Browsing articles in "food cart"
Aug 25, 2014
Jim Benson

One-stop eating at the Vancouver Food Cart Festival

Many trends have developed over the last several years when it comes to Vancouver eateries, but perhaps the best one can be summed up in one word: mobility.

There are fleets of gourmet food trucks operating on the streets of Vancouver and with so much variety, it can be tough choosing which one to sample.

This summer has made that choice a lot simpler with the Vancouver Food Cart Festival. In case you haven’t had the chance to attend, it takes place at 215 W 1st Ave. (between the Cambie Street Bridge and the Olympic Village) every Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. throughout the summer. With summer unofficially over next week, you have one final chance over Labour Day weekend.

The location of the Food Cart Festival is fantastic. Centrally located in a transit accessible area means you don’t have to go out of your way to check it out. Whether your day plans involve walking the seawall, checking out some exhibits at Science World or visiting Granville Island, it’s easy to plan having lunch at this assembly of culinary delights.

There is more than just food at the Food Cart Festival, so your fun-filled day doesn’t have to take a time out while you eat. The festival also features community markets, craft food vendors, DJs, live music, activities for kids and urban gardening. When you attend the Food Cart Festival, you don’t even really need to go anywhere else to have a great afternoon.

Among the 20-plus trucks you’ll have to choose from are the highly popular Holy Perogy, Mom’s Grilled Cheese, Dougie Dog (try the mac and cheese dog, it’s amazing!), Yolk’s Breakfast, Chili Tank, Didi’s Greek and the Aussie Pie Guy. No matter what your taste buds are in the mood for, odds are you’ll find it at the Vancouver Food Cart Festival (and it will taste incredible).

If you live in the suburbs and don’t feel like making the trip to Vancouver, you’ll be happy to know that a smaller version of the Food Cart Festival takes place every Saturday until Aug. 30 from 12-5 p.m. at Holland Park in Surrey. Although it doesn’t feature as many trucks as the festival downtown, there is still a wide variety of delicious food and beverages from which to choose.

Attendance to the Food Cart Festival is free for VanCity and Car2Go members, and also free if you bring a non-perishable food donation for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society.

It’s going to be a while before this event comes back next summer, and you’ll miss the convenience of having all these amazing trucks in the same location, so be sure to check it out.

The only difficult thing will be deciding what to eat.

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Aug 23, 2014
Jim Benson

One Hurt in Blast Near a Food Cart in Kolhapur

KOLHAPUR/MUMBAI: A roadside vendor suffered minor injuries in a low-intensity blast on the outskirts of Kolhapur town in western Maharashtra tonight, police said.

The explosion occurred near a food cart close to Shahu toll plaza, a senior police officer said in Mumbai.

As per preliminary information, the bomb-like device was apparently placed inside a cardboard box near the food cart and when the vendor tried to open it, it blew up.

The injured, who is yet to be identified, suffered injuries in his hand, he said.

According to the officer, prima facie the explosion was that of a crude bomb.

An Anti-Terro Squad team is at the spot, sources said.

The incident occurred in the limits of Gokul Shirgaon police station on Kolhapur-Kagal Road, sources said.

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Aug 23, 2014
Jim Benson

From cart to cafe: The evolution of two local food trucks

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It has been more than three years since Mark’s Carts first debuted in Ann Arbor in March 2011, and since we first started to discuss mobile food vending in the city. Food trucks – as in, actual street-mobile roving kitchens on wheels – have yet to find their place in Ann Arbor, but thanks to Mark’s Carts, there is at least a little corner of Tree Town that allows cart-based food vendors to operate.

When we first began discussing the benefits of mobile vending, and why Ann Arbor should embrace this new-ish business model rather than relentlessly block it, we explored how mobile vending is an ideal way to vet a new concept and build up a business before making the significant investment into a permanent brick-and-mortar location. Now we’ll check in with two businesses that got their start as carts and have since transitioned to full-time brick-and-mortar café.

Let’s eat.

eat. catering and carry-out didn’t start with a cart, but their cart allowed them to reach a much larger audience that then followed them to their brick-and-mortar carry-out location on Packard Street.

Helen Harding and Blake Reetz got their start as independent caterers. In order to grow their catering business, they needed to do something that gave them more of a public presence. Both were still working part-time jobs in addition to catering and their marketing budget was, at best, slim.

