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LA Street Food Fest

Because I'm a sucker for street food and large crowds, I'll be attending the First Annual LA Street Food Fest this Saturday. Someone on another topic said to steer away from anything called "First Annual", but I ain't afraid. Also, I don't have any other plans for the day.

So, what should I eat from amongst the thus far listed participants? I'm intrigued by this Bahaian fried turnover thingy, and I'll get some pastor as well. Any other trucks attending that are outstanding? Any I should avoid? How does Fresser's pastrami compare with Langer's or Brent's? I won't be getting the sushi, since mobile and raw fish seem like a bad combination. What else?

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  1. i am debating going. i really, really don't like large crowds and i suspect this is going to be a madhouse.

    i have only tried a few of the trucks, but i can say that the pork belly bun from the Flying Pig truck is just divine. i could eat my bodyweight in those.

    the Grilled Cheese Truck is probably going to have the longest lines, but it's worth it. their mac and cheese and pork sandwich is amazing. even just their plain regular grilled cheese was top notch. but i don't like their tomato soup. tastes like pasta sauce to me.

    4 Replies
      1. re: lizziee

        Got there early @ 1030, half an hour before the scheduled opening and there were ~150 people in line to get in ahead of us.

        Went straight to the ludo fried chicken line as that was the only truck i was keen to see. It was a ~30 minute line to order and another half hour to get the chicken. The chicken was served off bone - two chunks of dark meat which had been brined. Served with a tangy sauce on the side. $5. No choices. It was delicious - lots of crispiness and the sauce had a nice flavor in small quantities (i didnt want the fried chicken essence to be overwhelmed).

        A compatriot got us fries with shredded chicken on it to eat from the adjacent Fry Truck while we waited to order the LFC. It was good. $3.

        We escaped after eating our LFC at a table. So hot and so mobbed. The line looked insane at LFC and the line to get into the event still stretched around the corner and through the parking lot I had parked in.

        It seemed like a go early or don't even bother showing up kinda event. I would have been frustrated had I been planning on hitting a bunch of the trucks....

      2. re: Jelly71

        i feel like i have undereaten pork belly, despite its current popularity. i will try this pig truck this weekend. thank you for the suggestion.

        i've never been a passionate fan of grilled cheese, and especially not mac n cheese since i barfed it up when i was 10. thanks though.

        1. re: Rosiepigs

          The Flying Pig truck was at a foodie function in Pasadena a while back, serving their pork bun plus duck tacos. We thought the bun was okay - just a bit too much bun and not enough pork - but the taco was really good.

      3. The first annual Great American food & music festival this past summer in the bay area was an unmitigated disaster - see this thread. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/627131

        Which makes me nervous about these things.

        1. It sounds fun, but why do I have to pay $5 to get into a place to buy food from food trucks?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ideefixed

            Cause - someone has to pay for the permits and security not to mention the trash clean up and the insurance

              1. re: Kymmie0862

                And, the venue, staff, promotion, etc. $5 is a steal.

            1. Trucks that I've tried that I like and would and have done repeats on are:
              Fressers, solid pastrami. Meat is juicy, well spiced, good texture.

              Phillysouthexperience, a very good cheesesteak

              Lomoarigato, peruvian food. The fried rice actually has decent wok hey

              Frysmith, fries with different toppings. The fries are tasty, crisp, good toppings and sauces

              Gastrobus. Good soup, corn crepes were also good. Everyone at the office seems to like their sandwiches.

              Getshaved, killer shaved ice. Make sure to get it with ice cream. I don't like it with beans, but it is more traditional.

              Average to me, I'd get them if they were nearby and had a hankering for that type of food but not go out of my way:
              Baby'sBB burgers, good, if not a bit overpriced for the quality and quantity

              Barbiesq. The pulled meat sandwiches aren't bad. I didn't care for the ribs

              Tastymeat. I've only had them once, liked it and would probably try their other stuff. It's a gyro type truck. I liked the one with a mix of beef and lamb. Option for a spicer tsatsiki type sauce. Co-worker had their falafel and liked it.

