Vancouverâ€™s street food vendors wonâ€™t be allowed to rent out their spaces any more if a proposal to ban the practice is approved by city council next month. And those who have been sub-leasing the spaces, in some cases at exorbitant prices from the original applicants, will be reviewed and may get their own spaces nearby.
In a letter to the Streetfood Vancouver Society, the city said it will prohibit renting of sites to other vendors, and will also limit the number of food vending permits a person or company can obtain.
The city has also said it wonâ€™t issue any new permits this year other than to those who have been sub-leasing spots, providing they pass a review.
The changes come after the city became aware that nearly one-third of the 110 stationary vending permits it recently issued through a lottery system were being sub-leased by the original applicants to other vendors, without the cityâ€™s knowledge.
The issue came to a head in October when some sub-lessees complained that licence-holders were charging high rental prices â€” as much as $10,000 annually â€” for a permit that costs $1,100 per year.
In his letter to vendors, Alan Rockett, the cityâ€™s street activities coordinator, said 26 licence holders who have been renting out a total of 31 spots will either have to give up their licences or go back to operating their own stands, either by themselves or with staff. Those who have been sub-leasing them will be reviewed and â€œif approved, they would be provided their own permits at or near their existing location.â€�
Rockett said the city will also limit vendors from having more than four permits, all of which have to be operated by company staff or family members.
â€œNo rentals will be permitted. Violation will result in permits being revoked,â€� he said in his letter.
The problem emerged in part after Vancouver rapidly expanded its street food cart program, allowing for a rich diversity of ethnic foods. It issued 67 new stationary street food permits, in addition to 43 traditional hotdog and nut licences, and said vendors should consider offering healthier food choices. It also has licensed 28 other locations, including popcorn stands, for a total of 138 fixed-location licenses. An additional 20 licences were issued for mobile vendors such as ice cream trucks. Staff say 17 of the 138 licenses are currently vacant.
Tacos are solid investments for a restaurant owner: cheap to make and popular with all ages. That means there’s a wide taco spectrum, one that runs from increasingly ambitious fast-food chains (Taco Bell, Taco Bueno) to more authentic and fashionable destinations. Well within that part of the range is the three-month-old Taco Republic, the latest culinary brainchild of Alan Gaylin’s Bread Butter Concepts.
Mind you, Taco Republic isn’t fancy — part of its intended charm is the self-conscious lack of pretense in this latest restaurant to take up residence in a former service station. What’s fashionable about the place is that it pushes the urban street taco inside the suburban perimeter. The food here isn’t substantially different from the folded-tortilla creations that you can buy more cheaply at less-hyped places: the Tortilleria San Antonio in Kansas City, Kansas, for instance, or Taqueria El Torito on Independence Avenue. But the experience isn’t one you’d have at a traditional taqueria.
For one thing, you might wait for a table. I know people who have spent an hour idling so they could eat a cochinita pibil taco from a plastic basket within sight of Westwood. Taco Republic’s whitewashed brick walls, shiny concrete floors, and industrial fans mounted on the ceiling give the impression that the transition from empty mechanic shop to popular restaurant was a slow, organic process, but this is a carefully constructed stage set for customers who love the idea of authentic Mexican food but don’t want to drive too far into KCK to get it.
So Gaylin is on to something. And Taco Republic looks and feels like a prototype restaurant, an experience ready to be duplicated in Olathe or out toward the airport. Its vibe isn’t sexiness, but it does radiate a certain dry cool that helps offset its ersatz authenticity. This is not Tortilleria San Antonio (which is beloved by local restaurant workers because suburbanites don’t go there), but it’s not On the Border, either.
Which means the food is good, and the place emits a palpable gladness not to be seen at Chipotle.
