Food fight hits street

Hot dog sellers steamed at new A La Cart project starting today

By JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA

There’s potential for fireworks today — but not only in the sky as vendors behind new ethnic food carts compete for business with those selling traditional street meats.

Toronto Public Health, the driving force behind the A La Cart pilot project, said four of eight vendors slated to sell street food other than traditional hot dogs and sausages will make their culinary debut today in three areas of the city.

Vendors will sell biryani and souvlaki at Nathan Phillips Square, injera at Roundhouse Park and jerk chicken at St. Clair Ave. and Yonge St.

“We were hoping our menus could be changed as well,” said Marianne Moroney, executive director of the Street Food Vendors Association, which represents about 100 Toronto hot dog vendors.

“They talk about ethnic diversity, well, we have 25 spoken languages in our membership. The project should’ve been hatched through our members who are highly regulated and already have street experience, but we were shut out of the process.”

The project was approved in December by City Council, but endured backlash from existing hot dog cart vendors, who are not allowed to upgrade their menus.

Toronto Public Health, however, said the project takes street food to a whole new level.

“Toronto’s a multi-ethnic city and it’s long overdue to have these kinds of vending and eating opportunities downtown,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher, who sits on the Board of Health.

The eight vendors were unveiled to the public in March after presenting a business plan, paying $40,000 for an A La Cart cart and location levy. They also had to agree that the owners would work in the cart 70% of the time and pre-cook their dishes in a kitchen.

Fletcher said she expects the other four vendors — Pad Thai at Mel Lastman Square, Kebabs at Metro Hall, Kebab wraps at Queen’s Park and Bulgogi with kimchi at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. — to roll out their goods in the next couple of weeks, “assuming the weather’s getting better,” but it’s really up to the vendors to decide when they open shop.

Moroney said the city continues to shut down hot dog vendors, even though they paid thousands of dollars in licensing fees to make way for the new street carts.

Public Health spokesman Susan Sperling said she is “not aware” of that happening.