              Dogtown. Your standard gourmet hot dog in their various permuatations and toppings

              The nothing special, you can get equivalent or bettersomewhere else.
              Grillemall, melted cheese. The cheese was kind of gloppy and not melted into the bread properly, it had a weird texture to me. Didn't care for the soup.

              Loukstogo. Greek with the gyro/pita bread wraps. The lamb was skimpy and average. Light and non distinctive tsatsiki sauce

              Nomnom. Bahn mi sandwich. Expensive for skimpy average meat/portions. Silly taco pricing strategy.

              Fishlips sushi. Mobile and raw fish shouldn't be a problem. After all trucks have refrigeration. It's average sushi and prices are decent. But I work near Nijiya so if I want quick inexpensive sushi, I'd rather pop into Nijiya to get their stuff. If you're craving sushi and don't have the Nijiya option, then Fishlips isn't a bad substitute.

              As always, your mileage will vary. It seems like many of the trucks can be inconsistent in quality and maybe some of the ones I didn't care for, I just hit on an off day. The ones I liked, even on repeat visits, the quality was there.

              1. Just got back. Thank the Lord we got VIP tix a few weeks back - The line for Gen. Admission was ridiculous. Great event turnout - Tons of people.

                Chef Ludo was awesome, as always. Posed for a few photos with us.

                A few thoughts on the food. Dogzilla (Japanese hot dogs) were a big hit with our group (despite the >1 hr. wait time!). Dim sum truck concept (VIP area) looks promising. Kebab truck: not so good. NY Pizza: so-so. Sweets Truck - excellent "crack bar" and red velvet whoopie pies.

                Many trucks ran out of their signature food by 2PM.

                Waits were ridiculous. There's gotta be a better system for these events. The long wait times almost don't justify the effort of going at all.

                6 Replies
                1. re: J.L.

                  The Flying Pig Truck also had an extremely long wait - we waited for an hour and a half in line to order and then about another hour and a half for our food (while walking around and sampling other food in the meantime b/c they were so slow). Didn't get to try the fried chicken from Chef Ludo due to the long wait :( But did try the blazin' shrimp taco and the komodo signature taco from the Komodo truck. Both were really good, but the shrimp taco was my favorite food item of the day out of everything I did have, including the pork belly bun from the FPT (mine needed more sauce on it). All in all, I think the event was a success, but I agree that there has to be a better system. The lines were really long for some of the trucks and you couldn't even see where they wrapped around to since the trucks were so close by each other and there were so many people. Looking forward to my toffee rice krispy treat from the Sweets Truck later :)

                  1. re: J.L.

                    Yep. My wife went down to check it out around 2:30 and there was a guy on a bullhorn telling people in the line, that was wrapping around the block by then, that they'd be better off not even trying to get in at that point.

                    1. re: J.L.

                      I want to preface this and say I am not a complainer and I try to find a good thing about anything I do or try (really). And I also want to say I really had looked forward to attending and I was fully aware this was the "first annual" and was ready to cut some slack. But......
                      We pre-bought the VIP ticket and we arrived shortly before 11...maybe 100 people in front of us. We went directly to LudoBites and waited over an hour to the point there were maybe 25 people in front of us. That's when they said they ran out of food and it would be another hour.
                      By that time, all of the other vendors had huge lines and at this point we didn't see the situation improving at all, especially when we could see 1000+ people in the GA line still waiting to get in.
                      We left about 2 pm and went over to Clifton's Cafeteria and finally had something to eat.
                      I am so disappointed that I spent 60 bucks and really got nothing.
                      The concept is a good one, the execution just sucked. Maybe do it again and totally limit the tickets so vendors and customers have a good time.
                      And don't get me started on the fact that the Blue Line had only one train running today.

