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SF Street Food Festival 8/22 - Aziza, Delfina, Heaven's Dog, La Mar, Laiola, etc are out on the street

Times is tough ... times is tough

Anway, this festival says it is the SF sister of the pretentiously named Eat Real festival which will take place the following weekend in the East Bay.

However, at least this doesn't seem to put on airs ... I'm sorry i EAT REAL every day ... it's the name that just gets to me.

Seems like a chance to try out some restaurants you may want to try but never get to. I'm not sure if this is the first festival. Does this happen yearly?


Absinthe is serving "Jamie's famous hot dog" peach and sage shrub, and cheddar-cheese corn nut brittle ... I wonder if that last one works taste-wise

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  1. It's new. The Oakland festival might be cheaper, max price is listed as $5 vs. $8 for the SF one.

    1. What blows me away is that it's happening in front of La Cocina on Folsom between 25th and 26th. I lived on Folsom and 25th through the 90s, when Philz was still a bodega and there was no hipster/gringo food to be found down there. I kind of just want to see the worlds collide.

      1. I'm going to try to stop by to check it out, and hope others will, too.

        La Cocina is a great organization with really nice people working for it, and they could use the support, both financial and otherwise.

        1. The discussed this festival a bit and highlighted some folks who will be there (actual street food vendors, not just restaurants with carts on the street) on today's KQED Forum radio show:

          "We take to the streets to find out what mobile food vendors are dishing up in the Bay Area. From creme brulee carts and escargot on a stick to taco stands and tamales, street food is becoming more and more popular. We preview upcoming street food festivals in San Francisco and Oakland, and welcome listeners' "pavement cuisine" picks. "

          1 Reply
          1. I live two blocks away and am thrilled/terrified that this is happening so closeby! I love La Cocina's mission and space (I was lucky enough to take a sourdough baking class there). I love my hood and my neighbors. And wow, I am thrilled about anything that encourages a real street food culture to take root in the US. I have such Latin America/Southeast Asia envy!

            Yet I can't help saying that this is not priced for the neighborhood and that therefore, I expect a lot of people who think it's cool to drop $150 on a Saturday afternoon in the Mission streets to show up and act like jerks. I'm nervous about a huge mob of people (all those reports from the spring food bust at Shoreline) showing up and being rude to each other in the name of creme bulee. I really really have my fingers crossed that people will be laid back and happy and that the food lives up to the sit-down entree prices.

            See ya'll there on the early side!

            2 Replies
            1. re: sarahlefton

              Don't worry about a Shoreline thing. SF does a good job of policing events. I lived for a long time in an area where parades and events start or end in SOMA. The only thing that literally pissed me off were when there were races. For some reason the male runners thought it was ok to pee in the bushes on our street. Um, sure, let me go to YOUR neighborhood and pee in your yard.

              1. re: rworange

                The problems at the Great American Music and Food Festival had nothing to do with policing or the behavior of the crowd.


            2. NEtwork super slow spotty, I'll just link to my Twitter page for updates.

              edited to add: I've left the area, couldn't get a network connection or cell service on site. Chicken kati roll was excellent, juicy succulent chunks of marinated grilled breast meat, medium heat cilantro chutney, fresh garnishes & tender roti. I'd go to j
              kasa to get this again. Disappointed by empanada not the woven chilena style, soggy crust.

              1. Just got back. A pleasant surprise all told, although we were amongst the first there, so I can't vouch for the rest of the day's experiences...

                Zella's pulled chicken sandwich - juicy as hell and topped with red cabbage slaw - was a big winner with a long line, that actually moved quite fast. (Amusing to hear everyone in line asking for the pulled pork and being corrected.)

                Lots of buzz around the block about the Kati rolls from Kasa - indeed - a major zesty mouthful of chicken wrapped in a thin roti with lime to squeeze on the side. Didn't love the pav bhaji on bread though - we felt like the bread was a waste under a perfectly yummy spiced topping.

                We also sampled the pupusas (salty) and chicken tamale (heavenly, and the sauce...mmmmm) from Estrellita.

                Left at about 12:15 when the crowd was starting to get overwhelming, but I have to say, everyone seemed happy and mellow and at least on the early side, the lines were moving at a fair pace. A funny touch was the ambulance prominently parked up front. I remain disappointed that so many of the vendors were brick and mortar restauranteurs, but it was great to see some of these little gusy I hear about out on the street with the longest lines of anyone.

                10 Replies
                1. re: sarahlefton

                  Maybe it was a good idea, but it was set up for a crowd of dozens, not thousands. There were hour-long waits at many of the booths, which is just plain ridiculous, and by the time we left, it was nearly impossible just to get across the block.

                  Combined with most of the booths not even legitimately being "street food", the whole thing deserves a huge thumbs down. You could walk a couple blocks over to Mission and eat just as well for cheaper and with much less of a hassle, which (judging from the bigger than usual crowds I saw over there as well) many people did.

