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City council mulls wider variety of food cart options

The Toronto a la Cart food stand located at Nathan Phillips Square in 2009. It was part of Toronto's failed pilot program to provide a wider variety of food cart options.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Expansion is on the menu for Toronto's hot dog carts, with councillors set to consider other food options for the sidewalk vendors.

The proposal is part of a ongoing review of the city's street food policy. If approved by council next month, it will allow the city's many street carts to begin selling immediately such items as: pre-packaged salads and nuts; whole fruits and vegetables, including corn on the cob; bagels; tea and coffee; and precooked veggie burgers. It also opens the door for vendors to add other offerings, as long as they receive the go-ahead from the city's health department.

The move to add variety to Toronto street offerings follows an earlier ill-fated experiment that was quietly ended last year. It also comes as pressure mounts to allow food trucks to do business in a variety of locations. A full report on street food is expected from city staff this fall.

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"We are going to try and come up with a solution that satisfies everyone," said Bruce Robertson, director of licensing services for Toronto.

In the interim, the chance to sample a variety of food from carts as early as this summer, was greeted with enthusiasm by customers and vendors doing business on the city's hot streets Thursday.

"We need more choices, yes," said Yvonne Salmon before biting into a jerk chicken sausage outside Mount Sinai Hospital.

That sausage came from the cart of Marianne Moroney, executive director of the Street Food Vendors Association. Ms. Moroney worked with the board of health to get permission to add items such as pulled pork, prime rib and sweet potatoes to her menu, all prepared in the kitchen of a nearby steakhouse. Hot dogs and sausages still represent about three-quarters of her business, but Ms. Moroney said the lunchtime lineups at her cart are proof Toronto has an appetite for more.

"It's brought other people that normally wouldn't stop at a hot dog stand," she said.

The changes will be considered on Thursday by the city's licensing and standards committee and by council in July.

It's about time, said Councillor Paula Fletcher: "To be limited to hot dogs and sausages is a little behind the times."

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