OK, so, you’re dancing up a storm at Numbers; it’s late, probably after 2 AM; you look at your friends- well whoever is still left and unclaimed for the night- and think of the amazing night that you’ve had. With smiles on your faces, you exit the club and somehow, someway, you end up walking down Davie to claim your hard-earned prize: a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza or that large poutine. Yes, the pizza tastes great, and the poutine freakin’ rocks, but haven’t you ever asked yourself: is this all there is?
Now, I’ve done a fair amount of traveling, and if there is one thing that is constant from the villages of rural West Africa, to the bustling cities of Southeast Asia, and over to the touristy seaside towns of Mexico, it’s the amazing late night street food. I can recall some great memories at a kebab shack at 4 AM after a night out at Manana with the boys in Puerto Vallarta, and staying up late yakking and munching on fried plantains with friends under the moonlit sky in Mali. But, the best late night food by far would have to be street-side pad thai in Bangkok: I don’t think I’ve ever had a more amazing meal in my life. And, if I remember correctly, it was after an “interesting” live show in the gay district.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that food is integral to the human experience. It’s pretty much universal: I mean, who doesn’t like food? And, our senses, emotions, and memories are subtly linked within our gastronomic experiences. It’s a well known fact that food brings people together. Which is why I think that Toronto got it right when they recently passed a bylaw allowing a plethora of new street food vendors of various cuisines. There’ll be late night street kebabs, samosas, biryani, spring rolls, and of course- wait for it- pad thai! Yonge Street will never be the same. Imagine leaving the bar and having that kind of choice! It won’t have to narrowly be either pizza or poutine… the possibilities are endless!
Vancouver is just as multi-cultural as Toronto and our innovative culinary scene is a major global gastro-tourism destination. But, where we are lacking is street food options as all the city really allows is hot dog stands. And yes, there have been some creative start-ups like the Japadog stand at Burrard and Smithe (you’ve got to try it if you haven’t already), but it’s still hot dogs. On the whole, we’re pretty ho-hum.
I really stress the notion of street food because I believe that what you eat is just as important as where you eat. Think about it: every night after midnight, at the corner of Granville and Davie, worlds collide… The bridge and tunnel, straight, testosterone-fueled Granville crowd meshes with the Big Primpin,’ well-groomed entourage of homos on Davie St. I can’t tell you how many interesting people I’ve met and the insane conversations I’ve had with total randoms in line while at Fritz. Then, I go outside and enjoy my poutine on the street, debrief with my friends on the great evening along with 50 or 60 of my new-found friends. Some choose to sit, some choose to stand. There’s the Odyssey crowd mixing with the Pumpjack crowd who in turn mixes with the Ginger 62 crowd who joins the Ceili’s crowd. Everyone is enjoying their late night treats together and having a great time.
While I can’t say that alcohol at that time of night doesn’t play a strong role in placating the many groups of people, and that there are NEVER any physical incidents between said social groups at the intersection, when we are faced with the kind of incidents like the one last weekend at the Fountainhead, it’s nice to think that there is one place in the city where we can all get along and enjoy a shared experience like late night street food. If we could expand that into different areas of the city, reflecting the amazingly diverse array of cuisine that exists here, and bring different cross-sections of Vancouver together by doing so, it would be a great start to creating the cohesive communities that we all crave and deserve to live in.