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Eat Real vs. LA Street Food Fest

Perhaps it's further proof of LA's further expansion as a culinary destination but, this weekend sees two food festivals that sound somewhat similar in scope and thus, placed in direct competition with each other.

From the East, and the foothills of Pasadena, striding in for its second year after an auspicious, well-hyped and well-attended debut, is LA Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl.

From the West, and the flatland side of Culver City, comes the ambitious Oakland import to the Helms Bakery, Eat Real Fest, boasting free admission.

Any fellow 'Hounders planning to attend both or one over the other? Eager to hear why either way.

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  1. The weekend of Caramageddon? Tough for Valley folks to get to Culver City.

    1 Reply
    1. re: reality check

      Good gosh, reality check (how so apropos to this discussion), I utterly neglected that 20 elephants in the room aspect. Yikes!

    2. Yeah with Carmageddon it's a pretty easy decision for someone like me who lives on the westside. Going to Eat Real and taking the bus. Shoot down Washington on the Culver City Bus Line #1. Drop off right in front of Helms and Washington.

      1. Both events look really cool!!
        Hands down, I'll be at the Rose Bowl @ LA Street Food Fest. They've got free shuttles from the gold line and Michael Boltaggio!! Plus Jonathan Gold. Go with the Gold!

        1 Reply
        1. re: kdolla

          Oppps, I got so excited.....it's Michael "Voltaggio"!!

        2. I might hit Eat Real if only because I live about 10 minutes from Culver City and I need to check if Surfas sells French presses. Plus, there are a few art openings in CC on Saturday, so that makes for cool weekend plans.

          1. 1 is a collection of parked food trucks chock full of SYSCO products, the other focuses on crafted artisanal food.

            I like Oakland far better than Pasadena, and will be in Culver, despite living on the Eastside.

            9 Replies
            1. re: TonyC

              Both festivals look great, and people should look at the list of vendors and go with the food.

              But, to be accurate, both festivals have about the same number of "gourmet trucks", and neither of these festivals will be in Oakland. Pasadena and Culver City are somewhat similar I'd say, but this isn't even relevant.

              Only 14 of over 60 vendors at LA Street Food Fest are "gourmet trucks", the rest are chefs, street stands, traditional trucks, and ice cream shops. Anyone can check the website to verify

              Eat real has a great market place of vendors selling their craft artisanal foods and eats that are mostly "gourmet food trucks".

              Two great choices this weekend, go to one, go to both, but let's start with the truth about the options.

              Most of all, I hope people get out this weekend and enjoy some fantastic events and don't get discouraged by Carmageddon. Rooting for both events to be successful, and will be at both.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Carmageddon, shmarmageddon. That's what buses and trains (and a good book) are for.

                I'll be at Eat Real because I'm presenting, but I'll be thinking about LASFF... and streetgourmetla is right, LASFF is sort of head and shoulders above things like OC Foodie Fest; they actually don't disdain the O.G. loncheras.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I think Metro is offering free train and maybe bus fare, this weekend.

                  But, since no trains, for right now, go to Culver City, if you're in the Valley, it would be tough to make it to Culver City. Unless you have four hours to waste on the commute, between 45 mins to 90 mins to get to Union Station from the Valley and then however long to get to Culver City.

                  1. re: reality check

                    The Orange, Red and Purple lines are free and several bus lines are free, including the 733 Rapid ("RINO"—Rapid In Name Only) bus, which goes straight to the gate of Eat Real.

                    I myself have to drop my daughter off in Arcadia and will be taking the Gold Line to the #733 bus. It's 25 minutes from any point on the Red Line to Union Station.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      That maybe what the schedule says, but in reality, from North Hollywood Station, it's usually 35-40 mins, to get to Union Station. Though if you were going to Culver City, is there a bus from 7th and Metro station?

                      1. re: reality check

                        I commute that all the time—my bus to Burbank leaves from NoHo Red Line—and it takes 25-28 minutes on nearly every occasion. The Rapid bus leaves from Patsaouras, which is adjacent to Onion Station.

                        To get from 7th/Metro to Eat Real requires a change of bus, at which point you might as well change trains and head east three stops.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          I take the Red Line often, from NH to Union Station and that trip is always in the 35-40 mins range. If I go to the last stop of the Orange Line, add another 30-40mins, just to get to NH.

                          1. re: reality check


                            No traffic anywhere on the 10 today. I haven't seen 101 this dead on a Saturday morning in... this decade.

                            Eat Real 1, 405 0.

              2. re: TonyC

                as much as I love disparaging comments, this one is not of particular value without a little more information

              3. i'd rather pay as i go, so i'm going to eat real. at least i won't have to pay for food that i don't get to eat!

