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27 July 2019. So there’s just one last outing I want to tell you about that took place during the Best. Summer. Ever. when my sisters came to visit: Julie for two weeks on her way home to Australia, and Suzanne for four weeks before returning to Montreal. This was the time we turned our living room into a dorm. We set up mattresses on the floor for them both, and still, in our tiny space, managed to have room for cooking, eating, and lounging. Somehow it all worked out. Fun times! We were being tourists in our own town, and seeking out experiences and festivals that Don and I had only done maybe once before. Or not at all. This story is about an outing to a festival that we’d not been to before, but it sure sounded like fun. Food fun.

One Saturday in July, late afternoon, Don, Julie, and I get the Skytrain to New Westminster, technically a separate city from Vancouver, but part of the greater metropolitan area. We are going to the Columbia StrEAT festival.

Coming out of the Skytrain station what lies ahead of us is five blocks of food trucks! Five blocks! A whopping 100 food trucks! It’s North America’s largest food truck festival. It’s a good thing we’re hungry.

We walk the length of the street overwhelmed with choice. There is Mexican, Brazilian, Fijian, Indian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai, and Spanish cuisine. We could have poke, tacos, waffles, loukomades, cannoli, or kettle corn.

The number of photos of people eating (or admiring) corn has less to do with its relative popularity and more to do with me being attracted by the colour.

There is dim sum, hot dogs of all varieties including Vancouver’s own Japadog, ice cream, churros, fish and chips, coffee of course, gourmet mini donuts (isn’t that an oxymoron?), teriyaki, green juices, lemonade, barbecue, burgers, pierogis, cookies, and tornado (spiral) potatoes.

I had one of these in Japan and was a little disappointed, but the one that stole my heart was the one I had in Chengdu in China. It was battered and deep fried, and it tasted like childhood.

We ate dinner as a family and mum cooked healthy meals of real food including lots of vegetables. There was no junk food and we had to eat what was on our plates. But Fridays! Fridays there was freedom from all the rules. Every Friday night my dad would arrive home at the end of the day with a huge newspaper-wrapped package of fish and chips, that also included potato scallops – slices of potato battered and deep fried. So good!

As we continue walking along Columbia Street checking out what’s available we find mac’n’cheese, frozen fruit bars, all kinds of sandwiches, baked potatoes, shaved ice, poutine, schnitzel, bubble tea, lobster, and wood fired pizza. Yes, there really is a wood fired oven on a food truck! It’s a hot summer evening and I feel for the poor guy who has to tend the fire.

There’s not only food trucks. This is a festival! There’s music – twelve different bands on three stages,

and dancing,

four beer gardens,

and street performers,

and of course, just what every food festival needs, a mobile book store.

From late afternoon as the day turns to evening it gets more and more crowded. By the time we get to the end of the five blocks it looks like this:

And by the time we leave it’s even busier.

Everywhere there are people, all the beautiful people – browsing, strolling, assessing their options,

and of course eating. The seating arrangements are variable,

but mostly it’s the curb.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering what we ate! There’s a Vancouver food truck known as Salty’s Lobster Shack. They have on the menu a wild sturgeon caviar lobster roll (wild Acadian gold-medal-winning sturgeon caviar, garlic-butter-toasted brioche bun, Halifax lobster, Old Bay aioli, fresh dill and a wedge of lemon) for a cool $100. No, we don’t get that. We stand in line for an age (worth it!)

and get two lobster rolls

Photo courtesy of @saltyslobster because I rarely think to photograph food even though it’s a thing.

and a crab roll, then walk to the nearest beer garden where we even find a vacant table. They are the best sandwiches ever! Don and I had never heard of Salty’s. Sometimes I wonder if we live under a rock. Being at home we get into our routines, and even going out with friends, which we do frequently, we still seem to have the same routines. Anyway, this discovery of Salty’s is gold!

Now of course we’re looking for dessert, and are drawn like homing pigeons to Dolce Amore ice cream, another cool (no pun intended) discovery. It quickly becomes our new favourite place for ice cream and we’ve since been many times to Dolce Amore’s storefront on Commercial Drive, though these days we’re more likely to go to Rain and Shine on Cambie because there’s outdoor seating across the street.

If the lobster and crab rolls tasted like happiness, the ice cream tastes like pure bliss.

Columbia StrEAT festival takes place on the traditional and unceded territories of the Qayqayt First Nation, as well as all Coast Salish peoples.

Next post: The second post of Vancouver’s urban wildlife – coyotes, beavers, ducks, squirrels, eagles and more.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2021.