“The reason we got the cart was because we were kind of at a standstill with our catering,” Harding says. “We didn’t have a public face and you can only do so many donations to get [your business out] in front of people.” The cart was Reetz’s idea, and Harding says he had a hard time convincing her. Ultimately, though, he succeeded, and eat. opened with Mark’s Carts for its first-ever season in 2011 and became a staple at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

“That definitely launched us,” Harding says. “That was when we both went full-time self-employed. At the same time when we started the food cart we got into the wedding catering scene, but we were just starting. Those two trajectories for the business took off at the same time.”

By August 2011 they realized they needed a commercial kitchen of their own to work out of for their growing catering business. John Roos of RoosRoast told them about the Packard space, which came partially outfitted with commercial kitchen equipment, and they jumped on it. The space is mostly just a kitchen with a serving counter and extremely limited seating for carry-out orders.

“Because we were just thinking of catering we said, ‘This is perfect,’” says Harding. “We were thinking of a super-limited menu for carry-out but to really focus on the catering and let the carry-out run itself.”

They figured that since they had the kitchen they might as well serve out of it, that it would be “gravy on top of the catering.” Three years later, their business is half catering and half carry-out. They do a brisk dinner business – another surprise to them – and every single year their business grows.

“We had a handful of people who loved our cart who would seek us out at the farmers market [and Mark's Carts], and they continue their loyalty here,” Harding says. “People have definitely linked the cart with the retail space and followed it. Because we had a year of doing the food cart, we got our name out to more people.”
Each year eat. further solidifies its identity as a reliable caterer with good food and also a reliable carry-out spot with affordable, homemade, healthful (as in well-sourced and thoughtfully prepared) food.

“When we started the cart both of us had worked in the restaurant industry and we were really excited to actually sell food to our friends and people like us who could only afford an $8 sandwich as opposed to $32 per person catering,” Harding explains. “That’s what’s nice about having the carry-out location – we can do so much more than [with] the cart. People can come here who can’t afford a $5,000 catering bill but can afford to come in for dinner and take it to the park for a picnic, [or take it home to their families].”

Because they were already accustomed to catering events for upwards of 200 people, scaling up wasn’t much of an issue for Harding and Reetz. The biggest challenge came in trying to predict customer demand and order and prep food accordingly.

“When we first opened we had no idea how many people to expect,” Reetz says. “With catering we know exactly how many people we’re serving. Now have pretty good grip on it – how much food to prep, how much to buy, how many people we’re going to have [come through the door].”

Reetz also says that predicting what customers would want and when was a challenge initially. At first they thought their biggest business would be lunchtime, only to find out that they were busier during dinner and had to adjust their hours accordingly. For Harding, growing from a staff of two or three part-timers to having 13 people on payroll, five of which are full-time, plus on-call catering staff has been a big but welcome adjustment.

“We provide a place to work that’s fun and give them a decent wage,” Harding says. “I had a couple of great jobs when I was younger where I really felt at home, and we try to foster that kind of community here. It’s really a team effort. The business feels so far beyond just Blake and I; now we have 15 other people who are in it with us, caring a lot, working elbow to elbow, coming up with cool menu ideas. It’s fun to have this collaborative [environment].”

With their success and continued growth over the last three years, Harding and Reetz have talked about possibly having a sit-down café, or get a full warehouse kitchen to really grow their catering. Or, possibly, both. “Someday we’ll do that,” Reetz says. “Which way that will go, we don’t know!”

Let’s do lunch!

The second graduate of the Mark’s Carts de facto business incubator program was The Lunch Room, which just celebrated one year in its brick-and-mortar café in Kerrytown. The one-hundred-percent vegan restaurant first operated as a pop-up concept and then as a food cart before finally opening their permanent location last summer.

“We started brainstorming during our second season [at Mark's Carts] about what is next, what does this look like,” says co-owner Joel Panozzo. “We started working with a realtor in July 2012 to look for a brick-and-mortar space.”

It took them eight months to find the space in Kerrytown that they now call home. “We spent every single day looking. Moving from a food cart to a brick-and-mortar location, one of the most difficult hurdles to get over was actually finding a retail space to function out of.”