                      1. re: mke2lax

                        I had a similarly negative experience due to the long lines. Got there shortly after 11, and got to go on the "short" entrance line since we got the prepaid $10 tickets. Waited 30 min to get in, went directly to Ludo Bites and waited on line 1.5 hours to order, than another hour to get the food...a total of 2.5 hours. Yes, the chicken was delicious, when we finally got it. In 5 hours there we were able to sample 5 things...but only because I left my husband alone in line and stood on other lines alone and brought them back to him. And I didn't manage to try most of the trucks I had been most looking forward to trying, because they had the longest lines (e.g., woman in line with me at the shave ice place said it took her 3 hours to get food from Flying Pig)...we basically put all our waiting energy into Ludo and then didn't have it in us to wait over an hour for any other single thing...we just focused on the least popular trucks. It was an adventure, so I'm ultimately glad I went, but I would never go again. This was definitely the most poorly organized food event I have ever been to.

                        1. re: Nicole

                          Hi Nicole, mke2lax,

                          I'm sorry to hear about your experiences. :( Kinda makes me glad I didn't go (my friends would've killed me if we had to wait ~1 - 2 hours per truck, and that they ran out of food by ~2 p.m.). I hope the organization improves next time.

                          1. re: exilekiss

                            Actually, I predict that this sort of gathering will soon evolve into a workable system (card stamps or "credits" instead of cash trading hands, ordering by cellphone texting or pre-set "order boxes", staggered pickup times, multiple lines per truck, etc.), with less wait times and more pleasant experience overall.

                            The energy from all the people there last Saturday was positive and upbeat, despite the long wait times. Food really does bring people together.

                    2. First, we adore the food truck phenomena and being within respectable biking distance to Venice, we probably had already tried over 75% of the trucks at the event. Nevertheless, we we were excited to attend to try some vendors who aren't on the westside (Antojitos Abuelita, Monsieur Egg, and Ludo Bites because I am allergic to making reservations....)

                      Anyway obligatory personal rant... the VIP thing was slightly annoying. I thought we'd have more choices of exclusive bites from the vendors, instead it was basically two vendors and two drink companies and their products were 'meh'. Also, they ran out of gift bags VERY early on. I was not feeling Very Important with those two aspects...

                      Nevertheless, I sucked it up and we still are glad we did the VIP thing. To be honest, the biggest incentive for paying the premium was an actual indoor bathroom to clean up after biking from Culver City and to wash our hands (which we needed since most vendors seemed to forget to give you napkins and even utensils....) and since everyone was stuck in the lines, the VIP area never felt crowded... giving us a nice place to take a breath before we sucked it up and went into another line...

                      Now, to the chow... Our favorite items were...

                      * Monsieur Egg's Crab Cake Frisse w/ Lardon salad with a fried eggs (which I had to sweet talk them into giving me...)

                      http://twitpic.com/1322ze

                      Despite the frantic pace of just about EVERYTHING... the ME team really took care to make sure everything was delicious and prepared properly. The frisse delicately tossed, the crab cake fresh and warm (It honestly was the best crabcake I've had in recently) and fried egg CRISP, but runny, with a sprikle of salt and fresh taragon to make it all just NUUUUUUMMMMM....

                      * Dogzilla Hotdogs...

                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/dommichu...

                      The line was CRAZY... luckily P. volunteered for duty on this one... but we love the whole concept of Asia-Dogs and these were the best versions yet. Not too salty or MSG-y and the flavors were clean, not muddled... Plus the use of the King Hawaiian squishy roll REALLY worked help keep the items clinging on the dog, until the last bite...

                      Tlayuda at Antojitos de la Abuelita...

                      http://twitpic.com/132si9

                      Now, I'm usually not a HUGE fan of Tlayuda. I find the crisp torilla often too leathery, crackery, it gets in the way with the other flavors. BLEH. Nevertheless, the ones coming out of this taco trailer looked 'different' somehow, so I ordered it... OMG! I am a Tlayuda convert. It was crisp, with a taste I can only describe as Whispery... Someone walked up to me and asked where did you get THAT. I told her and then she looked at it again... and said... WHAT is that? I said, it was the most perfect giant nacho and she must try... And so must I again soon...

