In the US food trucks are hailed as a cheaper, easier way for chefs and entrepreneurs to get into the food business. Unfortunately in Montreal, a city hailed for its festivals, parks, and diversity, getting a food truck is almost as difficult and expensive as getting a restaurant. Though other cities in Canada have had vehicles offering a variety of culinary delights to consumers, Montreal has only been allowing food trucks since 2013, finally ending a ban in place since the 40s.

In 1947 the City of Montreal banned food trucks for sanitation reasons. Attempts to lift the food truck ban were fought on cleanliness grounds and by restaurateurs who were paranoid about losing business. The city eventually came to a compromise and enacted the Règlement règissant la cuisine de rue aka The Regulation on Street Food.

The Regulation sets out rules regarding food trucks in the City of Montreal. Independent areas on the island of Montreal like Cote Saint Luc and Westmount have their own rules.

In the City of Montreal, only those possessing the proper permit can sell street food. At first glance it seems pretty simple: get a permit, get your food truck. Sadly, the process by which one gets a permit is extremely complex and costly. In order to be able to even apply for a permit, you first have to apply to a selection committee created by the city to assess applications from potential street food vendors.

The committee is comprised of two City employees and three representatives of either the restaurant business or the culinary arts. If you get a positive recommendation from the committee you can then apply to get your street food permit and in both steps of the process, the amount of documents required seems pretty absurd.

To get the committee to even look at your application you have to include not just forms, fees, and proof that your truck is fire and environmentally safe, but also a crazy amount extra information including a full menu, price list, ingredients’ list, colour photos of your dishes, the names and contact info of your food suppliers, and the CVs of the people who will be running your truck. You also have to include plans for the interior layout of the truck and any designs you plan to put on its exterior.

Have a secret family recipe? It won’t be a secret by the time the City is through with it, for though committee members are legally supposed to avoid conflicts of interest, the likelihood they’ll be objective and maintain the secrecy of applications in a city ripe with corruption is low at best. Furthermore, as per the regulation, the City gets to keep all the documents you sent in addition to the non-refundable application fee, making the temptation for restaurateurs and industry reps all the greater in Montreal’s highly competitive restaurant industry.

Photo: Chris Zacchia
Photo: Chris Zacchia

If you get a positive recommendation from the committee, you can move on to the actual permit application. In this application you have to prove that you meet Montreal’s ridiculous food truck requirements. You have to prove you have a kitchen space independent of your food truck at which the preliminary prep of the food must be made and have to provide copies of your permits, lease, and property tax assessments to that effect. You also have to be insured for physical and material damages up to two million dollars.

If all of this goes through you might be lucky enough to get a food truck permit, but your joy will probably be short lived. Food truck permits are only good for one truck and can either last for a season or a year with only one automatic renewal option. The foods and drinks trucks can sell are also outrageously regulated.

Food trucks can’t sell booze (with an exception if it’s an ingredient in a dish). They can’t sell anything “buffet-style” and any prep has to be done at your independent kitchen. Only items included in the menu you sent to the committee can be sold from your food truck.

Forget about selling hot dogs, inexpensive tacos, or plain poutines from the truck as some of the selection criteria for a positive committee recommendation include creativity, originality, and whether or not basic ingredients are transformed while making the dish.

Food truck owners can forget about competing with restaurants because they can only sell their wares in zones designated by the City, usually far away from areas with a lot of restaurants.

With all these crazy requirements, it’s no wonder food truck offerings in Montreal seem sparse and unnecessarily fancy. If you want a pogo and fries, you won’t find them in a food truck selling fish tartare and gazpacho and you can thank the City and its selection committee for that.

If you add up the cost of having a kitchen or restaurant space, the food truck itself, the equipment, the food, and the crazy application process, food trucks don’t seem worth the trouble for those wanting to break in to the restaurant business. They’re better off taking their chances on a small restaurant or going into the catering business.

This is what restaurant owners in Montreal wanted all along: the maintenance of their control over the city’s food scene, and they kept it via their sway on municipal authorities. Where food trucks are concerned, what the City of Montreal calls a compromise is just a thinly veiled attempt to maintain a monopoly.

