Our first and only team visit to the Toronto Underground Market (TUM) was on the evening of Saturday, June 9, 2012. We’d just had our first company website built and we’d gotten involved in the exploding foodie culture on Twitter (Instagram wasn’t really a thing back then) where we were seeing a ton of conversation about TUM. People would be talking about the events way ahead of time and the #TUM hashtag was everywhere. People were tweeting and sharing photos from the events and then they’d be talking about them for days afterward. We’d talked as a team about trying to go, and then every month that went by we got busier and busier.
When the June tickets went on sale, I pulled the trigger. I grabbed four and figured I’d convince at least three other crew members to tag along with me. One guy bailed at the last minute – he’d started a home reno project earlier that day and bit off more than he could chew. But John (commander in chief) and Marc-Andre (culinary consultant) were ready to go and just as excited as I was.
The parking lot was jammed but we got creative, found a spot and headed inside with our fingers crossed that our vehicle would be there when we came back.
Wow. It looked like a LOT of people. And having been away from the university campus bar scene for a few years, my tolerance for line-ups had fallen to near zero. So, I was cautiously optimistic. Priority #1: Get beer.
And so it began! Wandering with beers in hand, “where do we eat first?” We all knew the answer: Fidel Gastro’s. The line-up was huge, but it seemed to pass quickly. Beers in hand, friendly people in line and the speedy FG machine all helped the line move quickly.
These guys were working like a well-oiled machine.
And my sandwiches were awesome! I had an El Captain Belly and some other glorious creation, I can’t remember what it was called. My only mistake… not getting 12 more in a doggie bag to bring home.
Full of Cuban sammies, we needed more beer and a tour of the Evergreen Brick Works. What a great venue for an event like this.
Next, according to Marc: Tacos. Apparently Seven Lives was a must-hit on our food list. So… more beer and a new line and the same experience. Friendly people all around and a line-up that seemed move a lot more quickly than it should have.
On the menu: Fish tacos! Shrimp, tuna, marlin. I’ll admit, I’d never had fish tacos before. I knew it was a growing trend at the time, but tacos for me had always been steak or ground beef. Not that I’m picky about food… I’d just never tried them. But Marc assured us we were in the right line and both John and I followed his lead when it came to ordering. Another great team to see in action!
My shrimp tacos were amazing and this pictures does them zero justice.
Of course, Marc had to make a special request, something that wasn’t even on the menu, but the Seven Lives team was happy to accommodate him. I don’t remember if this taco had a name, but I recall Marc saying that the tuna was cooked by the acids in lemon and/or lime juice, not with with heat. It looked really good and again I doubt the picture does it any justice.
Full of tacos, we were headed to get more beer and noticed that Fidel Gastro’s had sold out of food and were packing up. We’d been wanting to meet them for months, and although there were brief introductions when we stopped for our sandwiches earlier, it wasn’t the right time for any meaningful conversation. They were making such amazing food and seemed mega-passionate about their business and the industry… we were eager to talk a bit more with them. So we wandered over and got to meet Matt, the owner, and his new business partner Dom, and some of the other Ole team members, other Matt, Ryan and Kyla. They seemed like a great bunch of people and you could tell they were destined for even more success. And one for the history books, I managed to grab a shot of John, Elvis and Matt before we parted ways.
It was awesome getting to meet the FG team, and at the time we were eagerly awaiting the unveiling of their food truck which was planned for July.
Candied bacon for dessert
Arriving at TUM just after 8 o’clock kinda burned us. We really only had time for two serious rounds of food plus the chat with Matt. But then, on the way out, Marc introduced us to Leonard Pig Candy (sadly, no longer in business).
I’d never had candied bacon, or chocolate bacon, and at the time it sounded kinda strange. But Marc was right again, it was awesome.
It was a memorable experience for all of us… the people we met, the venue, the atmosphere and especially the food. We were planning to become TUM regulars, or at least semi-regulars. But then work and home life took control again and time moved back into warp speed. Procrastination bit us in the ass and the next thing we knew is was 2014 and TUM was closing its doors on these events and the organizers were moving on to other business ventures. We’re hugely thankful for the work and dedication that Hassel Aviles and her team put into TUM and the influence they had on Toronto street food and food-based pop-up scene. We’re grateful to have started social and real-life networking within those industries when all of this was happening.
Farewell again, Toronto Underground Market. Thanks for the memories.