‘a la Cart’ will tempt tourists to Toronto: Filion

Eight street food vendors could provide the culinary foundation needed to give Toronto a global dining reputation.

Launched on March 17, Toronto a la Cart is a new street food program designed to increase the city’s dining diversity. The program features eight carts in specific locations serving eight different ethnic cuisines.

A la Cart has the support of city councillor John Filion, who is also the chair of the Toronto Board of Health.

“Over time this will help brand Toronto for … the depth of (its) ethnic diversity,” Filion said. “People will start talking about Toronto as a destination to … experience the absolutely incredible food we have from every corner of the world.”

Until the recent regulation changes, street vendors could only sell hot dogs and sausages. Filion noted that the cuisines represented in the new program are Thai, Caribfusion, Afghani, Persian, Korean, Greek, Eritrean and Middle Eastern.

Andrew Weir, Tourism Toronto’s vice-president of communications, likes the a la Cart program. He suggested that the program in itself cannot brand the city, but can keep visitors coming back.

“The branding of Toronto comes from individual experiences,” Weir said. “The incidental and accidental encounters are often the most memorable.”

Weir said visitors often remember the real-life interactions on their travels more than tourist attractions.

The current eight-cart program is a trial, but Filion likes the potential for growth.

“I’ll be surprised and disappointed if we are not expanding,” he said.

Filion said success shouldn’t be measured by vendor food sales alone. He hopes the program will enliven public spaces and engage people in food chatter. In the long run, he said that a cross-cultural pollination of foods would help define Toronto.

Weir said that Toronto is one of the great urban destinations in the world and for those tourists who enjoy cities, the expansion of the street food program will add to the experience.

Assessment will take place over the summer and a report presented to the Board of Health in the fall.