* Featured image from cuisinederue.org

With the heat hitting Montreal with full force this summer, you don’t want to miss out on some of the best food festivals around. What’s a better way to enjoy the sun than to have cold glass of beer and explore your taste buds? Take a peek at some of the food-related events and festivals happening in Montreal during the upcoming months:

First Fridays

premiers vendredisPlace: Olympic Park, Esplanade Financière Sun Life (4545 Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin)
Time: the first Friday of every month until October (4-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

First Fridays is essentially food truck heaven. Up to 47 different food trucks congregate on the first Friday of every month until October to offer a variety of foods that will blow you away. Good thing it’s around for a couple of months, because once isn’t close to enough to get a good taste of everything this festival has to offer. There will be live music on scene provided by evenko, so dance away with your taste buds on every First Friday!

Night Market

night marketPlace: In front of Alexandraplatz Bar (6731 Avenue de l’Esplanade)
Time: The last Saturday of every month until September (2-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

The Night Market is a monthly block party that celebrates local street cuisine in Montreal. Similar to First Fridays, Night Market features food trucks that offer a variety of food along with entertainment and local vendors. Support the local Montreal food community by heading over to the Mile-Ex on the last Saturday of every month until September!

Montreal Ribfest

Montreal ribfestPlace: Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough Hall parking log (13665 Pierrefonds Blvd)
Time: Fri. August 14 (11am-9pm), Sat. August 15 (11am-9pm), Sun. August 16 (11am-7pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

Meat lovers across Montreal have been counting down the days left until the Montreal Ribfest. Award winning ribs vendors from across North America will be grilling up a storm to satisfy that ribs craving you’ve had for ages. There will be live music to entertain you while you stuff yourself with a full rack (challenge yourself!). And the best part? The festival supports Canada’s leading youth mentoring charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Island.

Barbeque Bonanza

barbecue bonanzaPlace: Clock Tower Quay (Old Port)
Time: Sun. August 23
Admission: $45 (entrance and 4 coupons), $65 (entrance and 9 coupons)

Barbeque Bonanza is another charitable food festival that will blow your mind this upcoming August. With 26 restaurants showcasing cuisines from around the world and some proceeds going towards the Starlight Children’s Foundation Quebec, this is a culinary experience that you don’t want to miss. The variety of food that will be available at this festival guarantees that no matter what kind of food lover you are, you’ll find your fix. Not to mention that there will be alcohol served.

YUL EAT

yul eatPlace: Clock Tower Quay (Old Port)
Time: Sat. September 5 – Mon. September 7 (12-11pm)
Admission: Free (but bring $ for food!)

YUL EAT will be a dream turned into reality for true foodies living in Montreal. The festival, hosted by Les Premiers Vendredis and evenko, will feature leading professionals in the culinary industry to offer an unforgettable gastronomical experience – along with tastings, markets, demos, conferences, and more. We know this isn’t exactly during the summer, but who will be working during Labour Day Weekend, anyway?

* Featured image from cuisinederue.org

It’s once again time to roam the frozen streets in search of performative emancipation.

To keep you energized, here’s a randomized list of edibles available between 7 pm to 3 am.

Spontaneity is key here – so when it comes to Nuit Blanche food in 2015, pick what you like in the heat of the moment.

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In no order whatsoever (because Nuit Blanche is all about spontaneity), here are 10 eatable, drinkable temptations to drop into your itinerary:

1) Well, fine, maybe you’re the linear type. If you want a basic starting point, pay hommage to the Swiss theme of this year’s Montréal en Lumière fine dining program and warm up with some mouth-burning FONDUE. Other than the severely lactose-intolerant and this guy, who can, POSSIBLY, SAY NO TO FONDUE? What’s more, you’ll start your night off at the base of all activities: Place des Arts. –> Until 3 a.m.

2) Next, as the world is caving in all around us, why not pay tribute in an ironic way to the oil sands with a fracking-themed cocktail? Half-awareness tactic, half (hopefully) innovative gustatory delight, the Maison du développement durable has you covered with various edible “curiosités de pétrole.” –> Until 2 a.m.

3) Though not technically a food event, the Salon du Livre Gourmand makes use of the BaNQ’s always well-curated exhibition space, and this year the theme is feasting. Is this free feast for your mind’s eye worth it? Why, that’s alimentary, my dear Child!  –> Until 11 p.m.

4) Over in the Plateau, the cuvée d’hiver promises a ton of spiritual uplifting, from whisky to microbrews. Try a few bites at this event at the Église Saint-Enfant Jésus and catch some rock’n’roll – with electro-swing? Huh? anyway… Let me know when you get there!) –> Until 2 a.m.

