Street Food Fest Report: Brisker Lines, Indie Music & Lots of Eating
Thousands of people descended upon the Rose Bowl Saturday, but not for sports. Actually, you might consider the new trend of eating street food a sport. Armed with a cell phone and Twitter, Angelenos for more than a year have been hunting down the latest tastes on food trucks that tweet their locations around the city. But this weekend, a mix of vendors -- from food trucks to street food inspired restaurants -- all gathered in one easy-to-find-place for the second incarnation of the Street Food Festival.
"Overall, I'm really happy and Sonja was, too," said co-founder Shawna Dawson after the event was over. She and Sonja Rasula of Unique LA first put on the L.A. Street Food Festival in February, which was focus of an onslaught of negative criticism about long lines and over crowding. To address those issues, the summer version of the event was capped to 5,000 people and a $45 to $65 ticket was all-you-can eat, meaning lines would not linger as food vendors and customers took time to exchange money.
This time around some lines were long, but many moved briskly. As attendees came to the front of the line, they'd simply choose their dish and move back to the middle of the field where crowds gathered, eating while standing, on picnic blankets or at a few available tables.
Not all lines moved as fast as some hoped there would be, but compared to February's event, the criticism, albeit there, was harder to find. "We listen and we learn fast," said Dawson. "We actually read it -- we read every comment and review and blog post, either postivie or negative... there's something in there [to learn from]."
Improvements for a future event include how to better handle signage, identifying water fountains -- the event was meant to be more eco-friendly and not promote water bottles -- more garbage cans and having vendors better prepared to expeditiously handle thousands of people (some vendors were fast, others hand trouble catching up).
As for the food, choices were bountiful. From Asian to hot dogs to a whole ice cream social area, it was easy to get stuffed. And one person who unexpectedly stayed longer than he originally planned, eating his way through the night was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"You know what I love about the street food festival? It's so L.A." he said. "And what I mean by that, what's so great about the many street vendors that are here are the fusion of flavors that represent foods from all over the world and that makes it so L.A. -- which is why I don't buy that we're the number two street food city in the world. We gotta be one!" he exclaimed, referencing a recent CNN top ten list that had Los Angeles behind Portland.
Villaraigosa was scheduled to only stay at the festival and judge for a half hour because he was still recovering from a bicycle accident earlier in the week. However, he stayed all day long. "In our book, if our Mayor is having that much fun, we're doing something right," reacted Dawson.
As for a next time, Dawson and Rasula have not announced any plans. "It's so much work, especially since it's just the two of us," said Dawson, noting that events of these scale are usually produced by event management firms. Then again, if the two put on this event in five months time, you know there's more to come.