List of food trucks and restaurants chalked on the sidewalk

Restaurants are some of the most energy intensive businesses on the planet. Cars are some of the most energy intensive means of transportation. Put them together, and you have some serious energy issues. But that also means energy innovations in mobile restaurants can offer ideas and inspiration not found anywhere else.

Enter the food truck—and why BizEnergy spent last Friday afternoon checking out SewHungry 2011 in Hamilton.

Ten food trucks. At least eight local restaurants. All  joining forces, turning Hamilton’s Ottawa Street into a foodie’s fantasy for an estimated 8,000 visitors.

And, although lineups were long, spirits were high and, eventually, stomachs were satisfied.

Caplansky's deli food truck

Lineups at Caplansky's Deli truck

Although Ottawa Street has been the heart of Hamilton’s textile district since the 1920s, it’s also recently become a destination for antique hunters and foodies alike. With the weekly farmers’ market (Friday and Saturday, 7-3, year-round) and new restaurants opening up and down the street, it was really only a matter of time before this cool little street tapped in to the city’s coolest new food trend: food trucks.

Food trucks have been catching on in popularity in the States for the last couple of years, with Ontario merchants dipping their toes in the mobile-food waters over the last year. And although bureaucratic red tape continues to make operating one challenging, the food truck trend has only grown.

Hamilton and Niagara have a great collection of local food trucks, serving everything from grilled cheese to South-Asian and Latin street food to snow cones to cupcakes (and more cupcakes). They’re joined by Toronto-based counterparts, including Caplansky’s Deli and Smoke’s Poutine (which also has a bricks-and-mortar store in Hamilton). Sew Hungry featured ten mobile vendors (see the complete list of food trucks here) as well as booths from local restaurants.

Lining up for prawn tacos and chili-corn fritters at El Gastronomo Vagabundo

The BizEnergy team took in Sew Hungry and chose, rather than stand in line at multiple trucks, to concentrate on one truck and really savour their offerings.

We chose El Gastronomo Vagabundo for a number of reasons: mostly because we couldn’t resist the tempura-battered prawn tacos and corn-chili fritters (and good grief, were they ever good) but also because one of us had sampled Smoke’s pulled-pork poutine earlier that week and didn’t want to risk having too much of a very, very good thing.

But while the tacos were delicious and the caramel-ginger iced tea refreshing, what’s particularly cool about El Gastro is their dedication to sustainable, local cuisine and to being energy-efficient wherever possible. All take-out dishes and utensils are biodegradable, and ingredients are either sourced directly from local producers or bought through locally owned businesses in the owners’ hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. What’s more, the vegetable oil used in their deep fryer gets recycled into biofuel for local farms. That was more than enough motivation for the BizEnergy team to cop a squat on a nearby bench and revel in deep fried fritter goodness.

Dips and "spinkels" are extra (click to enlarge image)

We were hoping to cap off our Asian-fusion lunch with some Hamilton-made cupcakes, but alas, both cupcake trucks were sold out by the time we got to them. The team was almost tempted by the offer of some old-school soft serve (with “spinkels”) but decided to err on the side of restraint.

Although feedback on the event’s Facebook wall suggests that this kind of event would do even better on a weekend, the Friday lunchtime experiment worked extremely well, with many of the trucks running out of supplies by the end of the day because of the overwhelming demand.

Never mind. Given the success of Sew Hungry 2011, and the disappointed groans of those unable to make it, there’s no doubt the next food truck event in Hamilton will be just as successful.

Stay tuned—we’re not finished with food trucks yet. We’ve got a couple of posts coming up about what food trucks can teach bricks-and-mortar restaurants about energy use and sustainable food.