Monday, August 22, 2011

Part 1: Street food, hipster heckling and other reasons to brave the crowds...

Just call me chompers.

Ok, so I'm not big on crowds, and sometimes that keeps me from experiencing some of the greatness that surrounds me. I'm not ashamed to admit that I would rather be at home, either perched at my computer or snuggling under a blanket with my knitting and whiskey. I don't know why it's so surprising that I find myself caught off guard and wanting desperately to retreat by the crowds at places like, oh I don't know, outdoor summer concerts, baseball games, Dolores Park on a sunny Saturday or street food festivals in the Mission. Where did all of these people come from?!

We went to the SF Street Food Fest this weekend. We rode our bikes over and got into the free bike parking lot quickly and easily. It's a great cause, and my mind was aflutter with the fresh air, the smell of bbq's and my intense determination to find a pulled pork sandwich and a taco. I mean, this was my dream! Food and drink, on the street, everywhere! I didn't have to stop eating until I wanted to!

We were holding hands and dreaming of puppies, cupcakes and fuzzy socks as we walked to the entrance at 22nd and Folsom. All was right in the world.

Cut to about a billion people packed into a 6 block radius. I was sucked out of my dreamy haze and dropped into an alternate swirling reality. How did all these people hear about my food festival?

SF Street Food Fest

Here's what I ate:
  • Pulled Pork Sandwich & Strawberry Basil Lemonade from Good Foods Catering - Mother F-ing wow. That was the best I've EVER had! It was juicy and had a spice that was so distinct - definitely a cumin/cola something or other. Sadly they only cater, so I'm trying to think of a party to throw asap. 

I don't have a picture of the sandwich because I inhaled it. Also, they ran out of the Pork Belly BLT while I was in line, so that tells you how awesome that must have been.

  • Estrellita's Tamales & Pupusas: One chicken and one spinach tamale, plus one bean & cheese and one pork pupusa.

  • Falafel from Tibi's with the best cilantro saucy stuff at the bottom. Duh-die. And a cookie of some kind from this lady. It was interesting.

They got the food right, for sure. Amazing. So many to choose from, ranging from the regular street trucks you can find on any given day in SF, as well as some of the best restaurants in the city. By far my favorite was the pulled pork and lemonade from Good Foods Catering.

Another great thing, although ridiculously misplaced at times, were the tables that were set up to eat at. There were lots of standing height tables along the sidewalk (where people were trying to get in line), and lots of other pallet tables to sit at along the side streets. We found a table right away, even with that many people, which was great for our friends who came with their toddler. We used it as a central place while one or two of us went on a hunting and gathering expedition, returning with the yumminess.

The crowd part, not so much. My patron feedback to SF Street Food Fest is two-fold: Thank you, that was awesome! And Better Organization Next Time, Please.

There has to be a better way to get that many people flowing in a way that actually works. The food lines were so long and winding, and there was no clear path for the pedestrians. Everybody ended up cutting through hither, thither and grumpily; there was clearly no organization or thought put into how to make the traffic flow between those in line and those walking to the next stand. This part was a real mess, and I didn't really see anybody who represented the fest monitoring safety or flow. It could have been a disaster if anything had gone wrong.

It was overall really awesome, and I'm so glad I live in a city where this is all possible. 


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