Saturday, February 13, 2010

L.A. Street Food Fest: Welcome to the food truck jungle

There were at least 30 trucks, each with a massive line in front. Fortunately L.A. Center Studios had some grassy and shady areas.

I wasn't too surprised that lines at the first L.A. Street Food Fest turned out to be too long for many to get in and too long for nearly everyone to wait at food trucks. But it was pretty amazing to see several thousand (I heard 15,000!) people so enthusiastic about trying a bounty of L.A. Street Food. I had hoped to see many more stands from the Breed St. vendors and other *real* street stands -- where were the bacon-wrapped hotdogs and churro men? I heard Ludovic Lefevbre's fried chicken, made by Ludovic and Mattatouille, was amazing, but an hour wait seemed too long. We snagged dumplings and duck tacos from the Dim Sum truck, which is launching soon; a Brazilian acaraje (black-eyed pea flour fritter, above) from Sabor da Bahia; and mini doughnuts from the Fry Chick. Mostly I regret not trying the crab cakes with lardons and shallot vinaigrette from Monsieur Egg -- aside from Ludo's Chicken, that sounded like the hit of the fest.The only other booth with a reasonable wait was Mama Koh's chicken wings - tasty sauce but pretty soggy. Hopefully Mama will take some lessons from Kyochon, since Silver Lake could use some good Asian-style wings.
Mama Koh apparently works out of Hello Teriyaki, which took over Yoshinoya Bowl in the crackhead mini-mall at Sunset and Fountain. Hello Teriyaki looks to be a cut above most fast-food places, with no MSG or preservatives and dishes like teriyaki tacos, tempura plates and teriyaki sub sandwiches.
Anyways, thanks to the L.A. Street Food Fest crew for coming up with the idea -- next time, hopefully, they'll add more street food booths and try for shorter lines!
Did you get in? What did you think?

42 comments:

Jay said...

It's really a shame that the events success was it's biggest failure. Everything we ate was good, some things great (pork belly bun from flying pig—oh my) but I would have gladly traded my day back for the $60 spent on VIP tickets.

Megan Thomas B said...

I was hoping to see some more Korean street food from Korea town represent - Koo's Grill the Peanut Butter Roasted Squid stand (both in front of California Market on 5th & Wetsern) or the Flying Hotteok truck (parked on Western below 8th in the complex near "Brew U")

Donny said...

I got there around 11:30, good thing for the media pass!, and it was packed already. It was nice to see this turn out but agree with Jay that was it's biggest failure. That had to be the suckiest VIP lounge ever.

christopher said...

biggest waste of time i've ever taken part in, stood in line for 3 hours and ate nothing, what a joke of planning this was, i won't blame the vendors, i'll just blame the 2 retards in charge of planning this, sorry but you had what looked like 10,000 standing in line and 500 people inside, total waste of a day.

Christopher said...

judging by the amount of completely pissed off people wandering all over downtown emptying every restaurant in a 10 block radius of the event i'd say there area lot of people that didn't think too positively of this event. we tried to eat at 5 different places in downtown and there are hour waits everywhere from people that couldn't get into the festival. when we went past it didn't even look like they were letting anyone in, massive line and nobody inside. was this thing a total epic failure or what? hopefully, if it ever happens again, which i'd have to say i don't think it will, they will choose a venue large enough for the hype they created. attention planners: how about having a food truck WALK like artwalk, so that the lines can at least form at a truck instead of a line to get into a gated area with trucks, this made no sense, bad planning.

fel said...

I think it's interesting that people think there were no people inside - from someone who got there early and was inside for most of the day, I can say it was PACKED inside. I understand why they didn't let more people in - it was already hectic as is.

Overall, I think the problem results from the turnout exceeding expectations. (From my understanding, the coordinators mentioned they only expected 10K to show up but it was obviously more than that.) It's hard to be prepared for the numbers that showed up.

Brooke said...