As Panozzo describes it, Ann Arbor does not have the glut of available retail spaces that a city like Detroit has. Of the commercial spaces available, the vast majority of them don’t have a commercial kitchen – something that could cost $100,000 or more to build out and equip.

“The scene in Ann Arbor isn’t necessarily the friendliest place for startup restaurants,” he says. “It was incredible to find a space where the landlords actually cared what type of tenant actually went in there. They didn’t want to spend their time on a tenant that wouldn’t make it through their first year, and they spent a lot of time on the design for a long-term tenant.”

Panozzo says the café was a just twinkle in their eyes, something that they thought they might open someday. It wasn’t long, however, before their food cart customers started asking them when they would open a café.

“We were thinking there would be some type of demand for it,” he says. Both he and business partner Phillis Engelbert were vegan and knew how difficult it was to find good vegan meals in Ann Arbor. “We are still only the fifth vegetarian restaurant in all of Washtenaw County.”

He says The Lunch Room’s food cart was a testing ground, and that they knew then that they needed to build a community around their food. Panozzo had a background in marketing and advertising, while Engelbert’s background was in nonprofit management. “With those experiences combined, we created this community of folks that are attached to our business. It was more than just a food cart.”

The biggest challenge of transitioning from cart to café was scaling up their food production to meet the increased demand of a sit-down space with a significant increase in hours of operation. “We have a very small kitchen, a very small walk-in, a very small pantry, and a very small food prep area,” Panozzo says. “When you sell all this food and have to prep it all over again you can’t just throw more labor at it because we don’t necessarily have the room for more warm bodies.”

Staffing and labor was a totally different issue. Running the food cart mostly involved he and Engelbert taking on the lion’s share of the hours with maybe a couple of others to fill-in. Jumping to a brick-and-mortar space and opening with 24 people on payroll would require a whole new set of management skills. Panozzo explains that trying to schedule everyone while not knowing how many staff members would be needed for any given meal periods and then adjusting to demand was a stressful learning experience. “That’s an incredible jump, to go from three casual laborers to 24 people on payroll making a living wage.”

Now, after a full year of operating in the Kerrytown location, The Lunch Room has plenty of days when they don’t have enough space to seat everyone. Panozzo says customer demand for their food exceeds their production capacity – good problems to have. “It’s everything that I’d hoped for and more,” he says. “It exceeded both of our expectations. Our sales projections are higher than we both expected. We already exceeded our sales projections for 2014.”

Currently the duo are in the process of applying for a liquor license, and hope to be serving drinks in the coming weeks.

Because he had only limited restaurant industry experience and Engelbert had none at all, he says they are definitely glad they started with the cart first. “We were a community organizer and a graphic designer going [into this],” he says. “We enjoyed making food and having surprising food as our concept. The food cart created this community that then jumped to the brick-and-mortar.”

Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer extraordinaire. She is primarily known for her former blog, Eat It Detroit. 

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Aug 22, 2014
Jim Benson

Jersey City family terrorized in dispute with rival Manhattan food cart vendor … – The Jersey Journal

A Jersey City man and his family were terrorized by a group of men in a dispute over the placement of food carts in Manhattan, police say. 

A Jersey City man was attacked with a knife and his family was terrorized by a rival New York City hot dog vendor and his posse in their home, police said.

The victim, 36, told police the 2:15 p.m. attack yesterday at the family’s Rock Street home stemmed from an ongoing territorial dispute over the placement of shish kabob and hot dogs carts in Manhattan.

The man was with his wife and four children, ages 1, 3, 8 and 9, when four men forced themselves into the home.

One of the attackers yelled at the man “Like I told you before, I am gonna kill you and kidnap your kids, if you keep selling or putting the cart in my areas,” police were told.

The Jersey City man told police the man and another from the group then attacked him with pocket knives, cutting the victim’s right upper arm. The victim’s wife, holding the 1-year-old in her arms, tried to defend her husband from the attack, but she and the baby were thrown into a wall, shattering a mirror, police said.

The wife, 32, then grabbed all four kids and ran into a bedroom with them, police were told. Just then a family friend was arriving at the home and rushed in when he heard screaming coming from inside, police said.

Seeing the man, the four intruders stopped harassing the homeowner and fled, police reports said. The victim told police that he had filed a report against the rival food cart operator in Manhattan a few weeks ago.