                  1. re: Agent 510

                    I showed up at 11:15am and was shocked that it was so crowded already . . . thought the slacker crowd would sleep in a little later. Having worn the industrial engineer hat early in my career, the inefficiency of the set up and the long waits made me crazy too. (Restaurants/vendors: please calculate your throughput rates and work out the kinks in serving.) It goes to show how efficient taco trucks are to take orders, collect money and get food to folks fast. Just trying to get a cookie and empanada at Sabores del Sur once I got to the head of the line required the assistance of three different people that weren't communicating well, and these weren't even hot things! This made me more impressed by how fast the Kasa folks worked, as the line was even longer there when I started waiting (all the way to the opposite sidewalk and curved around), and it only took 10 mins. (Yes, I was doing time studies.)

                    As far as prices, remember that this is a benefit for charity, so expect to pay more. I did go elsewhere to get something to drink, as I couldn't bear getting in line again. I noticed at least two people rolling around luggage carts full of soda, so I doubt they were part of the "official" vendors, but I bet they did a good business. There was also a paleta cart in the middle and a fruit vendor cart off to one side, neither of which are on the map or list of vendors, they had lots of hungry customers and were moving very fast to serve them.

                    1. re: Agent 510

                      We arrived at 11:30 and the crowd was building fast. Seemed like some vendors were better at dealing with it than others. Aziza took a restaurant approach with an order taker and small kitchen staff. Took forever. But the food was all good and everyone was in a great mood. Best thing we ate was the heirloom tomato on bread from Laiola. Aziza's med taco was also very good.

                      1. re: Shane Greenwood

                        I saw those moroccan "tacos, and if I'd been willing to stand in line, that would have been next.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Yeah, the line was just a little too long for us, but the food made it worth the wait. Fortunately we had an eloté to keep us company.

                          I am sure the vendors and the organizers were surprised by the turnout.

                      2. re: Agent 510

                        We got there around 12:30, took one look at the lines and headed to 24th St to eat our way around the Mission instead. We had coffee and donuts @ Dynamo Donuts, tortas @ Los Picudos, pupusas @ Panchita's 3, ice cream @ Bi-Rite Creamery.

                        I loved the concept but agree they needed twice the number of booths spread out over 3-4 blocks instead of one.

                        1. re: tvham

                          And just think, you could have enjoyed a limited selection of the same Bi-Rite items with a much longer wait if you stayed at the festival!

                          In their defense, though, I believe this is the first iteration of this festival. They will face a huge dilemma next year as to whether to keep things the same or attempt to accomodate larger crowds next year, which may stretch their resources.

                      3. re: sarahlefton

                        Thanks for your quick post, Sarah, helpful to those who might have been checking in from onsite or contemplating heading over before it ends at 7pm.

                        I'm in Sebastopol now, after shoppinig at the farmers market in Petaluma, and can reflect a bit more. I tried to post from the festival site, but the chow.com servers were nonresponsive and timed out, so it was easier for me to upload photos to twitter on an unstable connection. Thought that a quick take on the scene was better than a rehash after everything was over. Not great, but remember that I was standing in the middle of a huge crowd with a plate in one hand and trying to take pictures and type with the other hand on a mobile device! Here are the direct links to the photos:

                        The kati roll also had a cauliflower filling option. At $5, it was one of the better deals offered, and that's the price on the restaurant's website too.

                        In the past few weeks, the most common question I've heard from various friends has been asking what I think about the lineup for the Eat Real festival. One of my complaints I've grumbled about is that there was no Bombay style street chaat despite there being many possibilities in Fremont, Sunnyvale, and Berkeley. To be fair, maybe all those shops turned them down. But in any case, I was very happy to see Kasa on the list for the SF festival and even happier at the kati roll. The pav bhaji was tasty, but too mushed up for me, I like things less mashed and with some coarse bits. I liked the light and fluffy rolls, and they were grilled nicely, but they were a little too much bread.

                        Kasa Indian Eatery
                        4001 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          .....standing in the middle of a huge crowd with a plate in one hand and trying to take pictures and type with the other hand.....

                          Now there's a pic I'd love to see! ;>P

                          Great shots Melanie, hope to be able to attend next year.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Kasa is great. Their restaurant is bright and well organized. Options are very well priced and tasty. Both the thali and the kati options are tasty - I tried the chicken tikka masala and the lamb curry on my visit last month.

                        2. i tried the calzone at delfina, a taco el alhambra at el huarache loco, and satay at poleng lounge. I arrived around 12:00 and left around 3:45, and was basically in line the entire time. The area was too small, the lines were too long, and certain popular foods (e.g. aziza's squid salad) ran out midway. I waited about half an hour for the escarole calzone/fritta. Not bad, but not great...and im not sure worth $8. I waited in line for nearly 2 hours for the oysters at poleng, and they ran out with around 6 people in front of me. Safe to say i was a bit irritated. I ended up getting the lemon grass satay, which was actually quite good, but was expensive for the amount.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: majordanby

                            I got there at 1:00 and was amazed by the crowds and lines. I was attending a private party, so didn't stand in line for anything, and actually didn't see how I could even get out in the street with the crowds. I hope next year they figure out how to manage this better. Perhaps make it two blocks with more vendors instead of one block.

