Get carted away by T.O. snack shacks

A mar­tial arts–in­spired hot dog cart and more

Thornhill Post - - Food - by Jes­sica Wei

Not too long ago, Toronto’s mo­bile and shack-sized eater­ies were lim­ited to hot dogs and the very oc­ca­sional ice cream truck. Around North Amer­ica, food trucks blos­somed into a culi­nary cul­ture of their very own. Port­land got their food cart pods, L.A. put Korean tacos from the back of a mo­bile eatery on the map, and Mon­treal sent out its gas­tro­nomic pride and joy, Au Pied de Co­chon, in an up­cy­cled UPS truck and won hearts across the city with a $6 sous-vide pork tongue sand­wich served on a dough­nut. Toronto, in re­sponse, had “Toronto à la Cart,” a short-lived pi­lot pro­gram that forced lo­cal restau­ra­teurs to ap­ply for ex­pen­sive li­cences and pur­chase even more ex­pen­sive uni­form carts, some­thing at least one may­oral can­di­date at the time dubbed, “Toronto à la Fail­ure.”

Eight years later, one can hardly call T.O.’s food truck and cart land­scape a “scene,” but we’re well be­yond our mea­gre sausage-and­stale-bun be­gin­nings. Take a walk, and you may find a gem. But blink, and you may miss it: It could be tucked away in a plaza vestibule or at the mouth of a park­ing lot or even per­ma­nently parked on the (for­mer) long­est street in the world. Here we have as­sem­bled some of Toronto’s lit­tle-known street eats.

Kung Fu Dawg

Kung Fu Dawg isn’t your av­er­age street meat stand. The ar­ti­sanal hot dog maker op­er­ates from a lit­tle shack set up in front of a park­ing lot next to a well-graf­fi­tied con­crete build­ing on Oss­ing­ton Av­enue. De­spite its minis­cule premises, this hot dog stand slings su­per-sized serv­ings of hand­made pork and beef franks, as well as a soy-based veg­gie op­tion, heaped with gobs and gobs of artery-clog­ging ac­cou­trements of un­usu­ally high qual­ity, in­clud­ing baked beans, home­made chili, squeeze cheese and fen­nel slaw. Also on of­fer are corn dogs hand dipped on-site in house-made bat­ter. Now there’s a good dog. 19 Oss­ing­ton Ave., 647-208-2445

Kim’s à la Cart

The sole sur­vivor of the Toronto à La Cart pro­gram, Kim’s à La Cart is still planted in front of a Shop­pers Drug Mart at Yonge and Finch, hav­ing re­moved its wheels and rigged up a more se­cure roof early on to with­stand the win­ter cold. It’s be­come main­stay, a beloved churn­ing neigh­bour­hood out an im­pres­sive ar­ray of down-home Korean street eats for folks com­ing out of the karaoke bar only steps away, as well as other passersby. It’s got com­pul­sively snack­able dumplings, pan-fried squid, pork belly skew­ers and noo­dle soup, but the star of the menu is the taiyaki. These fish-shaped red bean cakes are en­cased in a crispy bat­ter, freshly un­moulded from a wide, cir­cu­lar, “how do they fit that in there?”–style, ro­tat­ing taiyaki iron. 5576 Yonge St.

Mr. Chu

Nes­tled out­side the vestibule of an Asian gro­cery store by Yonge and Finch, Mr. Chu is the kind of place you could walk by a mil­lion times with­out notic­ing. But the spe­cialty items are more eye-catch­ing than the yel­low cart from which Mr. Chu op­er­ates. They turn out gi­ant clouds of candy floss dou­ble the size of your head and horse­shoe­shaped Korean chur­ros (in­deed a thing) glazed with a choice of con­densed milk, choco­late, matcha or cream cheese and topped with peanuts or Oreos. Want that churro on a serv­ing of black sesame ice cream? You got it. Want a lit­tle puff of candy floss tossed in there for the ‘ gram? With sprin­kles? Mr. Chu’ll do that, too. Want it on a uni­corn? Fine, Mr. Chu doesn’t have uni­corns. But by the time you’ve come down from your midafter­noon sugar high, will it even mat­ter? 15B Finch Ave. W., 647241-1889

L–R: Kung Fu Dawg owner Stephen Payne and Mr. Chu’s gi­gan­tic cot­ton candy

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