Street Food is consumed by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, each and every day. From the wooden food cart to the modernised food truck or outdoor pop-up restaurant, street food vendors surround us and influence what we eat as part our daily lives. On any given day, a Google search for the phrase will reveal an average of 164 million hits. It’s safe to say that a street food revolution is happening; not just in the UK, but worldwide. In fact, it is here in the UK that we find ourselves playing a game of catch-up. Countries like Singapore, Brazil and Thailand have long been champions of the street food scene, with their bustling night markets providing everyone from locals to tourists with a fast-paced meal on the go.
In Britain, no longer are Mr Whippy ice creams and battered cod the status quo; the past 10 years have seen street traders exploring different cuisines from around the world. With wood burning pizza ovens, vegan-friendly buffets and hog-roasts all finding their way inside food carts, trucks and pop-ups, the industry is moving from strength to strength. Not just a fleeting trend, street food has now become a globally-calculable business with many claiming that it could soon rival other night time industries such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs. In the recession era, when households were feeling the pinch, the restaurant experience often felt overly-indulgent and financially unnecessary. Why sit and wait when you can take the opportunity to see up-and-coming, aspiring young chefs at work just inches away from you? Taking the dining experience out of expensive restaurants and bringing it to the people, street food has democratised good food for the masses. Without the bells and whistles of an upmarket restaurant, street food vendors must rely almost exclusively on the quality of their food, rather than the aesthetic of their restaurant, to garner popularity. With thousands of street traders now found across the nation, it is clear that this authentic and very personal dining experience has captured our imaginations.
Allowing young entrepreneurs, chefs and food-enthusiasts to create not only a business but a culture and sense of community, street food dining experiences are now becoming evermore popular. You need only to look within Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle to find a number of once disused or abandoned spaces now being given new life by the trade of independent street food vendors. With a dedicated independent market, a vegan-friendly Caribbean pop-up and a Cuban street food experience, the area is burgeoning into Liverpool’s go-to spot for a taste of something a little different.
New kids on the block, The Baltic Market team have concocted a marvellous initiative, inviting a number of the city’s best independent restaurants, pop-ups and eateries into their space each month. With a revolving door policy down at their Cains Brewery site, each Baltic Market pop-up will last only one month. A nirvana for street food fans, the space currently houses eight stalls; including the likes of Timmy Tikka, The Midnight Delivery and Pao, with new vendors to be announced throughout the year.
Elsewhere, District & Yard’s resident pop-up, Ital Fresh, prides itself on offering exclusively vegan-friendly food from the Caribbean. Taking inspiration from the teachings of Rastafari, Ital-Fresh ensure that their ingredients come from only the most natural sources in order to promote mindful and healthy eating. Elsewhere in the Baltic Triangle, 24 Kitchen Street will be joining the party with the recent install of their wood burning pizza oven. A guaranteed winner, they will be serving up freshly cooked food on their terrace throughout the rest of the summer months.
No focus on the Baltic Triangle’s street food scene would be complete without an ode to one of the area’s most notable and longest-serving food trucks. Parking up, week-in-week-out on Jamaica Street, Beefy’s Burgers have been serving up everything from breakfast baps to cheeseburgers from their spot outside Unit 51 for over 15 years. Sometimes, when you’re after a classic pit stop meal, nothing can compare!
Venture inside the Constellations garden and you will find Finca. A Cuban street food pop-up restaurant, Finca has held residencies across the city over the past few years. Landing at Constellations in April, they have since gone on to feed crowds at disco festivals, weddings and everything in between. Joe, one of the four minds behind Finca tells us that: “This has been our most ambitious residency to date, with a full outdoor restaurant. It’s been great working with Constellations – we’ve catered for some big events and it’s exciting to be based in such a growing part of the city.” With the venue welcoming a number of internationally-recognised festivals through its doors already this summer, including the Baltic Weekender, Liverpool Disco Festival and Positive Vibration, Finca tell us that their love of music has had them dancing along as they cook: “Since day one of Finca, we have catered for musical events so it’s a second habitat for us! It’s great to see how our food goes down with so many different crowds.”
Created by by four friends, Finca is made up of Michael, Oli, Joe and Daniel: “The aim of Finca is to bring a completely different concept to the food and drink scene, and offer high quality, informal food which isn’t served anywhere else in the city. We’ve always admired Cuban food and the way that Cuban people have managed to create such flavoursome dishes using limited produce and ingredients. We wanted to cook similarly to this and put our own twist on their food.”
With a bespoke menu, tailored to each event that takes place in the garden, Finca tell us that: “Pretty much every item on the menu at the moment has been chosen by our customers. We always trial items as specials for a limited time and if our customers like them, they won’t let us take them off! People go crazy for our Cubanos – traditional Cuban sandwiches which are loaded with mojo pork shoulder and gammon, gouda cheese, mustard and pickle – before being grilled on a press. Our gouda croquettas are also a big hit!”
Looking to the future, it is clear that Finca have some big ideas and are keen to safeguard the culinary culture of Cuba: “We’re going to keep building and growing Finca! We feel that we’re creating a unique dining experience with our street food offering and also with our Paladar dining events. We also run the Secret Diners Club, which holds unconventional dining events across the North West – including our ‘Finca Paladar’ evenings.”
Our Finca Paladars take place in empty spaces which we transform to make look more like homes. This event is a nod to the many Paladars in Cuba. Back in the early 90s, Castro legalised home restaurants so businesses could be set up easily with no need to find premises, therefore some of the best food in Cuba is served at someone’s dinner table!”
With the street food scene thriving in the Baltic Triangle, it seems that vendors like Finca have found a safe haven to push the boundaries of what can be achieved at the dining table (or lack of!) With pop-up alfresco restaurants, independent marketplaces and so much more, a visit to the Baltic Triangle is definitely recommended to anybody wanting to try something new.