5) Some people spend decades trying to get their name in lights. For $2, get can get your name in chocolate–> Until 1 a.m.

6) Le “Snow Food” is all about exploring the modes of outdoor eating. A special version of the Food-Truck-Fridays at Parc Olympique, this polar extravaganza by the Association des restaurateurs de rue du Québec is a sure bet, and a good way to get out east to check out the art of the Pôle Parc Olympique. –> Until 1 a.m.

Bonne_Nuit_blanche_a_tous_-_Montreal_en_lumiere7) Over at Artexte’s exhibits, you can get free hot choco while they’re still open. –> Until midnight.

8) Another polar menu is offered over in Parc Lafontaine by the quaint Éspace Lafontaine. Chef Martin Bérubé’s QC-focused goods feature polar salmon, something called “crispy storm” and a Qweebek Turkey kebab (not a Turkish one…get it?) Beers and wines on offer, too. –> Until midnight.

9) Similar to last year at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, you can check out candies and mulled wine – though this year while you’re perusing the exhibits of the Musée d’art contemporain. –> Until 2 a.m.

10) Finally, in the spirit of pure conjecture and blatant prejudice on my part, try out the Belgo building, which I love on Nuit Blanche, and whose art purveyors usually tack together some wacky snackbar, and maybe a dance party or disco as an added bonus. One never knows where your frozen-on-the-outside, sweaty-on-the-inside feet will lead you.

11) A user-generated “bonus” option where you help us fill our pages! Found your own tasty stop? Let us know: @ForgetTheBox or @JoshDavidson.

P.S.: we’re also going to be live-tweeting (until we get too cold, too lost, or too drunk), so keep us informed of your best discoveries all night long for some sweet, satiating retweets!

We all know Québecers love Florida. But do Miami and Montréal in particular have any kind of bond? A week ago, I would have said no.

But sometimes it pays to rent a car and follow your stomach. The first stop on my namesake quest took me to Schwartz of Miami, a surprising discovery which I discussed last week.

Here’s the rest of the rundown.

Copacabana

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How odd. Here I am in Spring Break Central, a town where 70% of the local population is Spanish-speaking, and a local Google search for Copacabana yields nothing. Meanwhile, I am reminded of the near-legendary status of Montréal’s booty-shaking venue de Maisonneuve Blvd.

I persist. And with some effort, I uncover Boteco Copacabana, a newish Brazilian resto with mixed reviews online. I track it down on foot, landing smack in the middle of Miami Beach’s less-glamorous, tourist-trappy pedestrian street, Espanola Way.

I approach with caution. Visions of our own flamboyant, booming Copa quickly recede as I spot a lonely man played guitar in a front window—Boteco Copacabana’s sole indoor patron.

Sad guitar playing manAnd while the streetside has customers, the food looks sad and the prices outrageous. As much as I’d love to waste $30 of my hard-earned dollars for a lousy plate of chicken, I need to save up for the journey.

Grumpys

Montréal’s Grumpys is a cozy and cavernous joint whose vibe—intentional irony?—is so good-natured that I always stay too long. There’s no Grumpys in Miami, but there is a long-lost-brother: Gramps.

IMG_3529Crusty on the exterior while remaining honest, loveable and addictively fun inside, Gramps is a last remnant of grunge in Miami’s quickly-gentrifying Design District. The city’s de facto dive bar radiates screeching guitars, is housed in a crumbling warehouse, and is even guarded by ZZ Top’s eldest grandson.

Casa del Popolo

It seems like a safe bet: generic Spanish name and all. So imagine my joy when, after a hot thirty minutes on South 22nd Street, I spot Casa Felipe. My joy turnes to disappointment when (instead of a café I could compare with our own) I realize I am approaching a cigar emporium. But then I turn the corner and suddenly, it was all worth it. Thanks, Obama.

Obama smokes a stogie in Miami

Le Cheese Truck

Just outside Gramps, I stumbled upon a southern sibling of Le Cheese Truck. I almost did a double-take! It was called Ms. Cheezious.

IMG_3521Even the down-to-earth dudes who ran it mirror the sweet, bubbly proprietors of Le Cheese. They are super nice and obviously have a loyal following. Sandwiches such as grilled blue and bacon, apple-pulled pork, all sounded tantalizing—if a bit unoriginal to me. Sadly, they are not up to par with our own boys’ endeavour. My “Shaved tavern ham” with spiced apple and sharp cheddar with tomato on sourdough was sloppily satisfying—great for après-bar. But frankly, I was struggling to see why anyone would pay $10 for that when the same price would yield something much more flavourful and original chez Le Truck (such as the chili with cheese curds or their fabulous mac n cheese).

