The food business in Toronto is currently in a rapidly evolving state with an increase in Street Food, Pop-ups & Food Trucks. Many of the businesses that are forming around these concepts are offering a great alternative to getting delicious food at a reasonable price. Unlike many of their brick and mortar competitors, these concepts are often much more creative with their menus and are offering some refreshing takes on old food favourites. Most of these businesses rely heavily on the use of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Unless you are active on these social networks there is a good chance you might not even know about them!

Here are some of my favourite concepts that have become quite popular in the last few months:


Street Food


One of the trends that I am most excited about in Toronto right now is the rise of popular “street food” dishes from around the world. This concept can be found at both pop-ups and in food trucks but is also becoming popular in brick and mortar restaurants as well. I wrote previously about Banh Mi Boys, which is probably my favourite of these right now, but other restaurants have opened recently including Hawker Bar, a restaurant specializing in Singapore style street food.

Banh Mi Boys Tacos

Though street food isn’t really a new thing and actually already exists as items on menus in many restaurants around the city, the next goal should be to get street food more accessible on the street itself. Toronto tried to make it work a few years ago when they launched a food cart program around the city but due to the high number of regulations and costs to operate the carts themselves, this failed quite miserably. Right now our definition of street food in Toronto is still a hot dog vendor but hopefully with the rise in popularity of food trucks we will start to see more cheap and delicious eats available on the street where they belong.


Pop-Ups / Mobile Vendors


The pop-up is a concept that is becoming very popular in Toronto, though it has been going on around the world with food and fashion for many years. For food, a pop-up is an event where usually a small team of people that don’t own a restaurant will announce their location and show up at either a random restaurant or space to test their food out with real customers. The main goal of many of these pop-ups is to eventually open a restaurant of their own or move towards a more large scale version of their business in the way of a food truck.

One of the pop-ups that have been very successful lately is the Rock Lobster Food Co. Their goal is to bring lobster to the masses and dispel the myths that it needs to be very expensive and is only for “high society”. Their specialty, a lobster roll sandwich which is essentially lobster salad typically served on a hot dog bun that sells for around $5. This sandwich is a very popular dish in Eastern Canada or other areas near to where lobster is farmed. After several successful pop-ups Rock Lobster recently announced that they plan to launch their own food truck and also recently started a lobster delivery service where you can get lobster delivered right to your door straight from the ocean! I recently won a contest on Twitter that they held where I received 5lbs of lobster for FREE and was extremely happy with this service. Here are some pictures from when I received my lobster care package:

My Rock Lobster Prize Pack

The lobsters waking up to me opening up their temporary home.

The finished product

Though not really a pop-up, one mobile food concept I tried recently is Neptuno Oysters. Neptuno Oysters is catering company that you can hire to come to your party or event and shuck oysters fresh right in front of you for you and your guests. One thing that they do to stand out from the competition is they have invented several flavour combinations for their oysters such as the Fanny Bay (an oyster infused in IZUMI sake, garnished with wild rice, diced chives and a single raspberry) or the French Kiss (an oyster dressed in Nam Jin relish, garnished with lemon zest and cilantro). However, you can also get their oysters the old fashion way on their own with various sauces and garnishes. Neptuno is also very excited by the recent trends with food and according to one of their owners, Lirad Kligman, “[They] would love to participate at the Toronto Underground Market as it is a symbol of the city’s culinary diversity.” Their goal is to bring their oysters to TUM in June. Lirad told me they are looking to redefine the ways in which we view food. He went on to say, “With oysters, we find that people generally have a very narrow perspective of how oysters should be enjoyed and it is our goal to provoke that paradigm by reimagining the way in which oysters are understood. We seek to rid the oyster of it’s stereotype as a maritime commodity and give it the respect it deserves – as a healthy, environmentally sustainable food on which an artistic experience for the senses can be created.” Look out for them at events around the city or follow them on Twitter to see where they will be next!

Neptuno Oysters in action at the FOS Design Event

Rock Lobster and Neptuno Oysters are not alone. There are also several other pop-ups going on around the city with the most popular being La Carnita, Fidel Gastros, Comida del Pueblo and many others. Many of these became popular thanks to an event called Toronto Underground Market (TUM), which is a place where home chefs, pop-up regulars, caterers and aspiring restaurateurs can showcase their skills. This event typically sells out 2500 or so tickets within a few hours and has quickly become one of the hottest tickets in Toronto. I attended the first 2 TUM events and would definitely recommend them for someone who has not been. It is a great way to experience many of the hottest Toronto food concepts in one venue and will cost you around $10-$15 depending on when you purchase your ticket. Be warned though, the lines can get quite long so I would recommend getting their early. If you can’t manage to grab a ticket  for TUM, you can also pay close attention to the social media accounts of the vendors themselves. Many of them host pop-ups regularly for free and often without the lines of TUM.

One of the first TUM events I attended (yes I realize my camera sucks)


Food Trucks


The biggest craze by far right now in Toronto is the rise of food trucks. Currently the laws in Toronto make it difficult for a food truck to park in one place for any length of time; however, thanks to Suresh Doss and many others, Torontonians are  trying to change this!

Suresh is responsible for starting an event called #FoodTruckEats, where a bunch of food trucks get together and people show up in masses to get a taste of the creations coming out of their “restaurant on wheels”. This event is organized predominately through the use of social media. Food prices at these events usually range from about $5-$10 and consist of all sorts of fusion combinations (including interesting taco combinations), new concepts (such as lobster rolls) or old time favourites (ie. cupcakes & grilled cheese). I am really excited to see how this trend grows and hope that it becomes a mainstay for food in Toronto and that the current laws can be changed to make it more accessible. If you are interested in helping the food truck movement you can go to this website to send a letter to your mayor or councillor asking them to change the laws making it difficult for food trucks to exist. The easiest way to find out when these events are happening is to visit the Food Truck Eats or Toronto Food Trucks websites and follow or like them on your favourite social network. If you are on Twitter, I suggest you search for the hashtag #foodtruckeats, and follow the man behind many of these events himself, Suresh Doss.

#FoodTruckEats event at Bay and Adelaide

Either way you look at it, Toronto is in an awesome state of change right now. I am excited for the rise of these different trends and hope many of them stick around, lasting for years to come!

Have you had a chance to try any cool pop-ups or food trucks recently? If so, I would love to hear about some of your favourites in the comment section below.