Last year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sample both the Granville Foodie Tour and the Richmond Foodie Tour run by Michelle Ng. It is a great concept really. A group of people pay one flat price to be taken to several restaurants sampling their wares. It is a good way to get a taste of everything without having to visit each restaurant individually. Vancouver Foodie Tours is back this year and it does cost more. Last year, it was a measly $10.00 per person because it was sponsored in part by the Downtown Vancouver and Richmond Tourism. Now it costs $60.00 and really, that is still reasonable considering the amount of places visited. This time around, I was invited with other media to experience Vancouver Foodie Tours - World's Best Street Eats Tour edition. With the explosion of food carts in our city, it can get quite confusing what is out there, where it is located and when they are open. The food cart tour is best suited for those unfamiliar to the city and are not interested in doing their own research.
So we met up at the Vancouver Centre Skytrain Station where La Brasserie Street was located. We got to sample half of their Brass Chicken Sandwich. I've had the good fortune to try most of the food carts featured in this tour and one of my favourites was this particular sandwich. I love it when a sandwich gets messy. Much like the pulled pork sandwich from re-up, the chicken sandwich is dripping with gravy which makes the whole thing moist. The buttermilk bun does a good job in keeping things together while the fried onions adds crunch and sweetness. The Butter Tart supplied by Tartine claims to be "World's Best" (not usually part of the tour, we just got to try it). Well, by virtue of not being a dessert person, I'm not the one to either confirm or deny that claim. Personally, I found it a bit too sweet. It was like eating a whole lot of buttery caramel. However, in the end, it was still pretty good, so I'll leave it at that.
From there, we took the walk over to the original "interesting" food cart - Japadog. I'm sure most of you know the story of Noriki Tamura, who came to Canada and wanted to start a business. He originally wanted to do a crepe cart; but due to the stringent regulations at the time, he had to settle on hot dogs. Not wanting to just do a regular hot dog cart, he created Japadog - hot dogs with a Japanese flair. We ended up at its original location and had the dog that started it all
- the Terimayo (which I believe is still the best one). Consisting of a beef sausage, teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, sautéed onions and nori, this makes all the other hot dog stands look boring (however, I'm sure there are those who still prefer a regular hot dog, which Japadog does sell). There is something about slapping teriyaki sauce and sweet mayo onto a hot dog that makes it taste good.
After this we strolled over to where Poke'm used to be located. Now it has been replaced by a Banh Mi cart aptly named Bun Me. The cart reminds me a little of the Nom Nom Truck out of L.A. which was a participant on the Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. Now we all know that Banh Mi is pretty widely available in Vancouver for roughly $3.00 - $3.75 depending on the store. However, that doesn't really include Downtown Vancouver. Other than a few other places, Bun Me offers up something that is under-represented in the Downtown core. Of course there is a slight premium to be paid, their Banh Mi costs $4.25. Yet, that is still considerably less than many of the other offerings from other food carts in the area. There are only 2 options: Lemongrass Chicken and Tofu. We tried the Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi today and it included the usual pickled carrots and daikon, hot pepper (if you want), cilantro, mayo, cucumber and their special sauce. I found their bread to be crisp and slightly dense. There was plenty of ingredients packed into the baguette, so in terms of value, it was a winner. As for flavour, I would've liked to see the pickled carrots and daikon to have more acidity and for the chicken to have more lemongrass kick. With those 2 tweaks, I believe that the flavours in this sandwich would sing.
We then headed over to Granville Street where we met up at Kaboom Box. For those who are familiar with Fresh Local Wild, the Kaboom Box replaces it on Granville with roughly the same menu. And about that menu, I remember having concerns about their Po' Boy and other sandwiches crossing the $10.00 threshold. That in itself priced themselves out of the food cart market. I'm happy to report that they have lowered their prices where all of their sandwiches (Po' Boy, Venison and Salmon) are only $8.00 each. We didn't get to sample any of the sandwiches today; rather, we had the Mushroom Poutine. This totally vegetarian dish is comprised of fries, white cheddar cheese curds and mushroom gravy. For me, I liked the gravy. It was just right with a good mushroom flavour. However, the cheese curds were not squeeky and I found them a bit salty. Furthermore, I would've liked the use of a thicker cut and shorter fry. In the end, I felt that half of one of their fabulous sandwiches, in particular the Po' Boy or Salmon, would've been a better representation of their food cart. I'm sure there were cost concerns related to this.
Finally, we ended up kitty-corner to where we started at Nu Greek Street. Incidentally, I had just tried their fabulous pitas the week before. So I was glad to be back. Part of the Kambolis Restaurant Group (which includes C, Raincity Grill and Nu), Nu Greek Street is their first foray into the food cart business. And low and behold, who was helping to man the cart today for our tour, Harry Kambolis himself (Coincidence? I think not...)! We got to sample a smaller version of their Chicken Pita. The star of this thing is the pita itself. It's fresh, soft, slightly charred and I would gladly eat it plain without any complaints. However, with the addition of a fabulous garlicky tzatziki, there are wonderful flavours and textures going on here. This was a great end to a pretty fun time going from food cart to food cart. However, I'm not sure if I would necessarily pay $50.00 for it. I could easily visit all of the aforementioned carts and have a full order of each item for far less than $50.00. Of course I wouldn't get a guided tour with interesting information about each cart. But then again, I'm pretty sure I don't belong to the target market of this tour.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*