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Santa Anita Food Truck Festival -- disaster!

Did anyone else try to attend this event? I'm awarding it the prized "Epic Fail" badge of dishonor.

There were 28 gourmet food trucks set up around the perimeter of the infield. For $10 admission & parking, you got access to the trucks and the park. All food purchases were extra. However, I knew that going in, and if I had been able to actually get food, well...

I spent about eighty minutes in line for the Lardon truck, which features a variety of bacon dishes. I picked that truck because the line was long but didn't seem to be as long as some of the other lines -- such as the Grilled Cheese Truck or Border Grill Truck. During my wait, they ran out of about half of their menu items. I placed my order, then joined the mob milling around waiting for their food to come out.

Another hour passed. They finally closed the order window.

Then another half hour passed. Still no food. I went up to the window and asked for a refund. It looked like my ticket was still another 45-60 minutes away from being filled, believe it or not!

Unfortunately, this experience appeared to be typical. Most trucks were running out of food and running 2+ hour waits. The only exceptions were the dessert-themed trucks, where you could get a cupcake or ice cream sandwich after a mere 30 minutes or so.

I don't know if they ridiculously oversold this event, or if food trucks are by their nature not suited toward serving large gatherings. When I complained, I did get a refund, so I appreciate that. However, this was an epic fail, and a waste of a day for my family.

Border Grill
1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401

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  1. Jordan, I agree 100%. This event was HORRIBLE. They completely oversold the event, and waiting 2 hours for a friggin grilled cheese was not worth it. We went to one of the shorter lines, the BBQ truck and enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich, which took 52 minutes. They ran out of pork 5 people after we ordered at only 1PM. We got nothing else and left the cheese sandwich line after 1 hour and moving twenty feet. We didn't ask for a refund because we had already ordered some food.

    I enjoyed the horse racing but will NEVER come back to this event again.

    1. Sounds like the LA Weekly / UCLA event.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ipsedixit

        That would be the LA Times/UCLA event. It will take a month of Sundays before I forget that one.

      2. I'm not surprised. I am done—done, done, DONE—with food truck "festivals". There was just one in Irvine, at the Hyatt. They graciously gave half an hour's parking free. Riiiiiiight. When was the last time you got through a food truck festival in half an hour? After some outcry, it was extended to an hour... still not good enough.

        There was one in Fountain Valley, at Boomers on Magnolia. $5 to get in, but you got a $4 card for Boomers. I'm thirty-mumble years old and I do not need a card to Boomers.

        Done. Done, done, done. If I see a food truck I might stop, but I'm not going to any more of these stupid festivals.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Most food trucks are mediocre at best. Anybody who would wait an hour for a grilled cheese sandwich should have their head examined. At least at the JGold event, once you get in, all the food is included. I remember the first year and I went crazy at the Animal booth. It was Pork-a-palooza!

          BTW, I went to Din Tai Fung and the Arboretum (across the street from the festival) today. Waited about 15 mins for some fantastic dumplings and had a nice walk with the family on a very beautiful day. I was probably done in the time it took to get a grilled cheese sandwich from one of the food trucks!

          Din Tai Fung Restaurant
          1108 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

          1. re: bsquared2

            Most food trucks are mediocre at best.

            That good, huh? I think you give them too much credit.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              But they often have such clever and funny names. They must hire the same people that make up the names for the Westside Pho joints. They are Un-PHO-gettable!

              1. re: bsquared2

                I just hope that the food bus trend spreading like wildfire up in NoCal doesn't trickle down here.

            2. re: bsquared2

              bsquared, you could have had your delicious din tai fung lunch and gone to a movie before those in the back of the line got their cheese sandwich.

              This was my last time going to any food truck festival, especially at Santa Anita racetrack

            3. re: Das Ubergeek

              Your thoughts above should be an original thread unto itself, Das.

              Agree completely.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Oh, I concur. If I see a truck, and I'm hungry, and I don't have to wait more then 10 minutes ... I'll try it.

                Otherwise, fuggadaboutit.

              2. I was supposed to go to this, but decided against it at the last minute. I had a feeling the lines would be long, and I wasn't up for it. I'd rather check out food trucks when they aren't so busy. Glad I didn't go. Can anyone recommend where to find the best food trucks? I usually just hit up the ones on Fair Oaks in Pasadena. These tend to be taco trucks. Thanks for the review. Let me know if you have any favorite trucks, and I'll try to find them on my own time, outside of the festival scene.

                1. It was almost impossible to find the end of the lines. Waiting 2 hours for food from a food truck crosses the line from foodie to cult worshiper.I would recommend avoiding these events until sanity returns. Clearly they knew how many tickets they had sold on the internet.for this event.

