It’s the tail-end of the August long weekend and you’re probably nursing a bit of a beer hangover, your stomach is most likely bloated (since you had like 18 serving of bacon over the last 12 hours and you quite possibly finished your best friend’s homemade killer sangria), you’re definitely picking at leftover chips from last night’s snack bowl and you’re thinking: Damnit, why is tomorrow Tuesday?
With the many festivals happening in Toronto this weekend, you’re also probably scared to look at your most recent transactions. It’s a holiday, so don’t worry. Like calorie counting, penny counting is useless, too.
Though we skimped out on Caribbean Carnival, Toronto’s first ever Food Truck Festival benefiting SickKids was calling our name. In Woodbine Park, about a 10-minute bus ride south of Coxwell Station, the no-charge-for-entry inaugural foodie fest was actually quite bumping (minus the fact that the cover band, Everglo, sounded like a combination of Avril Lavigne and Jason Derulo [what? Who sings “Talk Dirty” at a Family Festival?]).
We left with our bellies full, but our minds were in a state of panic after contemplating all the things TO’s first ever food truck festival did wrong. As a result, here are 10 things that the festival seriously sucked at:
1. No “welcome” table:
Not only were there no signs throughout the venue parking lot highlighting the direction guests must walk to get to the food truck festival, but there was also no welcome table to explain what was happening, where we could buy drink tickets and what each food truck was serving. The entire event, as you’ll see showcased in points below, was kind of a free-for-all, which works sometimes. However, even clustered music festivals with drunk people flailing around everywhere have an info or welcome booth.
2. Demand > supply:
The website for the festival reported there would be over 40 food trucks in attendance, ready to serve. When we arrived, though, around 7:00pm on Saturday, August 2, there were probably 12 open trucks and at least two that had shut down for the night. We also passed numerous “sold outs” scrawled across menus. When we left just before 10:00pm, there were even fewer, with only about five trucks still churning out delicious munchies. The festival began at 1:00pm and was scheduled to last until 11:00pm Saturday and Sunday, but it seemed as though organizers (were there even any?) forgot to emphasize the need to bring the right amount of food, let alone propane.
True story: While we were in line for Bacon Nation, so ready to devour their pulled pork sandwich topped with apple-slaw, their serving window closed and we heard the crowd carry on a conversation almost always using the words: They ran out of propane and will be up and running in 30-minutes. Well, lucky for us, there was more pulled pork about four metres down.
3. Haphazard lineups:
On the hunt for pulled pork, we wound up at S.W.A.T, Sandwiches With A Twist, a food truck that was crammed right beside Berlin 95, brand new to the scene, and Gourmet Gringos. There were lineups winding all throughout this clustered corner. Numerous times, we were asked: “Is this the line up for S.W.A.T.?” Each time, we looked up, shrugged our shoulders and said, “We think so.”
4. Garbage bags, everywhere:
Every outdoor event is faced with two automatic problems before the deposit is even paid for: The potential for rain and determining how to effectively dispose of garbage. The Toronto Food Truck Festival was lucky in the sense that it didn’t rain, but not so fortunate in its garbage collecting efforts.
Not every garbage can was overflowing, so that was a plus. However, there were several bags filled and tied sitting around every newly emptied bin, acting as the centre pieces for most confusing line ups. Does this look better than overflowing bins with bees inside pop cans and the smell of half-eaten ketchup drenched hot dogs? Yes. However, who wants to be standing in line to get delicious food truck food beside four garbage bags?
5. No hand-wash stations:
If Nicki Minaj was at the Toronto Food Truck Festival, this is what she would say:
Porta potties were neatly tucked away in a row far away from the food for guests to use, however, there was something very important missing: A hand-wash station. Maybe there was hand sanitizer inside each potty, but we all know sanitizer is the lazy soap and water.
Eating and porta potties often go hand-in-hand, as this is just the nature of how our bodies work when at events where the main attraction is food, however, a hand-wash station is kind of, um, necessary.
6. Menu readability:
A sassy argument almost broke out while in line to get some grub. A group of people were hanging out around a sandwich-board style menu trying to figure out what to get. Then, a couple budded in front to read, blocking everyone behind them. “Excuse me, we’re all trying to read,” said one person. The couple rolled their eyes and said, “Fine, we’ll just go to the other side,” followed by more eye rolls and a guffaw.
Menus were either on trucks via white-boards, on sandwich boards as mentioned above or posted on a sheet of paper in size 16 font. With 40 people line ups, how were guests supposed to decide what to order? A welcome table at the event entrance offering a guidebook filled with menus would have eliminated this problem entirely.
7. Drink ticket stations and beer vendors were not asking for identification:
Despite the numerous police officers hanging in clusters, just waiting for someone to say, “Mrs. Officer…,” drink ticket stations and beer vendors were very brave in not asking for government issued ID. Our 17-year-old selves would have been so happy (“We have to come back next year. We can totally get drunk again illegally”), but our mid-twenty selves were confused, in our plaid shirts and band t-shirts, looking around the age of 10, maybe 11.
8. Tables so dirty you lost your appetite:
Beers and pulled pork in hand, we headed off to find somewhere to sit and, miraculously, found some empty tables in a tent. However, it didn’t take long to see why these tables were left abandoned. We get it; pulled pork, burgers and corn are messy snacks, but maybe when the clean-up staff are tying up garbage bags and leaving them around the park, they could also give the tables a quick wipe? We found a table that was the “best of the worst.” It only had a few crumbs and stains on it, but we saw a lady almost lose her lunch after approaching the first table we passed.
9. Diversity is the spice of life:
Food trucks are known for their innovative creations and an opportunity to try an exciting bite-sized munchie. Unfortunately, the food trucks at the Toronto festival all featured fairly similar menus (especially since anything new had sold out before our 7:00pm arrival….) leaving our imaginations feeling a little underwhelmed. The great thing was it was super easy to get our pulled pork fix filled….but that was about it.
10. The layout was cray:
With majority of the trucks crammed into one corner, some more haphazardly in the middle (creating a crisscrossed mess) and then two food trucks randomly off on their own, the layout was a little bizarre. That, partnered with the giant blue rent-a-fence, enclosing us into the event and keeping us out of the giant empty field perfect for frolicking and eating pulled pork, gave the open air festival a very constricted feel.
Kids literally were running into us: This was more humourous than sucky, but we have literally never been full-on run into by so many children.
The event-entrance security guard was asleep: We left around 9:45pm and either the security guard had too much food or was bored, because he was knocked out cold when we made our way back to the bus stop.
*With files from Tristan Gerrie and Leviana Coccia.
I went to the food truck festival at Evergreen Brickworks last year, it was great. Everyone got off at Broadview station and was bussed down. It was a ticketed event, so the line ups were never that bad, with the exception of the lobster taco. The entry fee was steep at $25.00 and then each food item was $5.00 after that. What was the pricing like at this event?
There was no entry fee but food trucks were charging their regular prices for items. For example, each pulled pork from S.W.A.T. was $12.00, corn on the cob was $3.00 each and one order of churros (which gave us three total) from I Love Churros was $5.00. Beers were $7.50 each and were less than a pint!