                1. I live on the Westside, but am definitely hitting the LA Street Food Fest.

                  There are more food vendors at the Rose Bowl event. They range from crazy carts and mom and pops to some serious chefs like Ricardo Zarate. The variety of street food -- not trucks, but real street food -- is great and includes stuff that I would probably never find normally (Baja chefs!)

                  I get to try all sorts of things without worrying about how much I'm spending for each taste. And, without feeling like I've got to finish something that sucked because I just paid for it.

                  Drinks -- tequila tasting and beer gardens -- included.

                  All that said, I might try Eat Real on Sunday (it's 2 days) since it's nearby.

                  1. Just got back from Eat Real at the Helm's Bakery Bldg Complex. Driving there was a breeze (around noon), parked in the public parking structure attached to Trader Joe's and waited for the shuttle. The open lot just across the street to the west of Trader Joe's had a sign indicating it was parking for the festival. Skip the shuttle if you're parking in this structure or in the lot. The shuttle makes a completely indirect loop from there. You'd get to the festival faster by walking. If you want to grab the shuttle, the last stop before dropping everyone off at the Venice-end of the festival is in front of Pacific Theatres Stadium 12 complex. Lots of folks taking the Culver City Bus #1, as well as riding bikes.

                    Lots of food of course - Big Mista consistently had the longest line, Let's be Frank wasn't far behind. Cool Haus had a stand but the ice cream was melting fast (at least mine did) 12:30-1PM. Carslbad Aquafarms had a stand and was also doing brisk business on shucked oysters (across from the smalller beer counter in the Danske

                    We found two separate beer stands. The smaller of the two is in what used to be the Danske Mobler (sp) Furniture shop. The bigger and better selection is at the south end of the central parking lot which is holding the vast majority of food stalls as well. It's sectioned off like a beer garden and a large shipping container holds two banks of taps (on either side of the container). They'll pour small tastes to sample before committing to buy ($5 per pour).

                    It was packed by 3PM with the beer garden being the most crowded. I frickin' missed Das Ubergeek's demo on preserving citrus, but I did see some of the attendees carrying around mason jars with what looked like preserved lemons. The layout of the festival in many segmented areas and buildings made finding certain things a bit difficult as well as slowing down the flow of bodies - by the time I found the area, the next demo was already up. :(

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      I went both days to the Eat Real Festival. Hopped on the Culver City Bus #1 from the Mar Vista area and it was a straight shot down Washington, traffic was so light the bus was running well ahead of schedule in between stops.

                      I was there from 10:30-7:30 on Saturday. On Sunday, I was there for only a couple of hours, mainly to attend the Mexican authenticity panel. Saturday got packed and most of the trucks and food stands had very long lines. Most everyone sold out of food by mid to late afternoon.

                      Das Ubergeek's demo was well attended, you had to get there early if you wanted to get a spot and materials. Kudos to him for an easy to follow presentation and demystifying what was a exotic ingredient to many people in the audience.

                      Aida Mollenkamp's breadsticks demo was very fun. She has great presence, did a good job interacting and teaching everyone. It's easy to understand why she was chosen for her TV gigs. Not to mention that she's extremely easy on the eyes. Kind of a winning combination.

                      Sunday was considerably less packed. At 12:30, I walked right up to Big Mista for an order with no wait. At 2:30 after the panel, the crowds hadn't increased and it seemed like most stands still didn't have much of a wait.

                      Overall I thought it was a well organized event. Especially considering it was the first one. Plenty of staff running around the place to answer questions and help out. There was decent signage and having map kiosks scattered around even in that relatively small area was a great help. Although the area was chopped up a bit due to the physical constraints of the layout, I thought they did a good job in grouping things together. Having multiple stages for the various activities and bands gave everyone plenty of choices.

                      I only had some minor quibbles. Not all the trucks listed on the site showed up. I wished they had more stands set up to sell more substantial food. To my perception, it seemed like there was a higher proportion of stands and trucks selling sweeter more dessert or snack type items. Which meant the ones selling heavier food were really swamped. Made it tougher to have a solid meal without eating too much sweet stuff. But my experience may be skewed since I did spend the entire day there on Saturday while there was big crowds.

                      Other minor complaints, possibly more seating area. Not sure how it would be achieved though in that space. Also the butcher exhibitions in the main stage were very popular but it was almost impossible to watch if you weren't in the first few row. They looked interesting but between the layout at ground level and the nonstop flow of people walking right up to take close up shots, a lot of the details and skill of the butchers were lost to the majority of the crowd.

                      Again, for a first time festival, it was very well done. They brought in some great talent for the exhibitions, demos and panels. There was plenty of trash cans and restroom facilities didn't seemed to get overwhelmed. All the trash was being recycled with separate containers. Each trash area was manned at all times by a volunteer who assisted in sorting out the trash into the proper container or holding the bins open if your hands were full.

                      I'd love to see this become a regular event.