                  1. This whole food truck fad doesn't seem to deliver...isn't it supposed to be "fast food". I'd rather go to a nice restaurant and enjoy a martini while waiting just 20 minutes for my food. Time is precious.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Funwithfood

                      I concur. So true. I don't have the time nor do I want to wait 1 to 2 hours for anything. I think this is a sign of the times, though. Life moves very quickly in LA.

                    2. Today was an abject disaster for everybody except for Santa Anita.. I tried to wait on line at Grilled Cheese Truck around 12:30 but the lines were around the park and approximately 125 people. Somebody who worked for Santa Anita told me that they pre-sold 5,500 tickets online for the food festival. Look at the difference in attendance between the last 2 Saturdays. Today was a good card for horse racing that may have added to the attendance but not quite this much.
                      Sat Jan 28th attendance - 26,694
                      Sat Jan 21st attendance - 7,385
                      19,000 x $12.00 = Santa Anita having more food truck festivals in the future. The only way this would work out better is if they sold tickets in time blocks and they tripled the number of food trucks. I agree with Das never again will I attend any type of food truck festival.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: js76wisco

                        WOW! Is this what we all have to look forward to for the Santa Clarita Food truck Festival next month?? Hardly worth it...

                        1. re: Kitchen Queen

                          Seriously -- you should avoid this event at all costs!

                          1. re: js76wisco

                            I've been disappointed with food festivals in general...long lines and over priced mediocre food samples.
                            If I see a food truck on the street I'm interested in I'll stop only if the line is less than 10 people. Anymore than 10 people I don't think they're capable of handling that many customers in a reasonable amount of time. 125 people in line waiting for a grilled cheese sandwich...It's not a restaurant.

                            Only the promoter's make out at these things....customers and truck owners suffer the consequences.

                            1. re: Professor Salt

                              Excellent...the OED will be including your entry on their 2011 add list.

                              1. re: Professor Salt

                                That would be the new "Peanut Cluster" truck I believe...

                                1. re: Professor Salt

                                  Really I think, by definition, the kind of food truck worth eating at would never be at a food festival...

                                2. When "chain" eateries started sending out trucks... end of the line for that idea.

                                  1. Maybe it is just me, but I don't understand how these trucks can be unprepared for these things. I have been to events like Taste of LA, and things run fairly smooth. The food moves quickly with limited menu items and a lot of pre-preparation.

                                    I went to the Yelp Christmas event and they had 2 trucks with lines that were stupid long, and this was a small event. The two trucks had limited items and it still took well over 1/2 an hour for a deep fried twinkie, or something like it. It was not bad, but come on, plates of items on sticks, moving trough the deep frier in shifts. It isn't that tough. It left me very luke warm on the whole gourmet food truck experience.

                                    1. Clustertruck describes the situation perfectly!! I think we all anticipated long lines - but this was beyond ridiculous - lines of 2 hours with trucks running out of food. Left after waiting an hour, when it became clear that a) the wait for food would be well over 2.5 hours and b) it was more than likely that they would run out of food before then.
                                      I'm sure the organizers and Santa Anita made a ton of money off of this, while I ended up eating crappy, over priced tacos from the food court. This has completely soured me on "festivals" for food trucks - these seem designed only to get the entrance fee.
                                      The only redeeming quality of the event was that everyone despite waiting without food (oh and did I mention that the line for beer was well over an hour too?) was super polite, friendly and cool.
                                      so food truck festival=the suck, food truck lovers=sweeties.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: frazzletree

                                        Clustertruck! Exactly, if someone starts a 'Mongolian Clustertruck', I'm at least buying a t-shirt. I went to the one downtown. Having VIP tickets was invaluable: access to bathrooms, free cocktails, etc. Then we went out into the public area and holy smokes it was a nightmare! Standing for a long time to get food that seemed like an experiment (and not a successful one).
                                        Let's face it: Food Trucks are cool. Pleasure Palate booked the Frysmith truck just for ourselves and it was great: no wait, in the shade, low stress. Great fries! but food trucks AREN'T SET UP for big massive events. Their very design precludes that.

                                        Mobile truck, Los Angeles, CA

                                      2. I sent off a scathing email to the Santa Anita Racetrack regarding the food truck festival and I encourage you to offer feedback to Chris.Quinn@santaanita.com.

                                        I'm actually a semi-regular attendee of the racetrack to watch the horses. However, after this disaster, maybe I'll go to Hollywood racetrack instead.

