Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taking It to the Streets

Usually at a street festival, the food booths are a side attraction to either the music or crafts. But when the street festival is all about food? Then everyone, and I mean everyone, is at the food booths.

This weekend was the inaugural San Francisco Street Food Festival. This is supposed to be the smaller, sister event to this coming weekend's Eat Real Festival in Oakland, but it looked like a major turnout as people mobbed the two blocks on Folsom Street between 25th and 26th Streets in the Mission District.

As I approached the festival on Saturday morning, I saw people walking away. Either they already ate their food and wasn't satisfied or they were bored with what they saw. My guess, after I finally reached the entrance, was that they saw the lines and did an about-face.

About 15 to 17 vendors set up booths to sell their street food-inspired dishes. Some of these were the city's most popular restaurants, like Heaven's Dog, Aziza, Absinthe and La Mar Cebicheria. The prices were kept under $10 in the spirit of street food (although to me, street food should be more like under $6).

There were two major spots where booths were set up, with lines spiraling from the booths to the sidewalk. In the middle were the dessert booths and a children's play area. I have to say, everyone seemed to be really good about the lines. No one was testy or cranky, and I was just glad that I had myself a doughnut from nearby Dynamo Donot prior to going to the festival. (BTW, finally tried the maple glazed bacon donot. Strangely yummy!)

I give kudos to booths who had a system organized, like this one selling tacos and had a very orderly pick up system so the line to order moved quickly and then people just had to wait for their numbers to be called. Too bad not all the booths used a similar system.

After checking out the options, I decided to get some food from the Aziza booth because I saw the sign for squid salad, and I love squid. Of course, the Aziza line was the longest and I ended up waiting for 45 minutes to get to the front, and then another 10 minutes for my food. I dreaded the idea of waiting in line for another booth so I got all my food at Aziza. So along with the squid salad, I got the Morroccan taco, which was made with two chunks of tender braised lamb and topped with pickled vegetables and yogurt. It all sat on a flatbread seasoned with harissa spice.

Despite the wait, everything was great at Aziza and well worth the wait. I got full from what I ordered so didn't try the other booths, but they were also offering interesting items. I just couldn't stand the idea of waiting some more. Hopefully the lines will move faster in Oakland's version this weekend.

Here are more sights from the San Francisco Street Food Festival.

Several chefs were out, including Tim Luym of Poleng Lounge, wearing a very appropriate T-shirt.

Beefy sausages on the grill at Absinthe for Chef Jamie Lauren's "famous hot dog."

Here's Chef Lauren cooking in the back, and she even enlisted the help of her "Top Chef" castmate Ryan Scott (background).

These funnel cakes topped with fresh fruits and cream looked like the most popular dish of the day. But I wouldn't eat it because ...

... they're deep fried. Of course.

Chef Mourad Lahlou (right) at the Aziza grill. The grill actually broke down and they had to get it fixed, which probably contributed to the long wait. For awhile they were grilling at a neighboring booth's grill.

The crowds probably look scary to the chefs having to prepare all the food. But they got it done.


foodhoe said...

Wow, single guy, are you telling us that you are going back for more next weekend too? the timing for all these streetfood festivals is not working for me at all... so I'm glad to be able to read about it here. Those lines look scarey!

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't eat the funnel cake but you ate the maple and bacon doughnut. Hey, Single Guy Chef: Doughnut = fried dough. You're sending us mixed messages.

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, I'm going to try and make it to the Eat Real event this Saturday in Oakland.

Anonymous, it's not like I have an outright ban on fried foods, I just generally avoid them. The Dynamo donot wasn't greasy looking, plus it was half the size of the funnel cake, which was dripping in oil. If you see my earlier Dynamo post, you'll note that it's been more than a year since I last had a Dynamo donot. Moderation, you see?

Cookie said...

Hey Single Guy, I don't think you need to justify anything you eat as long as it tastes good to you! I personally avoid street food cuz I have a weak stomach even though I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the sanitation.

Mrs. L said...

I'm amused that street festivals or anything to do with food is getting mobbed these days. No way will my husband wait 45 minutes in line for food after the last fiasco.

Hungry Dog said...

How did I miss this? Looks fun in spite of the long lines. I love your photos!

A said...

are u going to "Out & About Rockridge Street Fair" 9/27/09? Is it worth it?

Single Guy Ben said...

Thanks Cookie and Hungry Dog!

Mrs. L, the crowds were really pleasant despite the wait. Maybe because the weather wasn't as hot, so people weren't as cranky.

A, the Out & About Rockridge Street Fair has grown over the years, so now it's pretty fun and lots to do. You can read about last year's event on my post so you can get an idea.

Jeff said...

Our street festivals are nothing like that. Hmmm...ours would be a bunch of trailers and the smell of deep fried dough covered in powdered sugar. Oh yeah and people waddling everything.

You are making me want to pack it all up and move across country.