Last weekend, New Westminster hosted its own street cart fest, called Columbia StrEAT. The stretch of Columbia Street between 4th and 6th were closed off to pedestrians only, where food trucks were parked and tables were set up for some feasting. 16 food trucks in Vancouver came to the event, along with live entertainment from New West’s own 2 Days & Counting.
Turns out the event attracted 20,000 people, twice as much as expected. I wasn’t surprised to hear the number; if you saw the crowd at the event, you would guess the same as well.
And the huge turnout also meant long and lengthy line-ups. With the group of 10 of us, our line-up at each truck ranged from 1 hour to 2 hours. Seriously, we weren’t sure what motivated us to stay in lines, but it’s probably the “you’re almost there” mindset that tricked us to stand for such a long time.
And for some (luckily, not our group), they waited and waited only to find out that the food truck has sold out of their desired dishes, or the complete menu. I was mind-blown when I found out that some trucks were sold out at 7pm — the event was supposed to run till 9pm!
We managed to try food from 3 of the participating trucks: Roaming Dragon, Casalinga and La Taqueria.
They are one of the first few food trucks entering the Vancouver market a couple of years ago. It features Asian dishes and is usually parked near Burrard and Robson. And it’s apparent that they’re experienced in catering event like this. They didn’t have the shortest line, but they were able to pump out food very quickly. To manage the crowd at public event like this, efficiency is key, and they certainly didn’t fail.
The Lychee Basil Lemonade was very refreshing. The basil was fragrant and almost minty; it’s like drinking a lychee mojito but with a bit more of tartness from the lemonade. A nice choice of beverage when lining up under the scotching sun.
The Chinese Pork Slider was a play on BBQ Pork Bun. The pork belly was roasted to great tenderness, and the fatty part just melted in your mouth. The seasoning was a bit on the mild side, needing the punch of flavours that brings it all together. On the other hand, the Korean Bulgogi Gordita was no shortage of flavours. The meat was tender and had a nice amount of heat from the Korean spicy sauce. The downside was the sesame fry bread. It was oily and soggy so you can’t hold it like a sandwich. You need a fork to eat this.
Casalinga Food Cart
Casalinga had an interesting system. They only took 2 orders at a time, filled the order, then moved on to the next 2 customers. While we were in the line, for about 30 minutes the line didn’t move at all. I think their system is supposed to help them figure out their inventory, but I found it to be very inefficient. They should have portioned out to know exactly how many customers they can serve, and be able to do the count without having to stop the line at every other customer. But they do have a smaller truck so it’s harder for them to keep up with the volume.
We ended up ordering multiple servings of Butter Chicken Poutine to share among the group. Fries were average frozen fries, but the butter chicken sauce was not bad. Chicken was tender and sauce was creamy. Unfortunately it’s not a poutine that’s necessary worth $8 and it would be better if there’s gooey melted cheese under the sauce.
This is the food truck version of Vancouver’s famous La Taqueria Taco Shop. It’s one of the latest addition, and apparently it just roams around the blocks in Kitsilano during the week. Their line was the worst – it took us a total of 2 hours from start of line to the moment we got the food. They were selling a selection of tacos that you would find at their stores, for the same price, 4 meat tacos for $9.50 or $2.50 each, or 4 vegetarian tacos for $7.00 or $2 each.
We just ordered an assortment of meat and vegetarian ones to share:
- Asada (grilled AAA flank beef)
- De Cachette (braised beef cheeks)
- Tinga de Hongos (sauteed fresh mushrooms in spicy chipotle sauce)
- Rajas Con Crema (roasted poblano peppers with creamed corn)
- Frijoles Charros con Queso (refried cowboy beans with Mexican cheese)
Surprisingly, my favourite was Rajas Con Crema. The creamed corn was sweet and creamy, and worked well with the soft tacos. Asada was also not bad, but the meat was diced up too finely you can’t really taste it. Everything was like a mush, and saucy, so the texture is definitely lacking for me.
La Taqueria is a favourite taco spot for many, so I’m hoping that they could fine-tune the food truck version so more people can fall in love with it.
Overall I think this was a great event, and definitely brought a lot of people to the once busy New Westminster downtown. Unfortunately the overwhelming response from the public led to a shortage of food and long line-ups. Hopefully they will bring this back next year, with a better-prepared food trucks and more enjoyable experience for all.