Hot dogs still top dog in Toronto

Toronto may be one of the world's most multi-cultural cities but try getting anything other than a hot dog or a barbecued sausage from a street vendor.

by: Reuters | 18 Jan 2008

Toronto, Canada's largest city prides itself on its diversity with almost all of the world's countries represented in its population. Nearly half the city's 2.5 million residents were born outside Canada.

The city's international flavour, however, is reflected in the people who sell food on the street, not in the food itself.

One downtown attendant said he immigrated to Canada from Iraq, another came from Afghanistan. They both sell hot dogs.

"It's convenient, but it's not like a restaurant where you have variety", said W.R. Purdy, a lawyer grabbing a dog at Johnny's Topdog outside city hall.

Last year, city politicians decided the menu should be varied and that they would start issuing licenses for other kinds of hot food.

But so far, nothing's cooking, with the idea tied up in red tape over health and licensing standards and hijacked as a vehicle for a number of political causes.

One notion, for example, was to have the city borrow C$700 000 to design and build distinctive carts that could be featured in tourism campaigns to cook samosas, spring rolls and other favourites. That idea has since been abandoned.

"There are certain members of council that want to make this more complicated and want to create a level of complexity that's unnecessary", Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong said in an interview.

A stone's throw from city hall, restaurants in a trendy shopping district look like a culinary United Nations. But on the street it's still dogs and sausages.

"This can be very clean and easy. You accept applications for these licenses and then it's the vendor's responsibility to make sure they comply with health requirements or any other city by-law", Minnan-Wong said.

Toronto city councilors hope to approve a pilot project before summer.

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