He also told police that he could identify the four men who broke into his home and that he considered two of them his friends. The Jersey City man’s injury were considered minor and he refused medical attention, police said.

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Aug 22, 2014
Jim Benson

Food cart activist questions city’s downtown food stand move

When the city announced this week that a nonprofit organization had been granted permission to sell Asian kale salad and other “healthy, local food” out of repurposed newsstands downtown, Mayor Rahm Emanuel heralded the agreement as evidence of his commitment to create jobs by allowing businesses to innovate.

But an activist who has been working unsuccessfully for years to get the city to allow food carts to sell tamales and other humble snacks throughout Chicago neighborhoods greeted the business permit — granted to e.a.t. spots — as an example of the Emanuel administration playing favorites with an upstart business serving upscale food while working-class entrepreneurs can’t get City Hall to act.

Beth Kregor, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, said she was struck by the optics of e.a.t. spots getting the go-ahead to sell items like tofu scramble wraps and gluten-free muffins at four shuttered newsstands that the city said were “located throughout the central business district.”

Meanwhile, Kregor said, independent cart operators in neighborhoods like Little Village still have to worry they will get ticketed or even arrested because it is illegal for them to sell corn and cut-up fruit.

“It’s astounding that this very traditional business that’s really pulsing at the heart of many of our communities remains outlawed,” Kregor said.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado, 26th, introduced an ordinance in May to license food carts, saying the vendors now found all over his Northwest Side ward are desperate to come into compliance so they don’t have to constantly worry about getting hassled by police.

“Why shouldn’t we embrace this entrepreneurship that’s been going on in Chicago for decades?” Maldonado said at the time.

Maldonado’s proposal, which would require cart operators to pay a $100 annual licensing fee and prepare food in licensed kitchens, has not received a City Council hearing. Maldonado said calling e.a.t. spots an emerging business is “a stretch,” but that he thinks it means his own plan has a good chance of success. He said he expects to get a hearing soon on his food cart ordinance soon “so that we can bring these businesses out of the shadows.”

City spokeswoman Eve Rodriguez said in an email that Emanuel supports the Maldonado proposal “as part of (the mayor’s) overall strategy to increase access to fresh foods in all neighborhoods.”

Maldonado and city officials are working to build “consensus among various stakeholders to legalize food carts,” Rodriguez said.

The City Council has long debated legitimizing the carts but has not acted in the face of opposition from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. Kregor said she hopes the city’s recent move to license food trucks and the permit given to e.a.t. spots means pushcart owners will be next.

“But it makes me concerned to see this is being handled as if it’s a brand new idea,” Kregor said of the fact that e.a.t. spots was given an “emerging business permit” by the city.

Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune

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Aug 22, 2014
Jim Benson

Eat Beat: Nong Slays Competition to Win Chopped

Narumol Nong Poonsukwattana and Chopped host Ted Allen

I’m calling it here and now: I wouldn’t want to face Narumol ”Nong” Poonsukwattana in a food fight to the finish on Chopped.

For me, Chopped is the Food Network’s most fun, demanding, think-on-your-feet food show, officiated by knowledgeable judges who act as if each dish was on trial at Nuremberg.

But Nong is not easily intimidated. She’s bootstrapped her way to the top of Portland’s food cart scene—her cooking savvy stretches way beyond khao man gai, her one-dish wonder—and not least, she’s a humble hero who simply melts hearts. Hard to imagine even a tough guy judge like Scott “I TOLD YOU I HATE RAW ONIONS!” Conant won’t feel the Nong pull.

So set your recorders and gather your food-watching posse: Chopped’s “Food Truck Fight” airs at 10 pm* on Tuesday, August 19, pitting Nong against other national food-cart pros in an elimination battle raging over three courses.

What’s tricky is the ingredients. Each course is a surprise basket of incomprehensible ingredients that must be morphed on the spot into a dish judged on taste, creativity, and presentation. According to the Food Network, round one (appetizers) involves a cheap, sweet treat and a fine-dining indulgence and round two features a pork delicacy and a Mexican staple. In the final dessert round, a potential confrontation emerges over a key piece of equipment.

Judges are Conant, Amanda Freitag, and Peter Oleyer, Brooklyn chef and co-owner of New York  food cart-restaurant empire, Calexico.

I’m putting my money on Nong. Stay tuned.

