Oshawa’s Food Truck Corral was born out of necessity but now continues to thrive on community support and appreciation. As the general manager, Max Lysyk, says, “The Food Truck Corral is a unique thing that came to be under unforeseen circumstances that we’ve taken and run with, and we love it.”

It all began in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Lysyk family was approached by struggling restaurant owners enquiring about property to park food trucks on. With strict restrictions in place, small business owners were fighting to stay afloat and began looking into alternatives. The Lysyk family was eager to help and began the necessary discussions. “The city was very helpful to work with,” says Lysyk. “Through conversations we had with the City of Oshawa and former mayor John Henry (now Regional Chair), the current mayor Dan Carter and Commissioner Warren Munro, the idea of The Food Truck Corral was born.”

This strong show of support set things in motion and once given the go-ahead, they began investing in the property and working on the essentials such as building a proper parking area and running hydro for each truck.

After opening in the spring of 2020, The Food Truck Corral quickly became a local hotspot in the Durham Region as it became a lifeline for both sides: Desperate business owners were able to reach customers again and people desperate to get out of their houses or to spend time with loved ones were thrilled to have somewhere they could go.

“The Food Truck Corral allowed people an opportunity to get together while still meeting the COVID restrictions at that time. You would see families tailgating,” says Lysyk. “You would see Grandma and Grandpa in one car and their kids and grandkids in another. They would bring lawn chairs and sit together catching up over great food. It gave everyone an opportunity to go out and enjoy each other’s company once again.”

As word continued to spread with each season, the Lysyk family adapted to accommodate the demand and now have 11 trucks on the property, along with ample parking spaces and seating options. They’ve found the food truck industry continues to grow in popularity due to the versatility and flexibility it offers. As Lysyk explains, trucks are a big upfront cost, but one of the biggest benefits of owning a food truck is not having to deal with the large overhead of owning a brick-and-mortar restaurant. “A few of the food truck owners at The Food Truck Corral are or were small business restaurant owners. There’s the Masala Box truck, which is operated by the owners of Spicy Affairs in downtown Oshawa, the owner of the Pierogie Bros food truck used to own Billie Jax and the Casey’s at the shopping centre, and the owners of the Bourbon Street Chicken food truck have been raised in the restaurant business from a young age. Food trucks present a great opportunity, whether for a new chef or an entrepreneur.”

Lysyk says a truck’s offerings is really what sets them up for success, and The Food Truck Corral guarantees uniqueness by ensuring one food truck does not sell the same items as another. “Yes, you can sell French fries as a side,” says Lysyk. “But your main dish can’t be a hamburger because we already have a hamburger truck. This rule differentiates us because we want to make sure we can satisfy everyone and anyone that visits. Our newest truck is Yorkilicious, which serves British-style foods and is home of the Yorkshire Wrap. What we have been hearing from a lot of people is that Yorkilicious’s food reminds them of their childhood and certain memories of their parents or grandparents, so there’s that kind of nostalgia to it. I know a lot of the food truck vendors put a lot of effort into quality. The owners are proud of what they serve and want it to be the best thing you’ve ever had.”

The Lysyk family’s goal is to ensure people keep coming back and they do that by listening to their customers. “We’re constantly trying to upgrade and add new features. From feedback we received from our guests this year alone, we added a lot more seating along with the tented outdoor dining area for those who want to get out of the sun. We also added a bunch of fun cut-outs for families to take photos with.”

Additionally, the Corral hosts various events throughout the summer for special occasions such as long weekends and their customer appreciation event. “My favourite part are the events we put on,” says Lysyk. “They’re a lot of work to put together, but it’s so worth it. This year we got an inflatable jumping castle and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces was just awesome. During these events I get to walk around and chat with people. I love hearing their stories and how they enjoy bringing the whole family to The Food Truck Corral. It’s neat to see how the community has embraced us.”

Lysyk knows Durham Region is at the cusp of a big boom. “With so many new people coming to the area, our hope is to make The Food Truck Corral a unique and permanent location for Oshawa that brings tourism in. […] Someone posted on our social media recently, ‘We love stopping at The Food Truck Corral. It’s a family staple every year when we’re travelling through Oshawa from Sault Ste. Marie.’ When we read that, we were thinking, ‘Holy smokes, word is really getting out!’” With this in mind, Lysyk is working with the teams at Oshawa Tourism, Durham Tourism and Central Counties Tourism to survey their guests to understand where their customers are coming from.

Lysyk feels they have outgrown the area they are currently in but has big plans for the future. “There’s a nearby property that I have in mind where I would love to move the food trucks to and make the Corral a permanent location by building the required infrastructure to keep people coming back. I want to add some unique features such as a park and splash pad because our main goal is to make The Food Truck Corral a fun, family-friendly location, serving up a variety of great food and entertainment for the entire community to enjoy.” They are currently in talks with local and provincial government, so stay tuned for exciting updates to come. 

CHICKEN TIKKA WRAP

Compliments of
Masala Box by Spicy Affairs

THE WRAP

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala 
  • ½ tsp chaat masala
  • to taste salt
  • 4 large tortilla wraps
  • 1 cup sliced lettuce
  • ½ cup sliced tomatoes
  • ½ cup sliced onions
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup Cilantro-Mint Chutney
  • 1 cup fries, for serving
  • In a bowl, combine the yogurt, garam
    masala, ginger garlic paste, chaat masala, lemon juice, ground cumin and salt. Mix well.
  •  Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and mix until well coated. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least one hour.
  • Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Cook the marinated chicken pieces for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until cooked through and slightly charred.
  • Remove the cooked chicken from
    the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing it into thin strips.
  • Warm up the tortilla wraps on a heated skillet for a few seconds on each side, then place a tortilla wrap on a clean surface and layer it with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and the grilled chicken strips.
  • Drizzle with Cilantro-Mint Chutney (recipe below). Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
  •  Bake or deep-fry the fries until crispy
    and golden.
  • Roll up the tortilla tightly. Repeat the process with remaining tortilla wraps and filling.
  • Serve the chicken tikka wraps immediately, with fries on the side.

CILANTRO-MINT CHUTNEY

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro (leaves, tender stems)
  • 1 cup chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped green chillies
  • ½ inch ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp water
  • Add ingredients to a blender and whirl until smooth. Chutney be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

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