Exploring the Calgary Food Truck Scene
I’m a sucker for a good food truck. Ever since I attended the Grilled Cheese Invitational in LA a few years back, and got to sample goodies served through a window, I was hooked on the idea of these great portable restaurants. So, when I headed to Calgary last January and someone told me there was a cool food truck scene, I got excited. What I didn’t think about was the fact that food trucks in sub-zero conditions were probably a bad idea, and that few of the trucks would be operating when I went there.
So, I downloaded the Calgary Food Truck App, chased a few around (literally drove after two, because they showed up on the app but were finished serving by the time I negotiated my way around the city), I managed to get a fairly decent steak and fries from the Steakout Truck and ate it in my car, the heater on full blast to try and thaw my fingers after waiting outside in the cold for my food.
I’d hate to base my opinions on the Calgary food truck scene on my experience there, but I did want to find out whether it was actually decent (when the sun is shining, and it isn’t freezing) so I asked local food blogger Dan Clapson, who has a great blog named Dan’s Good Side (and it currently writing a book named Street Eats). Here’s how our conversation went:
So what would my experience have been if I’d come in the summer?
Well, when we do have lovely weather, from about March to November, all our 45 active trucks are out there. The scene here is really cool, and there was a real buzz about them when they arrived in Calgary.
How long has there been a food truck scene in Calgary?
Our first trucks started in August of 2011, and we only had nine originally, so in under two years, the scene has seen some pretty intense growth, especially for a city the size of ours, with just over a million people, so the mayor has actually put a cap on food truck permits now so it will be a while before we get any new ones.
What are some of the most popular ones?
I would probably say that out of the original nine trucks, Alley Burger, which comes from the restaurant Charcut, one of Calgary’s most famous restaurants, is one of the busiest and most popular. Then out of the new trucks I’d say that the Naaco Truck which is really interesting food, traditional Indian but with a twist, served in a big naan bread that is folded over so you chow down on it like a giant taco. I also like Cheezy Bizness, our gourmet grilled cheese truck, and they make just the most stellar grilled cheese, using local ingredients and making all their meats in house – the owner brines her own pastrami and makes her own kimchi. Waffles and Chix is another good one, offering southern style waffles and fried chicken with white gravy and all that sort of thing. Vasili’s has great Greek food too.
How easy is it to find the trucks?
You’ll find most of them in the downtown core, though some of them will go out to the ‘burbs or industrial areas where they know they’ll get a lot of workers at lunchtime etc. Download the app to follow where they are.
Do you think the trucks are here to stay or is this just a fad?
Lots of things in the culinary world are just a fad, they come in, they spike, and although I don’t think the food trucks are going to go away in Calgary, I can’t see that in two years we’ll have as many food trucks as we have now, there’ll be maybe half as many. We have more trucks than our population can support. The original trucks all had a unique concept and offered something different, but now there’s three pizza trucks, and four burger trucks, and they aren’t even doing anything that exceptional – those are the ones that are going to die off.
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