Varadero

In rush-hour-induced moment of contemplation on our two towns, I was struck with the fact that throngs of Montréalers escape to Varadero on a whim while Miamians—whose roots extend far deeper into the country than, uh, Sunwing—have no such luck themselves.

To make up for it, they have places like Varadero II, a run-of-the-mill Cuban bakery somewhere near nowheresville, (I later learn it’s called Tamiami).

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Handing my fate over to the lady behind Varadero‘s counter, I am summarily presented with a pastellito de guyaba. What a revelation. The flaky, unsweetened exterior gives way to muted, silky cheese. All fine and good. But then: the sweetish aftertaste of that mild queso suddenly bleeds—miraculously—into a gooey, ultra-sweet guava jam. Insane! At 75 cents, my blood sugar will be thankful that I won’t be able to find this in Montréal.

But I include this anecdote only to conclude that, subtle bonds aside, Montréal needs more Cuban food. While my stop at this and this Cuban cafeteria were both exceptional, it was that tiny bakery on SW 8th Street that truly tipped the scales.

More Cuban flavours on our frigid streets can only make this a warmer, happier, healthier place.

 

Roaming for art all night is great. But how will you stay energized?

nuit-2A blizzard of delicious detours are on offer to keep you boozed up and well fed from 7 pm to 7 am. From free beer and ice cream samples to chocolate fountains, tartars and pirate rums, we’ve paired culinary events with reliable restos to keep you covered all along your Nuit Blanche route.

In no order whatsoever (because Nuit Blanche is all about spontaneity), here are 29 eatable, drinkable temptations to drop into your itinerary:

1) Heading out from the Plateau just before 7 p.m.? Perfect timing. Grab a quick espresso at Flocon first before they close.

2) Try smoked meat or Belgian waffles in the thick of the chaos at Place des Arts. Too boring? What about Haïtian pork, empanadas or maple delights? Same location.

3) Skate the night away: the gloriously-located Éspace La Fontaine is offering mulled wine and an impromptu menu overlooking the skating rink at Parc Lafontaine.

4) While you’re nearby, stop at historic La Banquise for a kamikaze poutine (merguez, hot peppers & Tabasco).

5) Just down the street at La Quincaillerie you can play games while you drink notable house cocktails such as Boulon (vodka/chambord/cranberry/pineapple)

6) Oh, Musée des Beaux-Arts, you’re getting more down to earth each year! This year our beloved MBAM is offering beer tasting alongside a chocolate fountain.What could be a better combo?

7) Make fanzines & get free hot drinks at Geordie’s Espace 4001. 4001 Berri.

8) Grab free sorbet à la pig roast at Les Givrés—all while playing free games!

Bonne_Nuit_blanche_a_tous_-_Montreal_en_lumiere

9) Obtain a free coffee from McDonalds at Guy & Ste-Catherine after checking out the nifty FOFA Gallery show at Concordia

10) Gnaw on killer sandwiches from Zoe’s Food Truck at Parc Olympique

11) Still at the Parc, try La fameuse poutine (winner of the Drummondville Poutine Fest) at Lucky’s food truck, or nibble on other street eats from the six other food trucks stationed

12) What Would Alexandre Despaties Do? Who knows. But you can learn what he likes to eat and keep the Olympic spirit alive with Saveurs Olympiques, a cross-pollination of chefs and athletes at Vertige. Warning: expensive tapas.

13) Slurp up some squid ink spaghetti at the always-solid Venti before dub-stepping the night away at PHI Centre

14) Try free beers and commemorate an old Montréal business (the now-defunct Dow Brewery) at ETS

15) Arrrrrr! Six pirate rums are on offer at Cabaret du Roy. Try all of ‘em for the reasonable price of $30 (pace yourself)

map16) Grab free food samples from Rue St-Denis merchants until 12 a.m. between Marie-Anne and Mt-Royal (oh, free ice sculptures too: no licking the transparent animals).

17) Steal some value: curry & BYO-wine. Take a 9 p.m. Plateau break at La Belle Thailandaise.