                                        1. Agreed! After this one and the one downtown at la center studios last year I have learned something...
                                          Food truck + Festival = Sucks Never again!

                                          1. This was my first venture out to do something remotely houndish since I moved down here last August and agree - absolute disaster. At noon, I heard from people coming out that the trucks were almost out and the lines were an hour plus, so tried the track just to try to get *something.* The track was full of people that didn't get into the festival. After waiting 20 minutes for a beer, I gave up and left. Managed to find Lucky Baldwin's in Sierra Madre - great beer selection to drown my sorrows in.

                                            I did a search and couldn't find any mentions of the Chunk-n-Chip truck on CH, so does anyone know if they ever venture out of the OC?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: adrienne156

                                              Funny... Lucky Baldwin is the guy who built Santa Anita race track.

                                              Lucky Baldwins
                                              17 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                                              1. From: http://arcadia.patch.com/articles/foo...

                                                "`Ticket sales are unbelievable. Every six hours we're selling 500 hundred tickets,' Quinn said enthusiastically."

                                                It seems as if the organizer was happy to continue to sell tickets long after the event was oversubscribed. I think this shows real contempt for the buying public. The purported words of P.T. Barnum come to mind, except in this case it was every 0.72 seconds.

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Peripatetic

                                                  If Santa Anita purposely sold tickets without regards to the fans, then this truly is their fault. However, I dont think they anticipated this kind of success. Remember, this is their first one, and they wanted to guarantee a successful event by overselling tickets (sort of like airlines do, right?).

                                                  The feedback here sounded like many food fests where patrons paid to get in. May I also remind everyone that there were 3 other "Food Gatherings" in the LA and OC going on at the same time, and those were free.

                                                  If the event was empty, would you be complaining and call this a disaster?? No, you'd call it a flop. There's no way to win on this event. If they oversell, you call it a disaster (for you, the foodie) but if there's only a 100 people (like the CHOC Knotts event) you'd say it was pathetic!

                                                  1. re: Callmemochelle

                                                    There has to be a balance and ways to improve the experience. I think organizers are trying to figure out how to make these events work for everyone. We have seen them all, the next one is Union Station TruckItFest in March. Everyone will be watching... Are you going?

                                                    1. re: victorcab

                                                      Not sure but if I do, VIP all the way

                                                      I agree there has to be a formula on patrons vs trucks. There's no exact science but 26000 is excessive

                                                      1. re: Callmemochelle

                                                        VIP doesn't always help. I was VIP (and very early) at the mess that was the food truck event at LA center studios last year. No advantage other than a crowded air conditioned lounge and a free drink.

                                                        Food trucks by nature just don't lend themselves to any kind of major crowd situations. The consumer always loses unless they love waiting in long lines.

                                                        1. re: Claudem

                                                          VIP is def not a guarantee, but in the OCfoodiefest and the OC Fair New Years Eve paid off. This one at Union Station seems to be a good idea in that you get front of the line, special entrance, and valet parking.

                                                    2. re: Callmemochelle

                                                      Don't be ridiculous. There's a difference between a crowded event with long lines and one that completely breaks down and fails to serve thousands of people.

                                                      You got there as soon as they opened with a partner and managed to grab some food right away. Good for you. I got there 30 minutes later, and we got nothing. That's a failure.

                                                      1. re: Jordan

                                                        Agree. When the lines at 12pm, an hour after they opened, are 125 to 200 people deep at each truck this does not make for an enjoyable experience. I saw a couple of trucks shut down around 2pm because they ran out of food. In our last desperate attempt we went back in around 2:30 but the lines were even longer.

                                                        1. re: js76wisco

                                                          The biggest challenge for these events is some trucks are more popular. So everyone is going to rush to get on those lines. Plus go to any catering hall or restaurant and ask them if they can handle serving 1000 people in 4 hours out of a truck kitchen. They will laugh at you. Even McDonalds couldn't handle this type of a crowd at one of their restaurants.

                                                          The only way to change this is staggered seating. This could work at Santa Anita because then you can spend the rest of the time betting. And with longer daylight coming they should serve past dinner. Give people different colored bracelets for Lunch, Mid Afternoon, and Dinner.

                                                          But every one of these events seems to get everyone showing up at once all jumping on the same lines. It affects food quality and service.

                                                          1. re: Loki1967

                                                            good idea. AND have a refrigerated truck on site to replenish supplies for the trucks.

                                                  2. It just shouldn't be a surprise that a truck with no walk in and a couple cooks, then trying to to everything 'a la minute' can't handle more than a small amount of people at a time.

