Ottawa, CAN: Food Truck Rally Will Offer A Taste of Ottawa’s Newest Street Food

Madison O’Connor and Sharif Vinari have organized a giant food truck rally for Sept. 28 on a vacant lot at Rochester and Pamilla streets. Vendors will be selling small plates for $4 and large plates for $6, and at the end of the day, organizers will announce winners of best small plate, the best large plate, and the best truck paint job. Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , Ottawa Citizen

By Laura Robin  |  Ottawa Citizen

Madison O’Connor and Sharif Vinari have organized a giant food truck rally for Sept. 28 on a vacant lot at Rochester and Pamilla streets. Vendors will be selling small plates for $4 and large plates for $6, and at the end of the day, organizers will announce winners of best small plate, the best large plate, and the best truck paint job. Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , Ottawa Citizen
Madison O’Connor and Sharif Vinari have organized a giant food truck rally for Sept. 28 on a vacant lot at Rochester and Pamilla streets. Vendors will be selling small plates for $4 and large plates for $6, and at the end of the day, organizers will announce winners of best small plate, the best large plate, and the best truck paint job.
Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger , Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The city’s new food trucks and carts were slow to roll out, but their first season should wind up with a flavourful bang at an ambitious food-truck rally on Saturday, Sept. 28.

A dozen new trucks and carts will be cooking in a parking lot at the corner of Rochester and Pamilla streets, giving people a one-stop opportunity to sample Ottawa’s new street food scene. Craft beer and cider stands will also be on-site.

“It’s a new culture for Ottawa and we want to showcase it,” said Sharif Virani, one of the food truck rally organizers. “It should be fun because it will also be a competition, and at the end of the day we’ll announce the best small plate, the best large plate, and the best truck paint job.”

Virani first planned to hold the rally in June, but delayed it because so many trucks had difficulties getting on the road.

“It was supposed to be June 22, but we got a lot of pushback from people, saying they weren’t ready yet,” Virani said.

By late June, more than half of the new carts and trucks that were approved in February still were not on the road. It took until late July for all 10 new food trucks to roll out.

The new carts have had even more difficulty. While two have been out since May, four carts are still not out, though Ulises Ortega, who ordered his Mr. Churritos cart from Mexico City, then had to adapt it to meet Canadian safety standards, said he expects to be out in the next week or two.

While several of the vendors are thrilled with how well the first season has gone, some observers say delays and the fact that the trucks are so scattered throughout town have damaged public perception of the new program.

“Where’s the food truck presence?” asks Matthew Carmichael, owner of the popular new El Camino on Elgin Street. “You have to maintain the momentum.”

Virani said that’s why the rally is important.

“In Ottawa, sometimes you kind of only get one chance with some people. And maybe all the hype set the bar too high too soon. This is an opportunity to show the public again what it’s all about.”

Urban Cowboy, ThinkLunch, Chow Down, Angry Dragonz, Red Roaster, Olive Green, Mr. Churritos, Bytown Bayou (from Embrun), The Grilled Cheeserie and Merry Dairy are among the food vendors that have signed on for the event, with each vendor selling small plates for $4 and large plates for $6.

Kichesippi and Clock Tower will be serving beer and Hoity Toity Cellars will be selling cider for $5. Kichesippi will also have its Harvey & Vern’s sodas for sale.

“We want to make it family friendly ­— we didn’t want it to be just a hipster event,” said co-organizer Madison O’Connor, adding that the Ottawa School of Art will also have an art station for children.

A $10 admission fee will be charged, but all profits will go to a scholarship that will allow a resident of Ottawa Community Housing to complete the culinary program at Algonquin College.

“We thought it was really important that it be a fun event, but that also participants will be doing something for someone else as well,” said Virani.

Philip Nolan, manager of licensing for the City of Ottawa, acknowledges that “there was more back and forth than expected” as the new operators, many of whom hadn’t been in the food business before, struggled to get their vehicles manufactured and passed in all the inspections.

“There have been some growing pains, but we’ve ended up, overall, with the final product being beyond what we’d expected,” said Powell. “The vendors have made a significant investment and we’ve ended up with, as James Cunningham said, a higher calibre.”

Tarek Hassan finally got his Gongfu Bao cart out in Confederation Park in early August.

“There were long manufacturer delays for the cart, but the end product is amazing,” said Hassan. “And people’s reactions to our food have been above and beyond our best hopes. Everyone is keen to learn about bao, happy to play along with our chopsticks-only cutlery and willing to try both traditional bao and comfort-food twists.”

Similarly, Hana Jung, who has been operating her Roan Kitchen Korean food cart on Bank Street between Albert and Slater since May 15, said “it has been better than we expected.

“Ottawa citizens are very open-minded and brave in trying new foods.”

Hassan said he thinks the rally is a great idea so vendors can introduce their food to more of Ottawa.

“I want to reach out to more of Ottawa to let them know we’re here and rockin’ out some serious lunch eats.”

Tim Van Dyke, owner of the LUNCH truck, which rolled out June 5, said he thinks the rally will be “all about fun.

“It’s for a great cause and all the players involved seem to be really great. I pray for no rain. It’s the obvious killer to truck business. It’s amazing that the epicentre of this trend is Portland, Oregon. Ottawans should take a lesson from that and get out a little more on the wet days.”

 

Ottawa Food Truck Rally

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, noon to 4 p.m.

Where: Corner of Rochester and Pamilla streets

What: A dozen food trucks and carts will be selling small and large tasting plates, and be in competition for best dishes, best truck art. Beer, cider and soda will also be for sale.

Cost: Admission is $10 (with proceeds to a culinary scholarship). Food plates will be $4 and $6.

Tickets and more: ottawafoodtruckrally.com or@ottawafoodtruck (Twitter) orottawafoodtruckrally (Facebook)

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