18) Fill your stomach with all night poutine at La Fameux (24 hours, one of my favourites). My tip:  pair it with their copious Greek salad (best kept secret in town). 4500 St-Denis.

19) Pause for a trio of tartares at Hachoir

20) Go for a brain freeze with a quick ice cream at Crémerie Meu Meu. 4458 St-Denis.

21) What? You’re STILL on St-Denis near Mont-Royal? Re-energize your subconscious mind at Bily Kun with real absinthe. Pair it with a plate of cornichons and olives. Backup choice: Kun’s amazing Slivovice plum brandy

22) Eat oysters with tangerine jelly and dulse (joyous) at illustrious Au Cinquème Péché. Pair it with wine using this handy illustration.

23) Amuse your bouche at Le Sensorium’s performance work on phosphorous.

Gardy Fury - Restaurant Le Chasseur -  ©Frédérique Ménard-Aubin via Flickr
Gardy Fury – Restaurant Le Chasseur – ©Frédérique Ménard-Aubin via Flickr

24) Kick back with friends over a friendly pitcher at Auprès de ma blonde. 3845 St-Denis.

25) Drink microbrews while answering tough questions at Quiz night at Randolph Pub Ludique.

26) Taste the south-west! A personal fave: the Centre Culturel Georges Vanier is featuring Itsi Bitsi cupcakes, Burgungy Lion & Drinkerie booze and more alongside music, games and light installations.

27) Drink and learn from serious gamers at La Recreation as part of the Montréal Joue festival

28) Indulge your sweet-tooth with cupcakes & macaroons in the plastic Provigo dome at Place des arts.

29) Consume hot drinks, sweets and yoga for a voluntary contribution at Vert Prana yoga studio

Found your own tasty stop? Let us know: @forgetthebox

In honour of Montreal finally getting with the times and allowing some food trucks to roll out onto city streets this summer, we thought it was high time we share our food truck wish list with the rest of you. Here you go. You’re welcome.

The Brunch Truck

Yep, we want it. Forget waiting in line for an hour to sit at a teeny tiny table in a packed restaurant on a hot summer day. We want to get some delicious potatoes and a benny from a truck and then go sit in a nice park somewhere and eat it. An added bonus here is that no one will think it’s weird when we lie down and sleep our breakfasts (and the booze still lingering in our systems from last night), off.

The Meat on a Stick Truck

Anyone who’s ever been to an Asian country will agree; meat on a stick is THE BEST. Why? Fuck if we know, it just is.

The Soup Truck

So this is a bit of a tricky one because the food trucks won’t likely be  open year-round and soup is best when it’s cold out. However, soup is also less fattening than most other foods and often chock-full of veggies (kind of like liquid salad, but yummier), which is the kind of shit you want to eat in the summertime. Also, soup is delicious. Not grosspacho though, that shit is just wrong.

The Booze Truck

Yeah, yeah, we know, it’ll never happen. But so what? This is our wish list and we’ll put whatever the hell we want on it. Don’t like it? Go make your own goddam list asshole! Jeez.

Anyway, we’d like a booze food truck. One where you can get all kinds of bevvies to wet your parched liver, but where the food is also all boozy…think beer battered chicken with bourbon-gravied poutine and kahlua cheesecake for dessert.  Yum.

food truck montreal 3

The Bacon Truck

Obviously this truck will make so much money and everyone will love it. Bacon is good with everything. Seriously though, we dare you to think up one single thing that wouldn’t be good with bacon. Even if you can, you’re wrong.

The Tartare Truck

This one was editor Erin Hogg’s idea. Personally, I’m not sold on it. Basically, everything would be raw meat. The fun here is that it would kind of be like playing Rushian roulette…but with FOOD! Maybe you’ll be in agonizing pain for hours, shitting your brains out while puking in a garbage can at the same time, but also maybe not! We think this truck might appeal to really macho dudes and all those weirdos who only eat raw foods. Rawatarians? Rawdies? Rawstafarians? Rawnivores? Whatever.

The Non-Anonymous Meat truck

At this truck, your burger would come with a bio. You would know your dinner’s name, where it grew up, who its parents were, what kind of music it was into, the name of its first love and who it voted for in the last election. Personally, we’d have no problem chowing down on some stupid jerk chicken who voted for Harper. ‘Cause that guy sucks balls.

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Have your own food truck wish list? Tell us all about it in the comments section!

* photos by Chris Zacchia