Still, I wish the sauce on the grilled-chicken mole taco were more robust. Also, the pork-belly tocino taco I ate was overwhelmed by meat that was too smoky and chewy. But most of the other dishes I sampled here were delicious. I liked the two meatless choices: the “buena terra” canonizes bits of fried hearts of palm as an effective meat substitute, adorning them with avocado and fragrant cilantro. And the “hongos” taco matches sautéed mushrooms with a sassy jalapeño puree, chipotle slaw and queso fresco. (More imaginative vegetarian choices like these would make Taco Republic different indeed from the metro’s other taquerias.)
The beer-and-chile-braised beef brisket in the “tecate barbacoa” taco is satisfyingly succulent, and the “Old School” taco, made with ground beef, corn, potatoes and spinach, is worlds away from the greasy beef tacos you shamefacedly accept at a drive-thru.
The chips — salty and served in near-bushel quantities — taste better with the citrusy, tart verde than with the flat rojo. The smoky chipotle salsa delivers more fire than the usual such concoction; it lingers awhile.
The Chihuahua cheese fundido dip, served in a metal frying pan, turns rubbery too quickly but tastes great. There are three guacamoles, but the house version is light and silky and better than the other two, which are dotted with too many ingredients. The chipotle version’s subtle smoked peppers fail to harmonize with the chopped jicama and mango; the flavors and textures end up working against one another.
When Taco Republic’s dishes stay simple, they’re pretty good. A tortilla folded over a filling of sautéed tilapia, guacamole and a sprinkling of garlic sauce, for instance, works well. But the tamale here strays from the Mexican basics and is made unnecessarily complicated by stripping the corn-husk wrapper partly off the steamed masa filling to present it open-faced; worse, it’s over-sauced, with a salsa that drowns what should have a flavor needing no help. The salsa verde on the tamale I tried last week was so astringent with lime juice that I couldn’t finish it.
Similarly over-accessorized is the carne torta, a visually attractive grilled-tenderloin sandwich. A splash of chimichurri, that lovely Argentinian condiment of parsley, olive oil, cilantro and red pepper flakes, would be a perfectly satisfying complement. But the torta at Taco Republic doesn’t stop there, instead adding a slather of cilantro-lime aioli and garlicky pickled jalapeños. It’s a three-ring circus of flamboyant flavors on a bun, when all you need is a dash of street carnival.
Taco Republic’s theme park of Mexican food reaches Matterhorn heights with its Frito pie, a staple not of taco trucks but of Midwestern school-lunch menus. That’s not to say I didn’t order one right away. Made with either chicken chili or a brassy chorizo version, it’s delivered with a bag of Frito-Lay chips on the side and smothered with maybe one too many slices of jalapeño. It’s more satisfying as nostalgic novelty than as entrée, but it’s also way better than the mushy dish that used to get you through seventh period. Try it after you’re done with all the tacos.
Taco Republic aspires to slip the showmanship of chef Patrick Ryan’s Port Fonda into an understated neighborhood cantina. I’d like to eat at a place like that, but this isn’t it. The menu has too much contrivance, and there’s too little taste in the basket. To make his upscale version of inexpensive taquerias work, Gaylin should study those taquerias some more.
It’s a story straight out of Hollywood: all American girl, Angie Stevenson, comes to tinsel town with big dreams. She has a successful—if brief—career in the adult film industry, becomes one of the few to transition into mainstream movies, television, and modeling, and then opens a food truck.
It’d make for great reality television wouldn’t it?
You may recognize Stevenson from her recent role as a blonde bombshell on season six of Sons of Anarchy. If you’re a SyFy Channel buff, you’re sure to recall this sassy, flirty actress from Piranahconda, where she starred alongside Michael Madsen and Rachel Hunter. It was on the set of this film that she found a partner in producer Forest King. That’s when she began her love affair with the hot dog.
The Angie’s Weiners truck quietly debuted at the DTLA Art Walk just before the end of the year. As the bubbly Stevenson greeted the crowd, along with her sister Avery Rose—both dressed in the sexy wiener-girl attire—chef Ken Romo assembled the truck’s signature items.
