The Ice Cream Truck Chronicles: Part Two
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The Ice Cream Truck Chronicles: Part Two

Photo by Harry Choi/Torontoist.

In June 2009, the Toronto Star performed an investigation of sanitary conditions at some of Toronto’s soft-serve vendors and found that seasonal sellers (i.e. ice cream truck vendors) were among those with the highest concentrations of coliform bacteria in their product.

Coliform is considered an index of overall cleanliness; high concentrations are bad. The Star‘s exposé was arguably in the public interest, but it seems to have given reporters a bad name among soft-serve professionals. Now, if you walk up to a downtown ice cream truck and introduce yourself as a writer, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the person behind the counter will tell you to get lost—sometimes nicely, and sometimes not.

And so here, in the second and final part of our celebration of Toronto’s mobile ice cream vendors, are quick profiles of a bunch of the trucks whose owners wouldn’t talk to us, followed by an interview with the lone owner who escaped the Star‘s investigation unscathed.

Truck the Third: The One On Bloor Street (Bloor Street, at Markham Street)

Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.

TASTING NOTES: The ice cream here has a weird, grainy texture. You almost have to chew it. Other vendors tell us this can be caused by a machine that isn’t calibrated correctly. The cone is still cold and refreshing, but it’s not top-notch stuff.

Truck the Fourth: The One By the ROM (Queen’s Park North, south of Bloor Street)

Photo by Steve Kupferman/Torontoist.

TASTING NOTES: Nice, and pretty creamy. A vanilla cone that tastes like real vanilla and not like whipped cream.

The Size of Toronto’s Ice Cream Fleet
As of the beginning of this summer, there were 119 licensed ice cream trucks in Toronto. Rumour has it that there are also some trucks that operate without licences, so the true number of vehicles out there is difficult to pinpoint.

Here are the companies with the largest numbers of trucks licensed in their names:

  • Donkey Kone Inc. – 12 trucks
  • Olympic Softee Inc. – 8 trucks
  • Mrs. Softee Inc. – 7 trucks
  • Johnny Cones Inc. – 4 trucks
  • Heavenly Dreams Ice Cream Inc. – 4 trucks
  • Master Soft and Delight Dairy Products Inc. – 3 trucks

Truck the Fifth: The One in Chinatown (Dundas Street West, at Spadina)

Photo by Harry Choi/Torontoist.

TASTING NOTES: The ice cream is light but not ridiculously airy. The flavour is good and not whipped-creamy.

Truck the Sixth: The One at Nathan Phillips Square

Photo by Andrew Louis/Torontoist.

TASTING NOTES: Somewhat airy in consistency, this small chocolate cone had an off-putting tangy aftertaste. Incidentally, this truck received a dismal rating in a Toronto Star ice cream bacteria rating—the worst of all examined. George Koutsaris, the owner, told the Star that he sanitizes his truck every night and that the supplier of his soft-serve mix may have been to blame.

Truck the Seventh: The Other One at Nathan Phillips Square
TASTING NOTES: Dense and creamy. This chocolate cone had great consistency and rich chocolatey flavour.

OWNER: Antonia Bougadas, a veteran of Toronto’s ice cream scene whose operation was found to be virtually spotless in the Star‘s investigation. In addition to this truck, she owns the trucks at the ferry docks (Bay Street and Queens Quay West) and University Avenue and Dundas Street. All of them operate under the banner of the company she runs with her husband, called Master Soft & Delight. The company also makes its own soft-serve mix, which it sells to other operators.

Torontoist: How long have you been in the ice cream business?
Bougadas: Thirty-six years.

Always in Toronto?
Always in Toronto.

What do you like about the business? Why have you stuck with it for so long?
Well, it used to be a good business. Not anymore.

It’s not a good business anymore? Why not?
Weather is not helping. People are not spending money now, you know? It’s not the way it used to be.

How long ago did business start to tank?
About seven years. Seven years ago, it was still good. Now, every year, we are going down and down.

Where do you drive in from?

Do all your trucks play the same music when they drive around?
I don’t drive around, and I don’t have music.

What do you do in the off season?

In ice cream, still?
No, in a cleaners. Cleaning offices and stuff. Night shift.

Is it true that your company supplies the soft-serve mix for a lot of ice cream trucks in and around Toronto?
I’ve only got about 80 trucks [buying her soft-serve mix].

Do you mix it yourself, or do you have a factory?
We have a factory.

How many people work in this factory?
Just one. Just my husband. It’s not a big factory. I would say it’s twice as big as the truck. It’s not, like, big-big.

What makes your ice cream the best?
Well, you have to use high quality of, you know, the products that we use. Some companies they make 5 per cent or 6 per cent [dairy fat]. We make almost 10 per cent.


Writing and research by Steve Kupferman. Kelli Korducki contributed writing and reporting.