Across North America there’s a street food renaissance going on. From the humble hot dog stand to the gourmet sandwich slingers, folks across the continent are increasingly interested in eating outdoors. While Montreal has followed suit, the food truck scene here has hit a few potholes along the way. Back in 1947, street food was banned on sanitary grounds, and the brick-and-mortar restaurant lobby was happy to dispense with the competition. Since then, food trucks have re-emerged just under 10 years ago at festivals, street fairs and private events. In 2013, the city launched a pilot project, allowing a small number of trucks to set up shop—albeit with certain restrictions. Potential operators had to submit a business plan to a regulatory board, their menus also had to be approved by a panel and—most importantly—they had to operate out of a professional kitchen with a fixed address.
Predictably, results have been mixed at best. Entrepreneurs have struggled to make street food profitable as expensive permits, restrictions on where they are permitted to serve food and, above all, the need to rent a separate prep kitchen have gotten in the way. Because of the menu restrictions and the costs to businesses that come with food trucks, many Montrealers tend to find vendors are on the pricier side, and that’s also limited their appeal to customers. As a result, in 2015, the number of participating trucks was down from 41 to 21.
Grumman ’78 lead the street food charge in Montreal of 2010, before the city’s program began, wherever they could find a space to legally serve their fusion tacos. They have since opened a permanent counter at their production kitchen in Saint-Henri. Grumman co-owner Gaëlle Cerf helped found and is now vice-president of the Quebec Food Truck Association, which is working with the city to get more trucks on the streets and in event spaces around town. For the time being, street food is largely confined to festivals in public spaces and major events, but in the meantime, you can check out Grumman ‘78’s new location at the Time Out Market Montreal, where they’ll be serving creative taco options like popcorn chicken and banh mi, their famous Papas ’78 sweet potato fries, daily tostadas and a tomato salad with a ranch sauce and cornbread crumble.
Time Out Market Montréal is now open to the public inside the Centre Eaton de Montréal (705 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, niveau 1). Hours: Monday to Wednesday 8am—9pm, Thursday to Friday 8am—midnight, Saturday 9am—midnight, Sunday 9am—9pm