Disclaimer: The food and drinks below were paid for using coupons offered by the festival organizers.
Although September is technically late for "festival season", things started slow this summer, with restrictions around gatherings only lifting in June. While several of the city's marquee events such as Osheaga and YUL EAT were cancelled for the second year in a row due to COVID-19, a few managed to set the wheels in motion and take place after all. After skipping last summer, Les Premiers Vendredis returned for its 9th edition this month at the Olympic Stadium's Esplanade.
The monthly gathering of food trucks at the first Friday of each month normally lasts all season, kicking off in June; but this year only September and October were salvaged. To make up for that, the event was stretched to span all weekend, giving street food enthusiasts more opportunities to experience the festival and its offering.
tagged: CATCH SOME SUN
When I started 514eats in my early thirties, during the time Montreal's food festivals were starting to explode, I would hit them all up with eagerness. As I approached forty more recently, my participation waned as my tolerance for heat, crowds and lineups grew thin. I did not hesitate this time around, however, after the fifteen months of confinement we all went through; not to mention this is one of the only fests I had not attended yet.
So it was with a sense of revival and curiosity that I stepped onto the stadium's Esplanade on the first day of this year's edition. Despite the shaky weather conditions, which fluctuated from sunny and warm to cloudy and chilly with a burst of rain, the turnout was quite large. A diverse, youngish crowd showed up to enjoy everything on offer from food and drink to the DJ/live music set and games for kids.
In addition to trucks, numerous kiosks were set up around the stadium, totalling 30-40 vendors. Those were scattered around the perimeter of the Esplanade, with a concentration near two large sitting areas in addition to a terrace dedicated to Vietnamese food.
With regards to the food trucks on site, it quickly dawned on me that the city's pioneers – Grumman 78, Winneburger, Au Pied de Cochon, etc. – have all but vanished and were replaced with a new breed of mobile eateries. Needless to say: the offering is quite diverse and spanned burgers, poutines, Chinese, Caribbean, Spanish, seafood and vegan. Drinks counted lemonade, beer, wine and spirits while desserts covered donuts, churros and loukoumades.
My fear of long waits was quickly assuaged, as the entry procedure went smoothly despite the multiple checkpoints tasked with vaccine passport verification and contact tracing. To top that off, the lineups forming at food trucks – even the most popular ones – moved quite fast. All in all, kudos to the event organizers, truck operators and cooks for an affair well planned.
After the prolonged isolation period forced upon us, I would have been satisfied with just about any outing. However, Les Premiers Vendredis scores with its festive ambiance, efficient organization and varied fare which lands a notch above tacos, burgers and other street food staples.
What a blessing it was to finally partake in an outdoors festival and share a collective moment of joy with fellow attendees. Remember, you'll have one more chance to be a part of this in October. Trust me; you won't have anything better to do before we all tuck in for fall, winter and – god forbid! – another shutdown.
Price per person: $23.50
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.