hastings & Burrard. Whatever is fresh, local, and wild. Extreme green. “Caboose” patio seats 4 (reservations for dinner). On Canada Day I had the most succulent fish (tempura cod) and chips I’ve ever eaten – simply fabulous. Chef Josh Wolfe (who is super nice) had the freshest spot prawns you could imagine (ie live) and offered samplings of raw tails as he was … umm … “preparing” them. He later tempura-ed some up and a very kind fellow diner gave me their last one so I could try – and it was the best shrimp I have ever eaten in my life. We went back a second time for more fish & chips and got to sit in the caboose.  Very generous portions.  This is my favorite seafood street food (by far!).  @freshlocalwild, @chefwolfe

Chef Wolfe & the last live spot prawn of the season

The last cooked spot prawn of the season

Go Fish Ocean Emporium. 1505 W 1st Ave, just off Granville Island (I will post directions soon). Street food, sort of, because while there is seating, you have to eat outside. This Vancouver institution serves phenomenal fish and chips, fish tacones (kind of a rolled taco), po boys and other fishy treats. I make sure to come here at least once a Vancouver visit.  Closed Mondays.

Kaboom Box. Granville & Robson. Fish and chips, oyster po boy sandwiches. Sustainable seafood.  I haven’t tried this one yet.

Raincity Grill. Denman & Davie. Yes, a resto, but since you can pick up fish and chips at the window, it counts as street food. Sustainable, green packaging, delicious. $10.

Other Food

Arturo’s Mexican To Go.  Howe & Cordova. “Arturo’s unique recipes are a fusion of Spanish and traditional Mexican created by generations of master chefs”.  @Arturo2go

La Brasserie. Granville & W. Georgia.  “Brass Chicken Sandwich – beer brined rotisserie chicken in gravy, on a buttermilk bun, topped with crispy onions”.  Must be good because they were sold out one day by 1:30!  @LaBrasserieSt

Didi’s Greek. Denman & Robson. Souvlaki, Greek salad, etc. The pita and tzatziki were delicious (made fresh by the lovely couple who run the cart), and the spanakopita, warmed on the barbecue, was surprisingly flakey.

JapaDog. The street cart that started it all. Several locations.  @japadog

Jamaican Mi Juicy.  Festivals.  Jerk chicken, as a meal or as a wrap.  Nice spiciness, but too heavy on the mayo.  Fruit juices and smoothies.

The Juice Truck  Water St & Abbott. Brand new.  Organic, local fresh juice and smoothies.  @juicetruck

Lemon Sea.  Beach & Chico, open only in nice weather.  Not sure how they define nice, but I went three times to find them and no luck.  “Fresh squeezed lemonade and crepes”.

Naan Wraps. Burrard & W Pender. A mobile tandoor oven! I hope they sell plain naan bread, in addition to the naan wraps with butter chicken and tandoori chicken.  @NaanWraps

Nu Greek Street. Granville & Georgia, and Dunsmuir & Howe, and at festivals. Nu resto has, supposedly, the best Greek food in town. His Raincity Grill is fantastic (see above). The cart has lamb and chicken souvlaki, in pita with local veg or on a skewer, and plain pita or with dips. I tired the pita with tzatziki, and it was excellent. Grilled on the BBQ with some spices added. Tzatiki had nice pieces of cucumber in it, and great garlicky taste (which I later regretted, as it stuck with me for several hours … luckily my sister had yet to arrive in town!) Portions of both the pita and tzatiki were very generous.  @NuGreekStreet

Ragazzi Pizza Co. Burrard & W Pender. Pizzas replicating the flavours and textures found in Italy.  Hope to try this next visit.  @RagazziPizza

Re-up 1 & 2.  Hornby & Georgia (pork), Robson & Howe (smoked beef). While I’m not a huge smoked anything fan, many of you are – go here for “slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches with house-made BBQ sauce”, and “beef brisket sandwiches, black bean and corn chili”.  Plus house-made sodas, such as rhubarb cream soda.  The lemon soda was super zippy and made with Salt Spring Island lemons.  Delish.  @reupbbq

Saltspring Noodle Bar.  Festivals.  Boxed noodles, vegi or chicken, several ways.  Pad thai was bland, and I think the noodles might have been spaghetti!  It did have nice green beans in it though.  I was starving, but couldn’t even get through half the box.

Sausage à Trios.  W Cordova & Hornby.  “Delicious organic sausages straight from the smoker by Fresh Local Wild”.  @FreshLocalWild

Slingers. Often S. Granville & Broadway, sometimes Burrard & Pender. Breaded-veal (or chicken) sandwich with Parmesan, provolone, mushrooms, and marinara (and, sorry Slingers, but unlike the claim on your website, you can not get one of these sandwiches on every Ontario street corner!). Also mac and cheese balls, deep-fried with spicy ketchup. I went looking for them July 2 but they left their spot early.  @Slingersmobile

Spicy Vibes.  Granville & Robson.  “Kofte kebabs – Turkish grilled minced lamb meatballs with herbs”.

Taser Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Canada Place, or Main St & Terminal Ave. Now, they were sold out of everything except the classic when I found them. And the classic was, well, bland and kinda boring. But kids would love it.