                                                    Then when there are long line people panic and order a ton of food where they happen to be draining the food truck faster. It seems to me that a lot of food trucks is just not as efficient as a couple restaurants. They are nice when you stumble on them, find something unique and move on. I'm not going to a truck as a destination place though.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: AAQjr

                                                      After not a lot of experience with the new breed of food trucks - 2 times @ Kogi, once at that hot dog truck and the LA Times thing - the Food Truck Model seems to be one that works only if you're selling something simple, easily prepared, and with ingredients that take up next to no space, which appears to leave us with … tacos. Or maybe hot dogs, or popcorn, or burgers. Add a bunch of fancy sandwiches or fried goods (or, heaven help us, baked!) and you've just made even your first customer wait five or ten minutes, while the order window rings up one every minute or so.

                                                      The hot dogs were okay, not stunning but pretty fast, but nothing else was worth that much of my precious time. So I'll just stick with the tacos, I think.

                                                      Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        It might be a case of apples vs. oranges, but i think the Wat Thai food stalls in North Hollywood did a pretty good job of feeding large crowds weekend after weekend; many of their signature favorites such as the green papaya salads and coconut/kanam krok treats were made to order for hours at a time, by wizened grandmas with the stamina of Hercules apparently. Even during very busy weekends (Water Festival) in the blistering North Hollywood midday sun, I don't think I ever waited for more than 15 minutes for any item, be it grilled meats, soups/noodles, salads, or desserts. Those Wat Thai vendor stalls were basically food trucks without wheels, but they had a generally efficient system down (including the use of color-coded tokens in lieu of cash or credit cards). Granted, hundreds vs. thousands of patrons were being served, but the food was fresh, consistent and gloriously varied. I wonder if the food trucks could learn something from the Wat Thai model of people-pleasing hospitality...

                                                        1. re: silence9

                                                          That's sort of what I was getting at. A limited range of fairly simple foods prepared by people who know what they're doing, and who can do it all from basically one mise en place. We knew a woman in Nashville who, though she herself was the size of a smallish refrigerator, stood all day in a closet-sized kitchen and pumped out hundreds of orders of burgers, sandwiches, salads and her signature giant burrito-like "bean roll". How did she do it? "Well, I'm real organized." Good prep and a limited menu helps, too. Oh, and that attitude!

                                                    2. I went...saw the lines...got a nice carvery sandwich from the clubhouse instead and pet the ponies. I don't want any food that much. Sure was a beautiful day, though.

                                                      1. WOW! I was planning on going but decided on a last-minute trip to Las Vegas for the weekend instead (and had a faboo meal at Lotus of Siam). I am very glad I did not go. I guess I will just have to stop at trucks I want to try when I see them on the side of the road from now on. Thank you for posting!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: WildSwede

                                                          Lotus of Siam was the smart choice by a longshot. Good call.

                                                          1. re: J.L.

                                                            from the sound of it, you could have driven to LOS and back and still had your food before some of the folks on this thread!

                                                            1. re: adamclyde

                                                              I know, huh? I would have been pissed if I would have been there. What a shame. I heard about it a while ago and if I was in town I would have definitely gone.

                                                        2. Believe it or not, they are planning a sequel. The next Santa Anita Food Truck Festival will be April 2nd. I'll give them credit for -- in the email I received -- attempting to show how they're addressing the many problems. They say they'll have 70 trucks instead of 23, in three times as much space in the infield. They won't be doing presales or charging extra for wristbands -- just the $5 general admission lets everyone in. Kids under 17 get in free.

                                                          I appreciate that they recognize the problems and seem to be trying to make this a better event. I wish them luck. However, I'm going to sit this one out and let someone else be the guinea pig.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: Jordan

                                                            Downtown Art Walk is free, and access to over 80 food trucks is generally unhindered.

                                                            1. re: Jordan

                                                              $45 for AYCE/D @ Gold Standard > Food Truck Festivals

                                                              1. re: ns1

                                                                Can we have that in English, please?

                                                                1. re: Jordan

                                                                  I believe AYCE/D = all you can eat/drink.

                                                                  1. re: Jordan

                                                                    Forty five dollars for all you can eat and drink at the Gold Standard Festival is a much better value than food truck festivals where you have to pay to get in, pay for food, and pay for drink.

                                                                    1. re: ns1

                                                                      Thanks for clarifying. I haven't heard about a Gold Standard Festival.

                                                                      1. re: Jordan

                                                                        It was two weeks ago. It's an annual event put on by LAWeekly and their food critic, Jonathan Gold. The food comes to you, and one ticket is all you can eat and drink, with the restaurants chosen by the critic.