Angie’s Leading Man, a foot-long beef frank, comes with house-made chili, sharp cheddar cheese, and hot mustard on buns made in our own backyard by Homeboy Bakery. The Femme Fatale is an eight-inch chicken dog dressed in ranch dressing; a spicy aioli with blue cheese is drizzled on top. You can get Angie’s Tots—ahm, tater tots—with the house dipping sauce, too. There’s even a dessert hot dog made from a banana encased in peanut butter, with honey, and a light dusting of powdered sugar. It’s called The King—obviously, a tribute to Elvis.
The menu teases with playful innuendo, and Stevenson’s slogan is “we’ve got the biggest wieners and the hottest buns,” but this blonde’s ambition is actually on the food.
Angies Wieners, 323-989-2867 or angieswieners.com.
Happy Tuesday, food truck followers! Most mobile vendors are off the road today due to the bitter cold, but a few are sticking around to serve specials such as lentil soup from Fresh Green Food, or hot pho from Pho Nation. If you don’t want to wait in the cold, Brandon’s Little Truck, is taking orders via tweets and calls, so just order and pick up.
Farragut Square (17th and I sts., NW), where you’ll find Pho Nation.
Metro Center (12th and G sts., NW), where you’ll find Fresh Green Food.
Montgomery County, where you’ll find Seoul Food (Wheaton).
State Department (around 21st St. and Virginia Ave., NW), where you’ll find Rolling Ficelle.
Union Station (North Capitol St. and Massachusetts Ave., NE), where you’ll find Lemongrass Truck.
As Wilmington leaders ponder the fate of the city’s food truck businesses, mobile kitchens unite this weekend to show off their fare and maybe garner some love.
Downtown Wilmington’s first TRUCK-a-ROO in October pit truck against truck to determine which served the tastiest dishes. Food trucks gathering for the second TRUCK-a-ROO 4-8 p.m. June 29 at 101 N. Front St. will be more focused on public support.
“It is not a competition this time, rather a rally for the trucks,” said organizer Blair Walton of Pipeline Event Management.
Food trucks operated by Catch, India Mahal and Flaming Amy’s restaurants will join independents Poor Piggy’s BBQ Catering, Webo’s Down Home Cooking and The Patty Wagon, which offers burgers and other sandwiches. The $10 ticket price covers a sample from each truck along with live music. Beer will be for sale.
Truck owners are awaiting a 6 p.m. July 10 public hearing before the Wilmington Planning Commission concerning rules on where, when and how trucks may operate in the city. The board also is scheduled to hold a work session on the issue at 10 a.m. June 26.
The Patty Wagon owner James Smith requested changes that would allow trucks 6 a.m. to 3 a.m. in non-residential areas and at least 50 feet away from the main entrance of the nearest open restaurant. Existing rules permit food trucks on a temporary basis at 45-day intervals.
TRUCK-a-ROO participants are some of the city’s most well-known trucks, but a few others working north Wilmington are earning kudos from fans, some of them chefs.
Catch chef Keith Rhodes is a fan of Tacos El Nene, which offers beef, chicken and roasted pork fillings in its flavorful tacos. Look for the truck at Dollar General, 6789 Market St.
Chefs also give stars to Taqueria La Bella Airosa, specializing in tacos, tortas, sopes and quesadillas. Find the truck on north Market Street, between Lullwater Drive and New Bern Street.
Another food truck, Blount’s Street Bistro, is still under development as it maneuvers city rules, according to its creators Paul Kern and William Blount Laughinghouse. International street food is on the menu.
The director of workforce and economic development for Madison Area Technical College’s west campus died Friday of a heart attack, the college said Monday.
Lorin Toepper, who spearheaded creation of numerous food and technology initiatives over more than a decade at MATC, died at home Friday. He was 53.