                          2. My girlfriend's sister and husband were in town and when we were thinking of things to do today, I didn't even mention this. I would never buy ver. 1.0 of a piece of software or buy a new car in its first year of a new design. Too many bugs. Wait until they're fixed and buy the next version.

                            I put festivals such as these, in their debut, in it that same category. Until the kinks are worked out, I avoid 'em like the plague.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Larry Stein

                              This was put on by the same people who did Slowfood Nation last year, so they have a bit of experience. From the perspective of everyone involved except the customer, this type of event is a failure unless there are constant lines. Though you'd think that after a couple of three-hour-line-for-a-hot-dog disasters someone would invent a take-a-number system or something so people could have a more productive time waiting.

                            2. Ideas for next year:

                              1) more vendors, spread out over a larger area.
                              2) coach the restaurant vendors in the ways of street food
                              3) more seating
                              4) consider time slots for entry in order to control the crowd size and to send in the crowd in waves so the vendors get lulls and rushes
                              5) have more vendors in their own set ups (carts, taco trucks, etc). Seems like a street food festival should have some of those.
                              6) fewer high-bid items in the silent auction and more small stuff in the spirit of street food.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                How about timed-admission tickets like they give out for overly popular special exhibits at museums?

                                There's a similar festival next weekend in Oakland:


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Yeah, that's what I was thinking of with my point #4. I think the vendors would appreciate it too because it would build in some lulls and rushes so they could catch up and get breaks. Haven't heard from any vendors directly, but it looked like they were slamming out the dishes non-stop for 5+ hours. Having worked in the back of house myself, I can say they had that familiar look of being hopelessly in the weeds.

                              2. We arrived at 11:00 and went to the end of the festival where the lines were very short and worked our way back to the front. By that time, we were full, which was fine because the lines at the front were already out of control - this was all in about an hour. The first thing we tried was bad, and i can't even remember the name of the restaurant, nor find it on the website, but it was where creme brulee cart guy was selling from. It was an eggplant empanada-type thing, and it was very dry. Had the vanilla creme brulee - delicious. The lamb moroccan taco was great. We also had anticuchos from Sabores del Sur - who actually gave you a plate worth your money - $8 for two skewers of meat, two roasted potatoes with a chimichurri-type sauce, and a little biscuit (which was unfortunately dry too.) The beef heart (on the Peruvian skewer) was spicy and the beef on the other (Chilean) was really tender. We had Jamie's hot dog and found it rather bland. We finished up with the gypsy pepper gazpacho and heirloom tomato tomaquet from Laiola - these were both excellent tho the tomato could have used a little more salt. I tried one drink - a peach and sage shrub from Absinthe - which was ok but a little strange, tasted like it had cidar vinegar in it. Overall, a nice event, would like more restaurants to participate. You really had to get there right when it started. I can't imagine what happened near the end of the day - if the lines got shorter, or they ran out of food? And i agree, they should let it be more actual street food with carts. The bacon-wrapped hot dogs should have been in their own little griddles like you normally see them! Unfortunately I'll be out of town next weekend and will miss the Oakland event. Hopefully someone can post a comparison. Not that the two can compare, but . . . .

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                  I believe a shrub by definition has vinegar in it.

                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                    I was unfortunate enough to try the eggplant pie too, since the only line I braved was the creme brulee line and I wanted to eat something that could be called "lunch" before polishing off the creme brulee. At least that was better than the cold eggplant turnover thing.

                                    I do have to give the crowd credit for being well-behaved. There was a lot of confusion in the really crowded areas but no tension or shoving or anything (like you'd see in an airport terminal or a Giants game or anywhere else if it got that packed)

                                  2. We got there at 11:45 and the lines were already winding down the street. It took us 45 minutes to get two cremes brulee (and we got the second-to-last chocolate one). We left immediately after as we had our 8-month-old daughter with us and the crowds were getting frighteningly dense. We basically had to push our way through the crowd to get out. I don't understand why they didn't set up cordons (ie: the poles with the ropes they use at amusement parks and the airport). Had they used them and created back-and-forth lines in front of each stand they could have accommodated the same number of people in half the space, with no confusion of who was "there first."

                                    We went to Beretta and had a carbonara pizza. Much more civilized.

                                    1. By the time we arrived (with kids in tow!) around noon, it was crowded as hell.
                                      The bacon wrapped hot dogs (not the Absinthe ones), which we waited for about 30+ minutes, were really really good. (My six year old said "yummiest hot dogs I've ever had").
                                      Anybody knows who the vendor was?

                                      La Mar Cebicheria's mini sandwiches (they ran out of pork and switched to beef) were kinda dry, not worth the wait. We also managed to have some pupusas (so so, not great) from Estrellita's Snacks and, of course, creme brulees from the creme brulee man.

                                      Looking forward to next years' -- hopefully they will be better prepared to handle the crowds.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: bong

                                        They're doing it again in Oakland this weekend:

                                        Jack London Square is a larger and less wacky location for an event
                                        like this, so it might work better there.