Northern Ireland has a rich and vibrant food and drink scene that truly caters to all tastes and interests.
However, if there is one thing we all love to enjoy it is a delicious meal served up without any hassle or fuss.
That is why the street food scene across the country has taken off over the past few years and with the TikTok culture making trying out interesting NI eateries a trend, it is showing no signs of slowing down.
Belfast Live spoke to three popular street food vans and restaurants to look inside the street food revolution taking over Northern Ireland.
The Waygu Wagon in Killyleagh
The Waygu Wagon Killyleagh was opened in January by Conan Mulraine and his mother Deborah.
Conan said: “We wanted to do something a bit different from the traditional chip van and we decided we open a burger van specialising in wagyu beef burgers.
“I think street food has really taken off over here because people want to try something different.
“I always enjoyed when the continental market was in Belfast and you could experience all the different foods from around the world and I think people enjoy incorporating a bit of that variety into their lives with the different kinds of street food now available here.”
The nature of street food vans offer a social setting to come together over the love of food and that is why Deborah installed a ‘happy to chat’ bench beside their business to encourage people to talk in memory of her mother.
(Image: The Waygu Wagon Killyleagh/ Facebook)
Going forward, they hope to expand the business and possibly look into opening other trailers in different parts of the country and beyond.
Conan added: “For my recommendation, I would definitely have to say our Wagyu Beef Bacon and Cheeseburger with smoked applewood cheddar.”
Another popular spot leaving mouths watering in East Belfast is Loaded Street Food.
Loaded Street Food
Owner Amar Elhertani had the idea for a premium street food business for over five years but Loaded only came into fruition when the pandemic hit.
He said: “It started off as a pop up on Church Street in November 2020 and it was that busy that we needed dip signing a lease in a new shop in February.
“It’s been very busy – our stuff is all fresh and we work closely with our butcher. Everything is done in house by our chefs, everything is thought about and there for a purpose.”
Amar noted that their loaded fries are “proper” being stacked with toppings and sauces, with their Bulgogi fries being a customer favourite.
“We’ve got people that travel every week from the likes of Moira and Tyrone without fail which is always great to see.
“People can come in and try different things and cater to everyone,” he added.
On why the street food revolution has become a major trend right across NI, Amar said it was about time we caught up with other major cities.
He continued: “We’ve been behind the likes of London for years now and it was always big there so we are now catching up.
(Image: Loaded Street Food/ Instagram)
“It gives more diversity in food – it use to be you’d just have your fast-food restaurants and then your fine dining and street food fills the gap in between.”
With over 20 years of experience as a chef, Colin Johnstone opened up The Hatch food van to be closer to his wife Bronagh.
Since then, The Hatch has gone on to win countless street food awards including Ireland’s best burger in 2019.
The Hatch Newcastle
Colin said: “It was something I always wanted to do – we decided to purchase a wee trailer and started locally and it’s taken off from there.
“We were able to turn our dream into a reality.
“In the last year, we were able to open Street Kitchen in Castlewellan which we serve breakfast, brunch and lunch.
“We always want to do something different and there’s no one doing what we do in our local area and it seems to have worked.”
If asked to describe The Hatch, Colin says it is “homemade, local and professionally prepared street food”.
“All of our ingredients are sourced within a 30-mile radius – I smoke all my own meat, my burger recipe has been developed by me and I genuinely believe is one of the best about”
He recommends the Belly Burger for anyone wanting to sink their teeth into his varied menu.
“It has all the elements of what we do basically – everything we do, including our sauces, are made in house. We are not just a street food van but we are everything that goes on behind the food and there is a lot more to it,” he explained.
Reflecting on the increasing street food scene across the county, Colin credits inventive vendors and business orders for bringing it to life.
(Image: The Hatch/ Facebook)
“I think it’s been a long time coming. It’s happened everywhere else in the UK and across the world – the street food revolution has been talked about for ten years and it’s only now in Northern Ireland.
“It’s people like us bringing it forward as we have a passion for what we are doing – it’s not just a chip van serving the usual fish and chips, it’s professional chefs knowing and loving what they are doing.”