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Reason to Love Toronto: because we’re serious about our bake sales

Reason to Love Toronto

(Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

The complaint is so well-worn it’s become rote: Toronto, despite its lively, cosmopolitan dining scene, has an embarrassing dearth of good street food. The villains in this story are antiquated regulations and bureaucratic bungling of the kind that accompanied the Toronto a la Cart fiasco (the name alone elicits a shudder). Last April, a revolution was set in motion when Hassel Aviles, a 31-year-old mother of two, put out a call for ambitious, like-minded cooks to join her for the inaugural Toronto Underground Market, a culinary bacchanal where budding entrepreneurs and home cooks can sell their creations to hundreds of ravenous foodies. The scene at the Brick Works, where the gatherings happen roughly seven times a year, is electric, with hundreds of gourmands comparing notes on their butter chicken and waffles, wild mushroom arancini or huitlacoche taquitos. All the food is prepared in municipally inspected kitchens with a certified food handler present—this is, after all, still Toronto the Regulated. But Aviles’ market is just the kind of grassroots, entrepreneurial operation that was needed to launch Toronto’s street food into the post–hot dog era. And it’s about to get bigger: on May 5, Aviles teams up with Food Truck Eats, a wildly popular gathering of the city’s mobile eateries, to throw an epic block party (capacity is 3,000) at the Brick Works. The event kicks off the Toronto Street Food Project, a broad campaign to get city hall to ease off on some of its more draconian bylaws. Let the foodie revolution begin.