I promised my friends I would rant about the San Francisco Street Food Festival, so here it is. You know you love when the Zealot gets angry. Regarding the recent Street Food Festival - I get that the cause is altruistic. Very nice to be promoting something for La Cocina. I appreciate that and am hesitant to be so down on the planners because their intentions were good. But.....
First, how can you have a "street food" festival without street food vendors? I talked about this last week and kinda hoped they just didn't list the real vendors on the invitation. But no....just the creme brulee guy was there. Apparently, in a twist of irony, an actual street food vendor was detained for operating without a license. Newcomer "Don't Forget Your Lunch" showed up without registering to bring some real street food cred and wound up in the slammer (so to speak).
It looks like next week's EAT REAL FEST [LINK] Oakland actually has some real street food in the lineup. Perhaps they might be organized enough to keep lines manageable?
That's the other gripe. Wandering down 24th street with my son at 3pm, we were excited to meet some friends and chomp some street bites. As we neared Folsom, the crowd started to thicken. Texts started bouncing around: "It's a Zoo, We didn't Even Go In. Too many people. Long lines" from my friend Sarah. From Alan: "Drinking at Homestead and making our way down" and 17 minutes later: "Yeah. We are officially out. Heading to Roosevelt Tamale Parlor". As we arrived, it was clear that if we wanted any food we would have to wait in multiple long lines (I heard anywhere from 20-45 minutes each) just to pay for something I can get in their restaurants. I started waiting in the ticket line and was 15 minutes in before getting any food. Try that with a 4-year old in tow.
We wound up at Casa Sanchez because they had a big space out back with an open table (that seemingly hadn't been bussed in hours). Roosevelt was pretty packed. It turns out that Casa Sanchez (and the other mission businesses that got slammed) didn't know about the festival nor the resultant overflow of people who were fed up with waiting. Lines wrapped around the block at Humphrey Slocombe and other nearby favorites. Casa Sanchez was deep deep in the weeds. We felt sorry for them, but even worse for ourselves as we suffered through some pretty poor dishes that were slapped together. At least they had beer.
So what is to be learned? Planners of San Francisco outdoor festivals take heed: Stay true to your purpose. If you are going to promote street food, in support of street food vendors, include street food vendors. Only street food vendors. We appreciate that Delfina and Absinthe are capable of preparing street-like foods, but they miss the mark in authenticity when they can prepare everything in their full kitchens. Also, plan for crowds. We are a big city and people like food here. If we have to wait for more than 5 minutes max to get anything at a festival, you have failed. Plain and simple. Think ahead.