                      1. re: Jase

                        Great review.

                        The only negative for us was that a number of vendors ran out of food. We got there around 6:00 and quite a few trucks were closed or closing and several more that were still open were out of the more popular items.

                        We had a pork banh mi from Nom Nom, a temaki maki, a Let's Be Frank frank and for dessert a sweet corn tamale. We = my wife and I, we shared everything. Really good food for the price, spent about 20 dollars for everything, including a bottle of tea. Even with the jar of jam we bought and the bottle of hot sauce we spent under 40 bucks. We almost went back on Sunday but decided to eat at the Venice Obon instead.

                        For those interested, the West LA Obon is this weekend, it's much bigger than the Venice Obon. They'll have sushi, udon, teriyaki, spam musubi -- that sort of food plus the traditional dancing and all that. We'll probably eat there, too.

                        1. re: Jase

                          Here's another quick review of Eat Real with a few pics.I also went on Saturday and experienced the same mob scene. As Jase said, many of the trucks were running out of food by midafternoon and were fleeing for their lives. I'd deliberately gone between meals hoping the food waits would have died down, but no dice. I think the reason there wasn't more substantial "meal" food was that the promoters wished to maintain a $5.00 maximum price on all food items.

                          As a chowhound, I have to admit I kind of don't really get the whole food truck thing, not understanding why people will wait 45 minutes in a lineup in the likely false belief that the truck's flashy graphics, cute name and social network marketing savvy are a harbinger of good chow. But, my experiences here proved worth the wait. I didn't eat a lot because the waits were just too long, but I had a chicken pesto sandwich from the Armenian truck that totally rocked. I also had a pork slider from Big Mista's that made my day. Not only was it absolutely perfect pulled pork—smoky, spicy, vinegary and a little sweet—but I'm pretty sure I was served by Mr. Mista himself, who looked down the line and grumbled good-naturedly that "y'all makin' us dig into our backup pork." The idea of "backup pork" was delightful and the sandwich, excellent.

                          The county-fair styled booths inside had a number of prepared-food craft products that hit a very high quality point, I thought. Took home some Jamaican jerk sauce and a bit of organic honey. Found some terrific Mexican hot sauces as well.

                          A couple of issues: the beverages were expensive and disappointing. No bottled water, as it is no longer considered eco-friendly; was unable to find the free water "hydration station." Paid $3.00 each for the sort of drinks you find in a Whole Foods bin marketed more for some imagined health benefit or narcotic effect than flavor. In general, much of the sponsors' promise of "affordable" locavore eating was not delivered: one small-batch coffee roaster offered their joe at $4.00 a cup, and many of the stuff-in-glass-jars food group cracked the double-digit barrier.

                          In general, this was a pretty fun event, although I sensed a concealed underlying political purpose I was unable to quite identify, beyond the obvious promotion of several food buzzwords (local, organic, humanely-raised, sustainable, eco-friendly) which sound great in the same sentence but in reality don't often peacefully coexist. Oddly, vegetarian/vegan interests didn't even seem to be a consideration here. I'll happily go next year, but bring my own drinks.

                          Photos: #1) An ambulance parked behind the festival marks an auspicious start. #2) People wait in line for a food truck, ignoring the "closed" sign and hoping against hope…#3) An Inglewood Community Garden project demos grilled cheese sandwiches with home-grown tomatoes and basil. Folks gobbled'em up. #4) Dare 2 Dream farms will deliver you live chickens. "Now, what would folks in West LA do with them," I wondered. Then it hit me. Awwwww….

                          1. re: BobtheBigPig

                            Bob, thanks for another perspective. I did not realize the promoters wanted to maintain a $5 maximum on the food items, that would explain it a lot. With that in mind, good job on Big Mista and Flat Iron Gourmet then for providing great slider options. I liked the pig candy slider from Big Mista. The wing order, 3 big substantial juicy wings was well worth $5. Flat Iron's chorizo pork slider looked a touch small at first glance but was packed with flavor, juicy and the arugula was a good counterpoint.

                            On the hydration station, there were two. One inside the craft building next to the oyster stand right inside the door. The other to the left of the main stage if you were looking at the stage. It was next to the Green truck. But the signage was poor on both and i can see how it would be easily missed. Each station had four spigots and disposable cups.

                            The ambulance incident was around 2:30 I believe, sometime during Aida Mollencamp's breadstick demo. It looked like an elderly women was overcome with heat. I saw her on a stretcher being wheeled off, she had water in hand and looked alert. The heat did seem to hit hard mid day considering how cool and breezy it was in the morning.

                      2. Many thanks for the detailed share, bulavinaka and Jase. Glad to hear your respective experiences at Eat Real were generally positive.

                        Any 'hounders care to share their experiences at LA Street Food Fest? An out of the country wedding took me out of attending both. Cheers!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Kris P Pata

                          Vizzi truck never showed up either day so bummed I didn't get to try them out.