*Be sure to double check the Food Network schedule as the date draws near, as air times are subject to shuffles.

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Aug 21, 2014
Jim Benson

OUR VIEW: Food cart fail in Surrey

To the delight of many – this newsroom included – the City of Surrey launched a food cart pilot project earlier this year.

Gone were the days of having to head down to Vancouver to get one’s fix of delectable street food – or so we thought.

As part of the program, ten vendors were selected to appear in pairs at five locations: the east and west parking lots at North Surrey rec centre, the new City Hall Plaza, as well as parking lots at Bear Creek Park and Newton Wave Pool.

But where are they? Reporters here at the Now went to Bear Creek and the Newton Wave Pool a few weeks back to see which food trucks we could find.

But alas, there were none. We later learned vendors come and go as they please, with no guarantee you’ll find a food truck at one of these locations.

It should be noted that food trucks are scheduled to be at North Surrey rec centre parking lot from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through to Sept. 12 as part of the city’s PARKit program, but that’s an initiative that began in 2012 – well before the pilot project was launched this year.

So what about the other locations?

Drive over to Bear Creek on the off chance there might be a food truck there? No thanks.

We hope the kinks will be worked out in the future, and would like see a schedule for all locations, so we can actually find the street food the city’s worked so hard to bring here.

We still want to find ourselves a “Hillbilly Dawg” to try.

Over at Holland Park, the Surrey Food Cart Festival has also been a bit of a bust, first with a couple of delays getting started and then a rather lackluster launch.

With only two summer weekends left for the festival, there’s not a heck of a lot of time for event organizers to redeem themselves.

Something to chew on for next year.

What do you think? Email us at

The Now

© Surrey Now

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Aug 21, 2014
Jim Benson

Portland food cart mainstay chops up Food Network show competition

TEDx Portland Preview foods carts sw alder st

The lines at Nong Poonsukwattana’s Thai cart are usually much longer than this. Expect them to stretch down Southwest Alder Street and at her other locations after she won a Food Network competition.

Andy Giegerich
Digital Managing Editor- Portland Business Journal


In case there weren’t enough reasons for 20-customer deep lines outside the downtown Nong’s Khao Man Gai cart, its owner is now, certifiably, a national star.

As Portland Monthly reports, Narumol “Nong” Poonsukwattana captured the $10,000 first prize during a food cart competition (the Food Network, in eschewing Portland’s lingo, billed it as a “food truck” cooking battle) that featured two other cart-based chefs.

Poonsukwattana, as Portland Monthly’s Karen Brooks artfully put it, “transformed a fear-inducing mystery basket—ground lamb, empanada dough, caviar and, eek, strawberry shortcake ice cream bars—into a striking larb lamb salad, with criss-crossed fiery red chiles standing on top like a skull and crossbones warning. By comparison, the other chefs’ dishes look pale and wan (and one downright cringe-worthy).”

Nong defeated cart chefs from New York, New Jersey and Portland’s Han Ly Hawing, who owns the Korean barbecue cart Kim Jong Grillin’. Hawing’s cart has reopened at Southeast Division Street and 46th Avenue.

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Aug 20, 2014
Jim Benson

SLC food cart, Midvale restaurant temporarily closed for health violations

SALT LAKE COUNTY — A Salt Lake City food cart and a Midvale restaurant were temporarily closed for health code violations by the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Itto Sushi at 856 E. Fort Union Blvd. was temporarily closed for “imminent health hazards,” according to the department website. The restaurant was closed Aug. 15 for 32 health code violations. Itto Sushi was cited for storing raw fish in the hand sink in the sushi preparation area and thawing potentially hazardous food at room temperature.

An inspector also found the Itto Sushi employees did not have food handler permits and the person in charge at the time of inspection was unable to demonstrate knowledge of correct cleaning and sanitizing procedures for utensils and food contact surfaces. Food was also being stored on the floor, according to the health department.

The Tacos Guanajuato Cart at 5404 S. 4220 West was also temporarily closed. The food cart was closed Aug. 14 with 11 health code violations. Tacos Guanajuato Cart was cited for not properly cooling tripe, storing a food pan cover in the hand sink and having numerous flies in the facility, among other violations.

Three food establishments in Salt Lake County were also recently closed after inspections by the Salt Lake County Health Department.

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