Metro Vancouver ‘trucker’ food (Part 1)

Here are a few of the relatively new spots that food writer Mia Stainsby has visited

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The start of warm weather tells me to get outdoors and catch up with food trucks and carts I hadn’t tried — especially so when dining indoors is not an option.

So this week and next, I’ll share a few of the relatively new spots I’ve visited. As of last year, there were some 91 licensed locations plus 72 roaming permits for street food trucks, and you’ll find many on The Street Food App which tells you where they’ll be parked and links you to their social media. However, some permitted trucks are inactive, have gone the catering route or just aren’t on the app, in which case you’d have to check their Instagram posts.

Top Rope Birria

Where: Main Street Brewing Co., 2621 East Seventh Ave., Vancouver Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Strange Fellows Brewing, 1345 Clark Dr., Vancouver, Sundays, noon to 3:30 p.m.

Info: 604-999-0956.

We time our arrival for the 5 p.m. opening. Damn! There are already about 15 people ahead of us, so we commune with our phones. But the line moves along quickly because really, there’s only one dish on the menu — the quesabirria taco — and owner Kevin McKenzie’s in the zone on the grill. There are a few side items like chips and salsa, pickled vegetables, kimchi and hot sauce and a ‘cheese skirt’ that flirtatiously flows onto the grill. Tacos are $8 each or two for $15.


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I love birria and had birria tacos on the street and as main dishes in restaurants in Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Jalisco, where it originated. Top Rope does a great job. The name refers to the top ropes in a wrestling ring and not, as I thought, to a climbing term. “I grew up watching wrestling in the ’80s,” says McKenzie. “It also indicates high standards.”

In Jalisco, birria is traditionally made with goat meat, but these days it’s as likely beef or lamb. McKenzie uses a combination of chuck, sirloin and round beef cuts for a toothsome balance of fat, texture and flavour. It’s marinated in spices and braised in adobo sauce for about six hours. At service, corn tortillas take a dives in beef tallow from the braising sauce and then it’s loaded with beef and cheese. It gets a hard fry on the grill, caramelizing the tortilla for extra chew.

And that’s the story behind this hit. For now, McKenzie’s open for limited hours Saturdays and Sundays because he’s using his cousin’s food truck until he gets his own rolling — it’s ready, pumped with $300 in gas and champing at the bit waiting for Vancouver Coastal Health’s inspection to happen. Once it does, he’ll expand the days and hours.

On the Saturday we visited, he sold around 300 tacos in the three hours he was open, using 20 kilos of beef and 20 of cheese, a mix of Monterey Jack and mozzarella. The kimchi veers off taco script but he says: “I had them at Tacofino in Tofino and I couldn’t believe how well it worked with Mexican spices. It adds a funk that’s so appropriate. I stole the idea from Tacofino. Am I being too honest?”


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Kevin McKenzie in the zone working the grill at Top Rope Birria, whipping up quesabirria tacos.
Kevin McKenzie in the zone working the grill at Top Rope Birria, whipping up quesabirria tacos. Photo by Allison Kiloh/Sammi Fabbro photo

And he’s itching to expand his menu and roll out other plans — fish tacos, quesadillas, a vegetarian birria, tater tots, house-made tortilla chips, house-made taco seasonings, hot sauces. He’s working on a birria burger and he’s arranged a collab for ‘margarita taco party’ every Tuesday evening on the Birds and Beets patio, teaming with Butterboom Bakery which will provide crullers “with cheeky fillings like tequila-spiked lime curd, mild chile chocolate and horchata.” The margaritas, he says, will be slushy style. He’s also planning on a pop-up with Between Two Buns, which has taken over Bestie in Chinatown.

Keep your eyes on Top Rope’s Instagram for more news like the release of frozen kits for DIY quesabirria tacos. “I stare at my truck every day at the commissary,” he says, eager to get rolling.

Salty’s Lobster Shack

Where: 41st Avenue at West Boulevard, East Van Brewing, Britannia Shipyards Museum, Richmond.

Check @saltyslobster for daily locations and times

Info: 778-891-4509

Salty’s Lobster Shack began two years ago at the Richmond Night Market and then hit the street just over a year ago.

The signature item are the lobster rolls, served Connecticut ($23) and Maine ($23) style. The former is made with hot lobster poached in garlic butter, and the latter with chilled lobster and aioli. They both come overflowing with lobster from Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Some people have been suspicious of an imitation crab-like texture in the lobster mix, but it’s actually a Halifax lobster product, seasoned with Old Bay spices mixed in with the lobster tail, claw, leg and knuckle meat. If you prefer, there’s also a crab roll ($18)or combo with a cup of lobster bisque and half a lobster or crab roll ($16 and $15).


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Other items are lobster mac and cheese, lobster bites and — whoa! — a $100 white sturgeon caviar and lobster roll. The East Van Brewing location turned into bricks and mortar permanence for Salty’s in January as they were invited to use the kitchen; during the lockdown you can enjoy the food on the patio.

Side dishes

The pandemic has revealed selfish aspects of society, but there are quiet acts of giving, too. Flavours of Hope, for example, helps newly arrived women in minority groups to jump-start food businesses. It has recently partnered with Coho Commissary (which will provide kitchen space), the Women’s Economic Council, Vancity Credit Union and the Vancouver Farmer Market and on May 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., they officially launch Dream Cuisines: A Newcomer Women’s Food Business Pilot Program.

It’s virtual, of course. Three women in the program will be cooking dishes for Dream Boxes that you can order, or, you can just join the celebrations that includes cooking demonstrations by the three women and talks by guests Jackie Ellis (The Measure of My Powers author) and Sharon Bond-Hogg (Kekuli Cafe, an Indigenous restaurant in Westbank and Merritt).

Tickets for the event are $64.67 with the three-course Dream Box meal and $22.23 without. A Zoom link will be e-mailed upon purchase of tickets. For more information and tickets, go to

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