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They’re part of a growing streateries movement, a booming business south of the border where more than three million food trucks are on the road! Today’s food trucks are serving up gourmet fare that matches what you’ll find in high-end bricks-and-mortar establishments.

But of course you have to know where to find them because they don’t have an address. ROAM went out in search of these gourmet streateries to help you find the food truck of your dreams no matter where you are travelling.

From Food Dudes to Fidel Gastro, and El Gastronomo Vagabundo to Gourmet Gringos, the creativity of truck names is a hint at the gastronomical delights that await even the most snobbish of foodies.

Yes – you can still get killer fries, but there is undoubtedly a food truck out there to satiate even the most specific of cravings. Maybe even a few you didn’t know you had.

Food trucks are growing in popularity mostly through social media, a dedicated fan base, and their ability to travel. “Food trucks are a different kind of food experience,” offers Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro. “And people like different.”

And by different, Basile isn’t just talking about the roaming lifestyle of this form of restaurant, nor is he speaking of the chefs – who arguably can be unique themselves. Fidel Gastro, for example, is known for being loud but it’s his menu that is the attention grabber.

While many trucks and chefs are known for a particular dish, it doesn’t mean it will always be on offer.

“Our focus is always on the food,” says Tamara Jensen of El Gastronomo Vagabundo. “We pride ourselves on offering a constantly evolving menu of globally inspired dishes.” The best seller? “Crispy cod tacos with smoked pineapple habanero hot sauce, and the grilled octopus with chipotle caramel.”

You read that right. Grilled octopus is probably not what you had in mind when you thought of “street meat”.

Of course, there are many themed food trucks – cupcakes only to seafood, BBQ to Italian. For many of these chefs, the road is liberating in terms of menus.

“We don’t have a theme or a specific type of food we do,” says Dave McIntyre of the Food Dudes. “Most trucks subscribe to being BBQ, South American, gourmet hot dogs, Italian, etcetera. I love a lot of them, but I think the Food Dudes are too fickle when it comes to committing to a particular style.”

The evolving menu of the Food Dudes keeps it interesting – for the chefs and the clients.

It’s hard to get into a food rut if you don’t know where your favourite restaurant is going to be parked – or what it’s serving on any given day.

And that’s the exciting reality of being a food truck “roadie”. You may be having the most serious hankering for a Gorilla Cheese only to find out that it’s parked in a city an hour’s drive from your office. You may be hoping to get something from Gourmet B1tches to find out you’re s-o-l.

But that’s okay. If you’re in the know you’ll always be able to find something in your neck of the woods. And that’s just part of the experience.

With no fixed address, how is it that food trucks ensure a good lunch-time crowd? Social media. Most food trucks have Twitter feeds and Facebook accounts and post their locations and service times. Foodtrucks.ca and ontariofoodtrucks.com are also great hubs of information on where to grab great eats.

While many food trucks go into hibernation, or cater events in the off season, in the summer there’s nary a city festival that doesn’t call on the Localista, Hula Girl Espresso or Sweetness Bakery.

For many chefs the festivals and concerts are the highlights of their time – connecting with fans and families, listening to some great sounds, and loving the reality of cooking in a truck. And while some municipalities and cities are still slow on amending bylaws to welcome food trucks onto their streets, most are happy to bring new eats to their citizens –  if even for a day.

“There is a nostalgia with the idea of food trucks,” says Krystian Catala of Gourmet Gringos. “It is [also] something different and outside the norms of what society is used to. It’s not the typical restaurant with four walls and a fixed address.”

Looking at Ontario’s food trucks one can almost see the Goldilock’s story unfolding. There are the baby bears: those who have found the truck kitchens to be too small, and are building on their successes to create a more traditional, walled restaurant such as Gorilla Cheese (see sidebar).

There are the papa bears: those who grew their traditional restaurants so much that a food truck was all but demanded by their customers.

And there are those who are finding this fit just right: freedom, not too much business tape, and the inspiration of new locations, new people and new experiences to challenge their culinary offerings.

“I decided to start a food truck because it was the cheapest possible way for me to cook the food I wanted to cook,” says Jonny Blonde, of Jonny Blonde, who is known for his fire-grilled meats, bold sauces and homemade flatbreads.  “Everything is made from scratch. The meat and even the flatbread is cooked to order – it can’t get any fresher than that.”

ROAM recently caught up with Blonde when he was putting on an eight-course tapas-style feast with beer pairings at the Cafe Domestique in Dundas. The fare varied from bear meat ravioli to crisp pork belly in buttersquash, and the kudos kept coming as each dish was introduced with a new beer.

He and girlfriend/assistant Layal served up goodies from his truck parked at the rear of the restaurant.

Blonde also came up in a newspaper interview with a local entrepreneur when asked about his favourite downtown Hamilton restaurant: “Hands down I would have to say Jonny Blonde food truck. Just imagine a five-star restaurant and put some wheels on it.”

Farm Girl is another Ontario truck with strong ties to supporting local farmers. “We’re called Farm Girl, because that’s what I am – we live on a 10-acre farm and grow our own organic produce and herbs that are use in all of our dishes,” explains Tamara Bolger, Chef/Owner of Farm Girl Mobil Food Co. “We are one of the only farm-to-table food trucks in Ontario. We source our meat and other products locally as well.”

This desire to stay local doesn’t limit Blonde or Bolger. It seems that while food truck chefs are fiercely independent there are some underlying similarities – a passion for great food, a thirst for travel, the desire to bring quality food to the masses at an affordable price, creating an inviting atmosphere and of course creativity.

“Customers love that they can have restaurant quality food at affordable prices,” Bolger continues. “They love the fun nature of eating from a food truck, the convenience, the look and themes of the different trucks. It has become part of our food culture now to follow food trucks on social media and follow the trucks around.”

When packing for your road trip this summer, bring along your smart phone and an appetite for adventure. Follow your truck, hashtag it out, or subscribe to a food truck site – the journey only starts in locating the truck.

 It’s when you get there and explore the menu that things get really interesting. •














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