Food truck craze sweeping U.S. slowly coming to Canada

It's hard to watch the popular show Eat St. and not salivate at the sight of gourmet food being made curbside by talented chefs in trucks.

The only problem for many Canadians is that it's a trend that is only taking off south of the border. But that appears to be changing in some of our major cities.

The main reason why Canadian cities seem to be behind the curve is because of city bylaws, not a lack of demand. But that appears to be changing as municipal governments wake up to growing consumer demand.

In Edmonton, a small number of trucks are offering items many steps up the culinary ladder from hot dogs, but food columnist Gurvinder Bhatia says the city should do more to change the laws and make food trucks easier to operate.

"The public is still catching on and we need to push our city council even more to understand the need to modernize our bylaws to facilitate the evolution of the mobile food culture which serves to get more people out on our city streets," he writes in an Edmonton Journal article.

A few hours drive from Edmonton, the Food Truck Pilot Project launched in Calgary last week with a food truck festival.

In Vancouver, popular restaurant Triple Os has just become the first quick service chain in Canada to launch a food truck.

"What's most exciting from both a business and customer perspective is that the mobile restaurant, which doubles as a test kitchen, allows Triple O's to be more nimble in adapting and responding to changing consumer tastes," says Scott Lewis, Triple O's Director of Operations in a statement.

However, this isn't the first food truck the company has run. It actually started out of a 1918 Model T more than 83 years ago.

Foodies in Toronto can also start enjoying this goodness thanks to festivals and trucks including one named "Thunderin' Thelma" that cruises around serving up smoked meat from Caplansky's Deli. Zane Caplansky rolled out the truck on July 21.

"Getting this truck going has been an emotional and financial roller coaster, but I see myself as a pioneer — we have the first great food truck in the city," says Caplansky to the National Post. "The licence is restrictive and arbitrary, but when we showed up on Ossington at two in the morning and people started clapping, you realize this is what people want."

Another truck having a lot of success in Toronto is La Carnita, but they don't sell tacos, they sell art. "You pay for the art, and hey, we just happen to give you a loot bag filled with tacos," says OneMethod president and CEO Amin Todai to the Globe and Mail. OneMethod Digital & Design Inc. dreamed up the idea to sell the art.

Toronto tried a program in 2007 with eight carts offering a wide-range of multicultural food. However, due to prohibitive location fee costs and difficult health regulations, seven of those carts opted not to renew their contracts last year.

Torontonians hoping to try food carts had the opportunity to attend a festival in the Distillery District early in July. Organizers expected 750 people to show up and were astonished when 3,500 hungry people arrived. Another one has been planned for Aug. 20 in the same location.

"I'm bringing a petition to the Mayor's office," says Suresh Doss to the National Post, who helped bring the food trucks to the Distillery, to the National Post. "The food truck craze has taken off and it's clear that Toronto doesn't want to be left behind."

(CBC photo of food truck festival in Calgary)