It's not often you hear a grilled cheese sandwich described as "a religious experience."
But Daniel Fazio, one of the masterminds behind the annual Food Cart Fest, says that's how great the gourmet spin on the classic comfort food is at Mom's Grilled Cheese – one of the 20 top food carts that will converge on the Olympic Village every Sunday starting this weekend.
"It's why people love these trucks. Nothing is mediocre," he says. "It's the best grilled cheese sandwich you have ever had in your life."
It's been just five years since the City of Vancouver relaxed restrictions and allowed an array of vendors to sell tasty eats on city streets – and ever since, food-cart culture has taken off.
Now in its fourth year, the Food Cart Fest hand picks some of the city's best and most diverse vendors, and they dish out spicy pakoras and pupusas, tasty fish tacos and rich Breton crepes, gourmet ice cream and artisan popsicles – even wood-fire oven pizza from the only truck of its kind in the country.
Favourite Vancouver restaurants have also been wheeling in on the action, with Vij's Railway Express offering Indian fusion favourites, and The Reef Runner serving up West Indian roti, Jamaican patties, their famed jerk-chicken poutine and more.
Among the go-to offerings are saltimbocca sandwiches from Via Tevere, chicken karaage from Mogu, fruit smoothies from The Juice Truck, and chicken and waffles from Yolk's Breakfast, which is run by two veteran chefs. "It's everything delicious all at the same time," Mr. Fazio says.
The fest has also beefed up its Athlete's Village presence with an open-air market; an expanded kids' zone; live DJs spinning laid-back hip hop, soul and funk; a six-table Ping-Pong area where top competitors can win their lunch; and a 400-capacity licensed patio where festival-goers can sip local craft brews and B.C. wines with their food-cart fare.
And while street food can be a wasteful exercise, the fest enforces strict rules on compostable packaging – so much so that last summer, they produced just a single household's worth of landfill waste. They also emphasize local ingredients.
So with 20 trucks to choose from, what's the best way to navigate the fest? "Bring a bunch of friends, spread out, get a bunch of stuff from different trucks, then meet back up and get bites from each other. That's the best strategy," says Mr. Fazio, who also recommends coming for a late breakfast, hanging out on the patio, playing a game or two of Ping-Pong, then going back for more. "And come hungry."