It is May 2010 and I remember it well because it was my first modern day introduction to a food van. One of my best mates and I had been picked up from LAX by my cousin living in Santa Monica and we stopped in a carpark outside of The Brig on Abbot Kinney in Venice, California. Sascha explained that the food van tweets where it will be and the masses descend, especially on a sunny Sunday for lunch. It was a memorable few tacos for a combination of taste, cost, and of course, the holiday factor.
Five years have passed and now food vans are rife through Melbourne the same way they were in LA back then (and continue to be). The carpark outside of The Brig continues to be popular, and was made even more famous by scenes in “The Chef” which I can recommend as a decent feature film. Even though I love the concept of a food van I don’t get around to many. There are several councils who don’t allow them, and there are many other options on the way to driving to councils that do allow them.
Today is different because Southside Social is a temporary collection of vans in a carpark for about six weeks in Elsternwick (ending very soon). It is a beautiful autumn day, perfect for eating outside, and because of the collection there is some more infrastructure than you would normally expect (ie tables, benches, toilet etc) as the carpark can be locked up when not operating. There are a few options, but the one we choose is Toasta which Catherine has heard good things about from a friend.
Toasta serves up several types of toasties that are around $12. They also have some nice homemade drinks such as lemonade. We chose the Barry and the Charlie. The Barry features tender pulled brisket, stacks of cheddar, dill pickle, and gorgeous smokey BBQ sauce. The Charlie has plenty of swiss cheese, shredded chicken, bacon, basil and walnut pesto, and roast capsicum. In common is the salty, buttery taste, enhanced by all the toasted cheese, producing an incredibly flavoursome and guilt ridden experience. While I had chosen the Barry, I actually ended up having a soft spot for the Charlie. Both were a generous sized meals, especially considering the cholesterol!
These types of food van gatherings are getting more popular from Richmond to Yarraville. My suggestion is find out where Toasta is going next and seek it out.