Monday, July 6, 2015

Front Street Foods opens at Union Station

Toronto is putting the finishing touches on the City to showcase it to the world.  With a lot of new projects being spit polished in time for the start of the Pan Am Games.  Projects including the new UP Express to the airport, the completed Harbourfront construction (finally) and even the platform at Union Station has also opened up just in time.

But one of the things that I was most interested in was the opening of the FRONT STREET FOODS Market in the space in front of Union Station.  Normally this area is a deadzone of nothing but maybe a few taxis standing by and people trying to get their trains and maybe the odd promotional giveaway.  But starting today until the end of August both visiting Pan Am guests and locals will have a great spot to get some grub and a little sunshine.

I ventured down today to check out the set up and to see what food vendors have for sale.

There are 28 vendors set up in small adjoining stalls and there is bench seating and also bistro seating on the other side with some umbrellas.

The assortment of vendors is really a pretty good reflection of Canada while not being obviously Canadian.  Although I found that some vendors seemed like a better fit for the space than others.

When I think of a space like this I think that it is a place you can get quick and easy bites or small meals depending on how much time you have to spare if you are commuting or just passing through during your day.

The booth that caught my interest the most was CAVA,  they are venturing out from their restaurant at Yonge and St. Clair.  They are known for their Pinxto sandwich bites but they also will be making Paella daily.  Unlike any of the other street vendors around the city they had cured hams hanging up in their booth that they will be shaving off slices for their menu.  They are also making some really killer rosemary frites which I sampled today.  I also picked up a really great looking chocolate chip cookie but I am saving that one for later.  Something you don't see around town is Foie mousse in a small mason jar to take home for $14.  I didn't pick one up but considered it.  It comes with a baguette aparentely but it would also pair up nicely with one of fellow vendor Fred's Bread's Baguettes.  It seemed odd to find Fred's bread's there but they did have all kinds of pastries.   I picked up a baguette and an asparagus foccaccia bread.

You can also get fresh roasted corn on the cob from Might Cob and you can even get it in a cup with different seasonings.  I just got the original one for $3 and added some spices to it.  The mixed ones are about $5.  I like this concept because it's real fresh food and the fact that you can just grab corn on the cob and walk down the street or corn in a cup that you can walk and eat or sit down and enjoy seems to be a good fit for this space and it was very popular.

Other notable vendors include HOLY CHUCK who have 2 locations, one at Yonge & St. Clair and one in Woodbridge.  Although I didn't get a burger because you need to be really hungry for one of their burgers I do think it's another good fit for the grab and go crowd that love burgers but maybe not the regular fast food chains.

There seemed to be a bit of duplication with Little Fin and Fresh Off the Boat both serving lobster and crab dishes.  The portions looked pretty hefty on the Crab poutine from Fresh Off the Boat but Little fin had a shrimp skewer and salad dish to balance things out.

To drink there was Station Cold Brew who have been at all the food festivals lately and also Hula Girl who had butter coffee at the Exhibition last year.  One of the healthier things at the Market was Greenhouse Juice Co. and i bet their juices will do well with the weary commuters.

Food by Toben seemed to be a very popular vendor with their Mac & Cheese sold out by the time I got there after lunch.  They were serving up some hefty classic meals and I hope to try them out in the future.

Also sold out by the time I got there at 2pm was the famous Uncle Tetsu's cheesecake.  I believe there was a huge lineup in the morning.  I have yet to sample their cheesecake.  I will wait for the hype to die down.

There was also the first custard Ice Cream in the city there.  I didn't try it so I don't know what it's like yet.

A couple of things that seemed out of place to me were Jimmie's cracked corn Popcorn which is good because I have tried it before at farmer's markets but seems odd in that space for some reason.

Also an odd choice is Mad Mexican serving up their nacho chips and dips.  I think it would make more sense if they packaged up little take away chips and dip for one that you could grab and have for a quick snack.  It seemed like they were really pushing it on the people there.  Not something I would go there for even though I like their products.
Overall I have to say that I like seeing these kind of markets that give local vendors a chance to serve food to tourists and the people of Toronto and would love to see these things have more of a permanent space like the great market they have in Boston.

I hope Torontonian's don't get scared away by the throngs of people in town for the Pan Am games but maybe they won't go there because they will be so busy trying to figure out how to get around the city for their events.  
Will see how this goes.  I hope it's successful and it returns again next year just for us food loving Torontonians.

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