Toepper started at MATC in 2001 and served as an associate dean and regional campus manager before assuming his latest role as director of workforce and economic development. In his most recent role, Toepper was responsible for overseeing the west campus and working to build MATC’s public and private partnerships in the technical college district’s southwest region, which includes Dane, Green and Iowa counties.
Toepper was known among the MATC community as an accomplished chef, who often helped prepare and serve food at events catered by the college’s culinary arts program.
In 2013, he helped create the college’s “Street Food Academy,” which provides a series of courses designed to help food entrepreneurs learn necessary steps to open a food cart in Dane County. He also co-founded the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship, held annually in Mineral Point since 2012.
Toepper served as chairman of Startup Weekend Madison, which brings people with different skills together and sets them up in teams to create software projects that are solid enough to form the basis for startup companies. The marathon, 54-hour collaboration aimed at turning digital ideas into reality was first held in 2012 and was the first of its kind in Wisconsin.
MATC is making arrangements to provide grief counseling at its west campus.
A series of open air markets at Temple Quay in Bristol will be made permanent, following their success.
Organised by GVA, managing agents at Temple Quay, the markets were launched in the summer of 2013 as part of a wider campaign to offer businesses and their staff attractions over the lunch time period.
They were originally planned as a temporary event, but due to their success will continue during 2014
Vicki Williams, Associate at GVA, comments: “With Temple Quay being home to 5,000 people in more than 30 businesses, as well as Temple Meads station being close by, this has been a prime opportunity to create something new and varied for the area.
“The markets take place on the first, second and fourth Thursday of every month.
“With street food increasing in popularity, and so many influences here in the city, our stalls have included Agnes Spencer’s amazing Jamaican cuisine; Niang’s Thai Snacks; She Sells Sushi; American Kitchen, Jacob’s finest falafel and hummus dishes, as well as Sue’s Cakes.”
News editor Joe Barron has been writing about Montgomery County’s vibrant classical music scene for Ticket since 2001, and he was listening to, studying and arguing about music long before that. Here he shares his personal observations on performance, recordings and composers in the region and around the world, with occasional digressions.
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EAST VILLAGE — A food truck fit for the Midtown lunch crowd has started feeding the homeless and hungry in the East Village.
Soul Food Truck, a new initiative of Middle Collegiate Church on Second Avenue and East Seventh Street, serves savory free meals including fried chicken and collard greens to anyone who steps up to its window in Tompkins Square Park on Sunday afternoons.
“You are not only serving food, but also dignity and respect,” said the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, 54, who has been at the helm of the church for 10 years. “Our goal is to balance nutrition with what tastes good.”
Soul Food Truck started serving at least 100 hot meals from 1 to 2 p.m. each Sunday on East Seventh Street last month, and plans to continue through Palm Sunday on April 20. Recent menu offerings at the truck included vegetable chili and pancakes and turkey sausages.
“To get a hot meal on a cold day, that’s something,” said Belizaire Macary, 43, who stopped by Soul Food Truck on Sunday for a steaming bowl of chili. “I really appreciate what you are all doing,” Macary told the church volunteers, adding that he’s currently homeless and has been on the streets on and off since 1996.
The church said the truck, which belongs to a pair of church members who own and operate it as Brooklyn Born and sell South African food out of the truck in East New York during the week, has allowed it to expand its 25-year mission of giving groceries and other food to the homeless in Tompkins Square Park.
“It has four burners, a fridge, space for cutting and chopping, a cabinet for storage,” Lewis said of the truck, which is staffed by a part-time chef who prepares a new menu each week, as well as a team of volunteers who hand out the food.
Soul Food Truck doesn’t ask those who approach the truck to verify whether they’re homeless or not, and doesn’t turn anyone away, including Dorri Simon, a self-described “freegan” who avoids paying for food by reclaiming what’s discarded.
“If I see it, I eat it,” said Simon, who has lived in the East Village for 45 years.
On Sunday, Soul Food Truck also attracted some East Villagers who mistook it for an ordinary food truck.
