Good Food producer Gillian Ferguson headed out to the LA Street Food Fest last week…here’s her report…
At 11 am on Saturday morning there was a line stretched across 4 blocks of downtown LA. The smell of bacon and french fries wafted down 6th Street. When asked how long he’d been waiting, one anxious young man said he’d arrived at 9am. The 1st Annual Street Food Festival was set to open any minute – the crowd was hungry.
Featuring 35 food trucks and carts from across Los Angeles, the Street Food Festival showcased a burgeoning phenomenon that has swept the country – meals on wheels. The trucks present served both savory and sweet, upscale and comfort food, everything from sushi to fried chicken.
My first stop was the Buttermilk Truck, a handsome truck painted in buttery yellow run by a handful of smiling young women. Unable to decide, I ordered everything on the menu: housemade cake doughnuts, red velvet chocolate chip pancake bites and “the buttermilk brick” – hashbrowns, one egg over easy, buttermilk biscuit and chorizo gravy. The doughnuts were piping hot, crispy on the outside and light as air. The egg was fried to perfection and the hashbrowns crispy. The pancakes, more dessert than breakfast, made for a delicious dessert complete with a dollop of cream cheese frosting.
As I moved on, I had to make decisions. I couldn’t possible order everything from every truck. I chose a mini bahn mi sandwich from Phamish – $3 for an overstuffed baguette brimming with lemongrass pork, cilantro, jalapeno, carrots and daikon. It was noon and the sun was hot so I headed to Get Shaved for some shaved ice. Overwhelmed by all the flavor choices I panicked and ended up with strawberry, banana and root beer, an unlikely combination. Next door was a beer tent where ice cold pints of Fat Tire were served for a suggested donation of $5. All proceeds benefited the LA Regional Foodbank.
As I sipped my beer I marveled at the crowds. Lines stretched 100 to 300 people long at every truck. At Ludo Fried Chicken truck the wait was easily an hour long. At least a thousand people stood in line outside the gates still waiting to get in. It was 2pm and a voice came over a loud speaker – the festival was closing the doors. Hungry and disappointed the line slowly dissolved.
“We expected a large turn out, but the crowd definitely exceeded our expectations,” said co-founder Shawna Dawson. Ten thousand were let through the gates and anywhere from five to ten thousand more were turned away. “It just goes to show that Los Angeles is yearning for more community events like this,” she continued, “there is certainly a gap to be filled.” When asked if more events were in the works Dawson said that she and her partner Sonja Rasulaover have a few ideas up their sleeves, but aren’t ready to divulge any information just yet. As for another Street Food Festival Dawson feels that they learned a great deal from this year’s event and, after scouring their emails for feedback and suggestions, said they will be better equipped next year so that no one will be turned away.