                      Finally, the most talked about thing... the Ludo Bites Chicken...

                      http://twitpic.com/134rqa

                      I won't even tell you HOW long P. had to wait for this chicken... I'm not saying this as a joke or to be coy... but letme put it this way... I actually had to LEAVE him at the event because I had a meeting to get to around the time the event was supposed to be LONG shut down... It was completely irrational... So was it worth the wait? Well considering that my piece had to travel about 35 minutes between the time Chef Ludo fried it and handed it to P. and I finally had a chance to eat it... it was phenomonal. Still wonderfully crisp, the chicken so juicy. Not overly salty or even piney because of the rosemary. Well balance of flavors I actually liked better on it's own (although the sauce was pretty good). P. said it was even BETTER fresh....

                      Overall, we had a great time, some truly wonderful eats and are glad we went. Nevertheless, they already tweeted about doing another one and I think between continuing our First Friday tradition and now the Downtown L.A. Food Truck Lot, it'll have to be something REALLY good and different to get us back again...

                      --Dommy!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Dommy

                        The one place Dommy didn't mention in her post [cause she didn't get a picture of it] was we went to Fresser's and got a Pastrami on Rye along with a Caprice sandwich plus they handed us a Sample of their Pot roast. The Pot roast needed salt desperately, the Caprice was nothing to write home about But the Pastrami was Surprisingly good. It's not Langer's but if it is in the hood, it is worth the trip.

                        Take Care

                        - P.

                        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                          Given the complaints, why don't the trucks just do sample items and have everyone pay a $50 entry fee to be divided between the truck owners. If the trucks are putting out 2-3 sample dishes, they should be able to do that more quickly than preparing food to order which works on the streets, but not for a massive crowd like this.

                          1. re: Jwsel

                            I think they would have to both do that AND limit the number of people they sell tickets to...because Ludo had just 1 item available yet the longest line. There were just too many people (and too few trucks) there for this to work.

                            1. re: Nicole

                              Yes, what Nicole and Jwsel said. They need to limit how many people go to this (great way to do that would be to charge at least twice more per head).

                              Other option: as cute and nice as it is to get food from a truck, it doesn't work with crowds this big. Time to set up tents with bigger cooking stations for quicker service.

                      2. I was bummed to miss this, but by the time we headed over at 12:30 after the Epicure Imports sale, the line was absolutely insane. All was not lost, though. We headed over to the Cube pop-up sale which had some adorable (albeit pricey) items as well as free cookies, cupcakes and prosecco. Considering that we had samples of truffe butter, chocolate, charcuterie, cheese and wine at Epicure, it was one of my best free sample days ever.

                        We then decided it would be a great time to finally check out Lazy Ox Canteen, and it appeared a lot of people who didn't make it into the street food fest had the same idea because the place was mobbed. We had to wait quite a while, but once we finally got our food, it was excellent. Delicious chicken liver with prosciutto crisps, insanely good bacalo croquettas, the perfectly roasted mussels with their housemade sriracha and the poblano canneloni.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mollyomormon

                          We did the same thing (and that's *after* trying Wurstkuche, which had a line down the block, presumably also for the same reason).

                          I was just tagging along with friends and was really glad that we didn't try to go to the street food thing. The lines looked long, and even just driving around down there was a little hectic. And from what I've heard, few or none of the yuppie food trucks are worth an hour wait.

                          I don't quite understand charging for admission at all (not to mention the $30 "VIP" deal) - presumably the vendors are already paying a percentage of sales to the organizers. And definitely surprised they didn't use some sort of "tickets" system rather than cash, as someone mentioned above. But I guess it's their first year, and hopefully they'll make some improvements next time.

                          Seems to me like having all that hassle, the long waits, and having to pay admission kind of defeats the point of "street food". Hopefully, in a year or two, the whole fancypants food truck trend will calm down a little.

                        2. Excellent idea with poor execution for the most part. Hopefully, organizers will learn from the mistakes made at this event and improve for next time. VIP tickets weren't worth the price for what you got and unless you went with a large group of people that could split up and cover several trucks at once, you were hosed. The food I did get was good, but two bites of a decent dish isn't worth a 1-hour wait. Better luck next time.

