Mar 30, 2012

The new face of Montreal Street Food?

By Andrea Doucet Donida

Toqué!'s idea of street food: white chocolate mousse with dry fruit chips

« What are your thoughts about street food? » asked Marie-Claude Lortie to a panel of 4 guests invited to talk about Quebec gastronomy… after an awkward silence, Montreal‘s most respected chef Normand Laprise of the famous Toqué restaurant, murmured « if it’s quality food, there is a place for it».

Les rencontres La Presse - With Marie-Claude Lortie, Chef Graziella Battista, Normand Laprise, Dyan Solomon and Daniel Vézina

Montreal has no street food per say; it has been forbidden and made illegal since 1947. Mainly for sanitary reason, but we are no better nor worse than any other city, so how come New Yorkers and Torontonians can grab a quick bite on the sidewalk and we cannot? The harsh weather which has been invoked as another potential reason isn’t fooling anyone.

The awkward silence during the gastronomy talk organized by La Presse and featuring Chef Normand Laprise, Chef Daniel Vézina, Dyan Solomon of Olive et Gourmando and Chef Graziella Battista is probably the most revealing: restaurants do not want the extra competition.

But what about the restaurants who do want to adventure out of their concrete walls? Some are pushing, or at least making efforts to show how Montreal Street Food can be creative, delicious and part of our culinary culture!

A few weeks ago, the now melted Snow Village on Ste-Hélène Island, was showcasing just that: extraordinary street-food in a very Nordic setting.

Interesting to note that Toqué! (a Relais & Château restaurant) was there, offering the most beautiful and delicious hand held desserts like the white chocolate and yogurt mousse on an ice cream cone, covered with dried fruit chips -blueberry, strawberry and sea-buckthorn! Amazing!

There was of course the Grumman78’s taco truck, the most visible leader of this movement in Montreal. They are trying very hard to get the city to change their bylaw so that they could adventure out of the limited Festival territories and roam our streets bringing the finest tacos to all.

Ok, they are not saving lives, but wouldn’t our streets be livelier if from time to time you would cross path with a brilliant aroma of pulled pork or fresh salmon? Or if when strolling down the streets you could munch on warm Toqué cookies, or discover the joys of the Satay’s Brother’s steam buns?

It’s an open question, to you and Montreal to answer. Hoping there will not be only silence that follows it, I leave you with some pictures of what the new face of Montreal Street food can look like, even when surrounded by snow.

The Satay Brothers

Oysters at their best - au naturel! ;-)

Grilled cheese with 3 Quebec cheeses and straw potato chips by La Fabrique

Amazing Lamb Tacos by Grumman'78

Grumman'78 famous taco truck. Will we see them free on the street one day?

French Fries by Brit & Chips

Boris Bistro is ready for the Streets of Montreal!

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  1. I'm in absolute awe of the excuses I've found for the reasoning of not having street food. Its crazy, and nobody really ever gets a straight answer, which is what makes it hard to fight the system itself.

    The mayor tries to emulate what Paris has, so let us have crepe stands. Its already hard enough for young chefs to break out on their own, a cheaper venue would give them a shot instead at their own business.

    1. I agree. Yes, lets have Crepe stands! ;-) I asked several highly placed people in the City about this, and no one seems to have Street Food on their radar...Maybe if people keep talking about it, things will start to change. Hopefully, examples of Street food done right, like this event, are baby steps in the right direction...


    1. Thanks for reading! I always appreciate feedback from readers, however your comments would be more relevant if you didn't yell them and especially if you did a little research beforehand... I don't advertise, I write about what I find interesting, I never wrote "Jap" in one of my articles and my mother tongue is French. You can check out my French blog:
      I know my English is not perfect, but as I live in this beautiful city of Montreal, I do my best to communicate with both "solitude". Have a great day.

  3. I completely agree, the Montreal food scene is more then ready for street food. I don't believe for a second street food would be a competitor of Toque or Graziela. People who feel like grabbing a quick bite wouldn't just go to a sit down dinner at a restaurant instead. The lamb taco makes me droole and it's only 9 a.m.!
    Great topic, excellent article

    1. Thank you!! The lamb taco was very tasty indeed. Grumman78 recently opened at Faubourg Ste-Catherine near Concordia, so we can now enjoy more often their tacos!

  4. Hi.

    I think the answer would be very easy if Montreal and Montreralers would learn and accept the fact that we are not better or worst than any other place around the world and deal with it accordingly.

    We are not special regardless what they are preaching about our so called distinct society. All societies differ from one and other, yet common sense prevails when it comes to deal with simple matters.
    All the reasonings about things we can not have here comes off as ignorance and arrogance basically telling us that the rest of the world is doing something which we know for fact that is wrong, but relax people because here we have geniuses looking after our interests.

    As a person who lived in four countries and many cities I could make a long list of missing daily conveniences alongside with our banned street food vendors and again people trying to justify it with hygiene and moaning restaurant owners, like the scenario would be unique to Montreal. It is not, but again this what they want us to believe, plain and simple.