“It looks like a fancy, chic food truck,” said a 28-year-old lawyer who declined to give his name. He said he didn’t realize the truck was for the needy until he stepped up to the window for a meal, and they offered it to him for free. He declined.
“I work at Grand Central and it would fit right in,” he added, saying he appreciated that the food truck didn’t stigmatize those it serves. “It’s great.”
For Middle Collegiate Church, which started meeting in 1628, the food truck and the church’s other social justice programs are central to its mission.
“This is what we do we do — economic justice, racial justice and LGBTI justice,” said Lewis, adding that the church conducted a triple same-sex wedding the Sunday after the Marriage Equality Act passed in New York State.
Lewis said the new Soul Food Truck project is as much about feeding people’s stomachs as it is about feeding their souls.
“If that [evangelism] means sharing the good news — the good news here is there is a church in your neighborhood that thinks ministry is caring for people, standing in for justice, making sure everyone has enough,” Lewis said.
“One of the things we think is really important is God’s love is not contained within the four walls of the church.”
The District’s food trucks and Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the group representing mostly brick-and-mortar establishments, haven’t always been the best of friends, especially during the contentious debates over new mobile vending regulations last year. But for the first time this year, the restaurant association has taken a baby step toward embracing four-wheeled eateries by adding a new category to its annual RAMMY awards for which (very few) food trucks will be eligible.
Restaurant Association Metropolitan had added seven new categories for this year’s awards, one of which is a publicly voted contest for favorite “fast bites.” Nominations are open to quick-serve spots, delis, coffee shops with food, and mobile food vendors.
“We wanted to make sure we are as inclusive as possible when we are asking for nominations,” says RAMW president Kathy Hollinger. “As much as we preserve the integrity of what the RAMMYs is and what the RAMMYs should be, we are evolving and really reflecting what we believe is the culture of this industry in the region.” Hollinger says she reached out to the DMV Food Truck Association to let them know about the new category.
But does a food truck actually have a chance at becoming one of the final five nominees? Yes, but perhaps not likely. To be nominees, food trucks would have to be RAMW members. Right now, RAMW has three restaurant members that also have food trucks that could be eligible: Think Food Group’s Pepe, Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Company‘s eponymous truck, and Kushi Izakaya Sushi’s Kushi-Moto (which has been off the road for several months but may return this year). Anyone can submit a nomination for any of the awards, and a group of anonymous judges will narrow down the entries to the final five nominees.
Other significant changes to RAMMY categories include:
1. Beverage and food producers are now eligible. That means distilleries, breweries, winemakers, coffee roasters, farmers, gelato makers, chocolatiers, bakers, and others have a shot at an award.
2. Best beer and cocktail programs are finally different categories. Previously, beverage-related RAMMYs awards included wine program of the year and “beverage/mixology program” of the year.
3. Brunch gets some recognition. The RAMW has added publicly voted categories for upscale brunch and “everyday casual” brunch.
4. No more power spot category. Hollinger says her organization surveyed members about what they’d like to see and “it just wasn’t one that came up as a repeat category.”
Anyone can submit a nomination for the RAMMYS at eatsdc.org/nominations by Jan. 29. Take a look at all the categories below. An asterisk means it’s new.
· Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year
· Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year
· Everyday Casual Restaurant of the Year
· New Restaurant of the Year
· Chef of the Year
· Rising Culinary Star of the Year
· Pastry Chef of the Year
· Wine Program of the Year
· Cocktail Program of the Year (formerly Beverage/Mixology Program) ***
· Beer Program of the Year ***
· Service Program of the Year ***
· Manager of the Year
· Employee of the Year
· Restaurateur of the Year
· Regional Food and Beverage Producer of the Year ***
Publicly Voted Categories:
· Favorite Gathering Place of the Year
· Upscale Brunch ***
· Everyday Casual Brunch ***
· Favorite Fast Bites ***
Photo by Jessica Sidman
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