                          1. Perhaps they might consider having the trucks drive along a set route from start to finish. This would encourage all the truck fans to be in better shape, hence more healthy. For the least popular trucks the speed would be no more than say 3 MPH and it would gradually ascend until, for the most popular trucks, you would be looking at 8 or even 9 MPH. I guess this would be the modern equivalent of the donkey chasing the carrot on the end of the stick, except in this case it would be a hound chasing a truck... ;-D>

                            1. I’ve given up on food festivals. Organizers always underestimate the number of people attending. I understand why — they have to be conservative to avoid wasting money — but the incentives lead inevitably to chaos. As JL notes, there are ways around the problem, but they require more effort than I think most organizers are willing to give. On the plus side, some of my best meals have been after leaving food festivals in frustration lol! For example, I fell in love with Park's after the disastrous grilled cheese fair...

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: a_and_w

                                The only one I've ever attended that's been well-planned is the Taste of the Nation event, which is consistently excellent. I wish those people could plan every food festival.

                                1. re: mollyomormon

                                  Taste of the Nation costs $325 to get in, has been going for more than 25 years, features chefs extremely skilled in getting out huge amounts of food and is staffed up the wazoo. This one cost $5 to get in and gathered a bunch of trucks. Frankly, before the street-friendly festivals started up last year, the average age of attendees at food and wine festivals was somewhere between 55 and dead.

                                  1. re: condiment

                                    Agreed (although Taste of the Nation last year was 125 for regular admission, not 325) that at the Taste of the Nation prices, one should expect that level of organization.

                                    I'm excited for these upstart festivals, it can just be a bit frustrating to attempt to attend one and then not have any chance of actually trying any of the food.

                              2. I went, and my experience was much like the others--long lines, 1.5 hours to order then another hour to pick up. we actually gave up on such silliness and only got to eat two things--the Brazilian truck (meh) and Fresser's, who makes a good pastrami. What was more interesting about Fresser's was that they had everything pre-made--all their sandwiches were set up and just needed to be handed out. I think that's key--lots of prep will eliminate much of the wait later on. That's why places like Frysmith or Ludo won't work--made to order fried items need to be made right away, and hence cause people aggravating waits. Instead, trucks should offer only a few items, and have them be as pre-made as possible. Oh, and it should be two days so as to better handle the crowds. I'll still go back, though. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon in the sun.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Rosiepigs

                                  I haven't been in a few years but the Wally's wine and food events were quite good and not overly crowded. One ticket for all you can drink and eat. Not sure if they are still doing them. However, you do pay for the privilege.

                                  1. re: Dylan

                                    They still do have wine (and beer) tasting events, and I agree, the ones I've been to were not crowded, well-informed people and a good value.

                                2. Well... while there's plenty of carping to do, I do have to say that a little research would have been good on the part of the trucks. When you're expecting huge crowds (Shawna had 10,000 followers on Twitter in more or less no time at all), the thing to do is to bring food that can be prepped ahead and then finished quickly in the trucks.

                                  While things like Ludo's chicken sound great, making things à la minute in a food festival is a recipe for insanity. It's the same reason the lines for papaya salad were always so long at Wat Thai; it can't be made ahead and required 2-3 minutes per customer to make.

                                  As for the organisation, given the publicity this thing received they could have filled a stadium and it would still have been chaos.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    It's funny because the one thing the craft fair people (Who were a little exasperated about the lack of traffic because everyone was in the food lines) kept telling me was that there were a couple of 'pre' festival meetings and the organizers made it clear that they WANTED keep the lines moving... so they had all the best intentions, but there was lack of follow through w.r.t the instruction on exactly how to do that.

                                    Also, there was a lack of signage in and around the event. (We got lost tryng to find the bike valet and the mobile site did not have a map so our iphones were pretty much useless)

                                    Security was great, the DJs awesome, despite being crushed and indcredibily weary (as I was tryng to escape out of the Bike Valet, I saw one of the cooks of Antojitos plop into a chair outside the tiny trailer in such a way she seemed to want to MELT into it) the vendors were all wonderful helpful and positive and really helped MAKE the event (Since once inside 'official' organizer presence was nil. No info booth, everyone with an apron seemed to be busy drinking and socializing with other people in aprons)

                                    I think in the end the will was strong and VERY good (especially with the vendors) the idea obviously excellent, all it really needs is a little tightening here and there and they could have a GREAT formula down...

                                    --Dommy!