                          1. re: Kris P Pata

                            We really enjoyed the LA Street Food Festival! The biggest draw for us were the Baja chefs. Personal favorites were both dishes from Tijuana's Javier Plascencia. I really hope this group participates again next year. This is our first event like this but variety was excellent. We ate primarily from vendors in booths - restaurants, stands etc. as opposed to the trucks. A few I hoped to try were missing but there were still many choices - more than we could possibly try.

                            We did the afternoon session from 2-5 pm and paid extra for "luxe" which gave us super parking and a short line to get in. The lines for food were generally short, in some cases none at all. Coolhaus had one of the longest lines but even that was not bad. All food and drink included in admission though I cannot eat or drink my money's worth. it may seem pricey at $60 general admission and $75 for Luxe, but I believe they limited ticket sales to 1,500 so the crowd size was comfortable to my great relief. I would guess that's one reason it is priced as such. I personally am willing to pay more for smaller crowds - I really hate long long lines or a mob scene for anything.

                            It was well organized, easy to find things. Tables to sit at if you wished. Next year I'm telling my friends to come with us!

                            1. re: terim

                              Did you feel you got your $60 worth? I can eat a lot of food, but I don't think I can eat enough food truck food to say yeah, I got my money's worth.

                              I went to Eat Real Fest. Free admission, and food items sold were capped at $5, including the beers. I definitely got my money's worth there.

                              1. re: Professor Salt

                                My one or two gripes about the beers are that the glass jar is an add'l $2. I thought I was doing a good thing by purchasing one - refillable/recyclable. The problem of reusing it was that the indoor beer counter had no way of rinsing them before refilling them - don't recall if the outdoor beer counter did. Had to use the filtered water display's tap to do so, which we weren't supposed to do. I got some serious attitude from one of the beer folks when I asked about the rinse issue. Turns out that the plastic cups were being recycled - very diligent volunteers making sure everyone used the right bins for the various waste items. Also, glass breaks - saw or heard a few go down - one right by a toddler. The glass is not practical at a venue with far few places to set things down on and no rinse/wash station.

                                The beer stand inside the one building had far too few varieties compared to the outdoor station. It was located in the building closest to Venice Blvd, which is where many folks were entering from. Because it was at the entrance, the lines of thirsty folks were clogging the entrance area. I say put it deeper into the building and let the less noticeable products get some more exposure by putting them up front. The outdoor beer station needed cover for the guests.

                                The beer/wine was not allowed beyond certain points. I didn't find this out until after I purchased my beer and attempted to head outside to grab some food - chugged the beer, stood in line for a Lets Be Frank dog, and went over to the outdoor beer station for another beer. I don't know how practical this is but either the volunteers manning the entry points or the beer stand folks should warn drinkers about this; maybe post signs above the beer stands with the warning.

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  Yeah, the two beer areas had different brews on tap, and for the most part, I liked the selection of the outdoor bar better, so that's where I camped. The outdoor bar was fenced off and manned at the gates (unlike the indoor beer bar), so I can understand your confusion that alcohol needed to stay within their designated drinking areas.

                                  The water people hassled you about rinsing out your beer jar? They didn't hassle me at all. Rinsed out the beer dregs, dumped out the swish of rinse water in the buckets they provided. Refilled with beer. No hassles.

                                2. re: Professor Salt

                                  As a total experience I was happy with it. Would it be nice to be less expensive? Yes. I definitely did not eat or drink $60 worth - I'm not a huge eater and can never get my money's worth at a buffet either. I liked that it wasn't overly crowded. We had little from the true food trucks - mostly ate from restaurants/food stands with booths there. From the sounds of things, Eat Real is a better value but I really did want to see the Baja chefs at the LA fest (that really drew my attention more than anything). Another factor no doubt would be that I am a heck of a lot closer to the Rose Bowl.

                                  1. re: terim

                                    Good point about the chefs from Baja. I know Bill Esparza helped to curate that part of the event, and he's not about to bring anything less than A list talent.

                            2. so nobody went to LA Street Food Fest?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dharmathug

                                i went. i was pretty skeptical at first...after last year's disappointment i didn't think that this year would be able to redeem itself, even with the 2 sessions (morning sesh was canceled due to carma). i was extremely glad i went in the end = there were no lines, save for coolhaus, and even that was towards the middle end. i was able to hit up EVERY SINGLE BOOTH (not the alky ones) and have a bite of EVERY SINGLE ITEM. sure, there were more misses than hits, but i feel that i got my $$'s worth for sure regardless. i'm glad the coordinators were able to figure out a way to work out the major kinks in last yr's run and save this event. then again, i'm not sure if carmageddon had anything to do with it, but it was great success nevertheless. :)