Over the past few years Calgary has welcomed a new restaurant breed with open arms: the food truck. What was once a rare novelty has quickly become a staple in the city’s dining scene with over 30 mobile eateries across the city.
A large part of the explosion in popularity of food trucks in Calgary can be attributed to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose pilot program has allowed food trucks to begin operating in the city. The program has also provided information and aid for potential vendors, encouraging more people to start their own food trucks.
“What you see today is the result of all the work of Nenshi and his staff,” says Aman Adatia, University of Calgary alumnus and co-founder of The Naaco Truck, a food truck that has steadily been gaining popularity since it hit the streets in June.
Founded with fellow U of C alumnus Stephanie Shields, The Naaco Truck is one of the many food trucks that have been founded since the launch of the pilot program last summer. For business owners, food trucks present many advantages over traditional restaurants, including a much lower cost.
“To open up a food truck today, you could probably do a reasonably good job with about $50,000,” says Adatia, “which is a lot better than a brick and mortar restaurant, which can easily cost over $250,000.”
The low cost of food trucks also opens more opportunities for culinary creativity that may be too great a risk in a traditional restaurant. The Naaco Truck, which specializes in unconventional neo-retro Indian cuisine, is a prime example of this phenomenon.
“I think being unique is the only way you’re going to survive,” says Adatia. “If we only did traditional Indian food, like what you would find at an Indian buffet, we would probably fail. I want to show that there is a lot more to Indian food than butter chicken.”
The recent influx of food trucks in the city has helped draw significant media attention, including coverage on the Food Network show Eat St. The show, which documents food trucks in North America, is returning to Calgary for the second time this summer, and will be filming from August 10–12. The Naaco Truck, Mighty Skillet and Braizen Food Truck were chosen to be featured in an upcoming episode due to their unique approaches to street food.
“Eat St. tries to show something different in the community,” explains Adatia. “When it comes to our truck, they’ve only shown one or two other Indian trucks in the series.”
Although many of Calgary’s food trucks will not be gracing the silver screen, there are few hard feelings in the world of Calgary’s food trucks.
“It’s a really tightly-knit community for the most part, we’re good friends with a lot of people in the business,” says Adatia. “We’re actually going to see Batman with the Los Campadres guys.”