Thanks to the Street Food App, Richard Wolak (@VanFoodster), @LoveVanFood and the The Vancouver Sun for tips, and to Vancouver for furthering this awesome food culture.

Anyone have any info to add?

For more info on eating in Vancouver, see my Vancouver Field Notes.

You can also read my article on Vancouver’s street food in the February 2012 issue of Going Mobo magazine (p. 22-23).

Love street food around the world? Lara Dunston has compiled some great articles on great street food on the Grantourismo! website.

14 responses to “Vancouver Street Food

  1. What a great idea! I did a restaurant tour on my last trip to Vancouver and thoroughly enjoyed it. On my next Vancouver trip I’ll try out some of the food trucks in your list. Can’t wait to be back.

    • Food tours – restaurants, street food or ice cream shops – are the best ways to learn about and enjoy a city. I’m glad you liked Vancouver – it is one of my favourite cities. I’d love to hear about your finds.
      Thanks Kanada (you have a great name)!

      • If you like food tours, have you ever done a tour of the Public Market on Granville Island with a chef? I did that on my last tour and it was the perfect way to get to know the market. We did that tour with Edible British Columbia http://www.ediblebritishcolumbia.com and really learned a lot about the food and the vendors in the market.

      • Thanks Kanada – I know people who have done that tour and loved it. I spend so much time on Granville when I’m in Vancouver I keep thinking I should post my own notes about it here! I wouldn’t have all the inside info that Edible BC has though. I sure wish I was in Vancouver now … I hear a JJ Beans latte calling my name!
        Thanks again

      • I just noticed that they have changed their website name and URL. They are Edible Canada now and can be reached at http://www.ediblecanada.com/

  2. Wow, this is a very handy list. I want to try @carteltaco food, just because she is called Annabelle;) And then of course @freshlocalwild with @chefwolfe cooking me shrimp tempura…. can’t wait to get there!

    • Thanks Annabel! Hope you enjoy your trip and that you eat well in Vancouver, and in Whitehorse. Seome new licenses were just released so there will be some new food trucks to discover too. Enjoy!

  3. Pingback: Vancouver Field Notes | TravelEater

  4. David J. Cooper

    Totally agree with Kuy. I waited for tem minutes once and niether of the three people in the Tacofino truck would acknowledge me. I was the only one there other then a guy who placed a large order for his office. Not even a we’ll be right with you or anything.

    The guy with all the ink on his arms and the flat brimmed ball cap was having a hard time figuring out his own menu. Cartel Taco has a great product and cool people.

    • Many thanks for the comment. That’s really bad to have kept you waiting for so long! I hope Tacofino management is paying attention to these problems and fixing them.

      I agree re Cartel Taco – super delicious and super nice. I met Graham and Annabelle when I was there are they were both charming. And made me a delish bulgogi taco! I can hardly wait to get back to Vancouver to eat some more!

    • Gary

      Cooper. Does everything in Vancouver displease you? Your name shows up in the comment section of so many sites and it is always the same bitter boring nonsense.

      By the way, you misspelled “ten”, and “neither” (while using it in the wrong context of all things), and it’s “than” not “then”…..Duh! If you are going to review at least get your G.E.D. and then try again.

      Do you work for Cartel Taco or something? You certainly throw their name around a lot.

      I smell a rat, and a boring one at that.

  5. Great summary on the local street fare; but I think you’ve over-rated TacoFino. No way is it near the top of the heap.

    If you want a better Vancouver food cart experience, then go to any of the other carts in the area. TacoFino is a rip-off. Also, expect to wait 30 minutes for your order (after you’ve already waited to order, and after you’ve paid) while they fulfill a large take-out order for a nearby office (or other large group).

    You know you live in a Mexican-food-deprived city when you’re willing to pay $4.50 to $6.50 for a single taco. In other cities it’s not hard to find hand-made, fresh, locally-sourced tacos in the $2 range that are just as good or better than the ones here. A single taco just isn’t going to cut it; so, really, you’re going to spend at least $11-$13 just to get started. For a reasonable lunch with a drink, you’re looking at $20. For that, I’d rather go to a sit-down cafe and be treated properly. Comparable Vancouver street carts, in terms of quantity and quality, are in the $7-$9 range.

    If you have lots of cash, and lots of time to wait, this is decent food. But, if you’re on a lunch break in the middle of your work day, or if you appreciate anything close to “reasonable” in terms of value, then forget it. When it comes to Vancouver street cart food, there are plenty of fish in the sea. These guys just don’t cut it.

    • Many thanks @Kuyler for the comment. Yup, Tacofino is not cheap! I’m lucky that I experienced all my street food on a 2 week vacation in Vancouver, so could easily avoid lineups and busy times. And as I was sampling just 1 or 2 times at each place, I was happy for just snacks, not intending to fill up as a meal. Coming from a street food-deprived city like Ottawa (we have fries and hot dogs mostly) I’m still jealous of what Vancouver has to offer! :-) What do you think are the best places for Mexican fusion in Van? I hope to do more sampling on my next trip out there.

  6. Pingback: GOODS: “Cartel Taco” Cart To Make Special Appearance On Granville Over The Weekend : Scout Magazine

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