Tag Archives: Food truck

Broadway Bound: The food truck wave finally hits Winnipeg in a big way.

The food truck/cart industry has always been a staple on the Winnipeg summer landscape. From the chip stands of the early 1930’s right up to modern smokie hotdog carts that dot the Winnipeg summer landscape like dandelions on a prairie field. So why all of the interest in what could be called nouveau gourmand food movement of bringing typically high end restaurant fare and serving it curbside out of a mobile trailer?

Hot Dog Cart

Hot Dog carts dot the Winnipeg Landscape

Personally I think it’s about the whole democratization of food, the idea proposed by so many of the crop of new talented cooks and chefs in typically high-end, high pressure jobs. Patrons are starting to suffer from white table-cloth fatigue, the idea of getting dressed up and paying high-end prices for everything but the food is wearing thin. Just think about it, if you go to say 529 Wellington and order a meal you’re not only paying for the food you’re paying for the cost of maintaining the building, the staff, the food supply chain and on and on. Winnipeggers are a fiercely cheap and efficient lot, we brag about how little we paid for something rather than how expensive something is. It only seems to reason that eventually it would filter down to our food choices.

Now I am not saying that Winnipeg invented the high-end food truck, that phenomenon has gone on for years in other enlightened cities having only recently caught on in a big way here due to City Hall’s reluctance to let the inevitable happen.

On any given weekday lunchtime during Winnipeg’s all too brief spring and summer one can wander downtown to Broadway Avenue, the heart of Winnipeg’s open air food scene.  As the office towers break for lunch thousands of hungry men and women emerge ready to see the delights awaiting them where grilled smokies and hamburgers once dominated the dining scene.

One sunny spring day I took an hour out of my day and investigated the food truck landscape of East Broadway; here is what I found.

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Taco, Taco, Taco: El Torrito comida de la calle

As many of you already know I am a big fan of pointing my jeep in a random direction and exploring the street food options in my home city of Winnipeg.   This long weekend the direction was simple to choose, I headed downtown to the afternoon site of the El Torrito taco truck.

The Winnipeg street food scene has long been dominated by scores of smokie carts and burger trucks that have a strangle hold on the Canadian street food market.  But just last month I began hearing rumblings of something exciting and new, at first I thought people were talking about a trip down to Mexico or chatting about a Food Network program they had seen on taco vendors.  But they insisted there was indeed a taco truck in Winnipeg, and they even had a following on Twitter.

Intrigued to the point of obsession I made it my mission to find this elusive taco truck and taste its bill of fare.  Indeed El Torrito (@ElTorrito1) does have a large following on Twitter and a write-up in the local pages of Metro.

El Torrito comida de la calle

When I came upon the truck at its downtown lunchtime location, I could smell and hear the difference from across Portage Avenue.  The aromas of savoury meats being grilled and the pumping music from a boom box had a small crowd wondering what this apparition was, unaccustomed to having a Mexican option the crowd watched as I bravely strode up to the front window.

Immediately a friendly face appeared from inside and offered me the daily El Grandé  special.  Three tacos (beef or chicken) and an authentic chorizo dog with chips and drink for $10.  How could I say no to that?

As I ordered the cook and co-owner Ian Bowman smiled at my enthusiasm and shouted over the music how hot I wanted my tacos.  I replied “hot, but don’t make my face melt off.”  He laughed and said with a sly grin, “but I like to make faces melt!”

Simple and authentic taco goodness

The tacos themselves are based on traditional Mexican street food, if you’re looking for hard-shelled tacos covered in cheese and cliché then you’ve come to the wrong truck my friend.  Simple is the name of the game here, and fresh is how they taste.  Hot grilled meat, some salsa verdé, tomato and a hit of cilantro wrapped up in a warm tortilla is what you get.  A lime on the side and some chili sauce for heat makes for simple street taco perfection.

The chorizo dog was also very good, a mild pork sausage also served with salsa verdé, onions and tomato was a welcome break from the smokie sausages that Winnipeggers are accustomed to.

Overall my first impressions of El Torrito were good although the tacos seem a bit small and not overly laden with meat, by local standards they are still a bargain at 3 for 5 dollars.  The condiments are fresh and the service is enthusiastic, more than once I saw the cook poking his head out to see if I was enjoying my lunch.

So if you’re in need of a change look the taco truck up on twitter (@ElTorrito1) and head down for a bit of spice this summer.