HORRIBLY planned! As with many others - there was no way we were going to wait in the longest line I have ever seen in my life only to predictably wait in line for each truck. Great idea for a festival.. But one entrance?? It was a terrible disappointent.. I only walked a mile to get there and feel awful for all the people who drove in and paid for parking. They were expecting 10,000 people.. who in their right mind would only provide one entrance? Hopefully someone with one day of event planning experience will pick up this event and do it right next time.

Anonymous said...

To many people before they even opened. Could not deal, pkus it was 80 degrees!

Rachael said...

Can I have the two hours of my life that were spent waiting for the pork belly bun at Flying Pig? We waited in line for an hour and a half and then there was an additional 30 minute wait to get our food. I think I'm going to study Korean cooking...

Jay said...

Haha... there were defenitely people inside. WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE.

ANN said...

I really wanted to go but now I think I'm glad I didn't, haha.

Vanilla Chunk said...

I had VIP tickets. If I hadn't, I never would've gone in at all.
I liked the free food upstairs: donuts and dim sum were great. Then, we ventured down. Yipes.
They ran out of trash can space by the time we got there!
There were lines for over an hour for the most famous trucks.
(and to the hipster trio who lied their way into line ahead of us- I didn't call you on it just because I was with my girlfriend. I let it go because I was EMBARRASSED for you.)
It was a great idea overwhelmed by people. I don't regret going, but I won't go if the next one is a cattle-call.
For the 2nd (and there will be a second one), I think limiting the tickets to presale ONLY will keep the trucks from being swamped and help people actually GET some food.

Catty Critic said...

I thought they were limiting the number of attendees but I get the feeling they didn't... There was just too many people and with the heat, waiting hours for food just wasn't appealing. Plus there was no order to the lines which made it hard to find the end for the trucks we wanted. Suggestion: end of line signs that get passed along as it expands would help.
They need to redo the ticketing system... I don't know how they did it at the regular entrance but list checking with IDs at the VIP line took too long. I know they wanted to be "green" but it'd be faster if they just collected printed tixs vs looking for names on a list. And if they wanted to be green, why no recycling bins for bottles n' stuff?
Next year, limit the number and/or give VIP holders earlier entrance.

Anthony said...

No way they "planned" for 10,000. Looked more like they planned on maybe several hundred. Should have started applying the brakes a few days ago. Thousands and thousands showed up -- myself, wife and baby included -- to see literally a mile of line to get in.

We gave up instantly. Thank Christ. Looked like a nightmare for those planning to wait it out.

The whole thing makes me wonder: Can something die from being too popular? (Like the old Yogi Berra line: "Nobody goes there anymore -- it's too crowded.")

I'm thinking about deleting all the food trucks from my list Twitter follows. I loved Kogi BBQ Truck, and would be glad to try GrlldCheeseTruk, but ...

... honestly, I MIGHT trek around to meet those trucks, but not to wait forever to get a taco. There are plenty of other places to eat.

What's the point? These trucks -- and especially LA Food F-up Fest -- can't handle the traffic.

fel said...

Even though there were a lot of people and the lines were long, I think it was still pretty good considering this was its first year. My friends and I had fun and the lines for food were exactly what I expected.

Is there room for improvement? Of course. But think about it - what other one time event in LA is done on this kind of scale? You have to give them credit for putting this together, even with its logistical issues.

Andi? said...

Ultimately, I'm glad I went (and gladder that I bought the $10 "fan" presale tickets) but it could definitely have been better organized. We were lucky to have a big group which was good for sharing and dispersing to different lines. Big kudos to Mama Koh's for such quick and efficient service. It seems like they were the only ones prepared for the quantity of people.

I also got to try Piaggio's, India Jones, Coolhaus, Sabor De Bahia, and Tastymeat. Besides Coolhaus we avoided the big name trucks. I didn't get to sample everything I wanted (oh Dogzilla, if only you didn't have a 2 hour line) but I left pretty satisfied.

Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves said...

I was looking forward to this for months. The concept was great: a bunch of food trucks in one location. However the execution was poor. This wasn't any of the vendors' fault of course. They could have used more crowd control & also I think it would have help if they sold a limited amt of tickets online to help with the volume of people. We waited in line for 2 hours & when we were just around the corner from the entrance they informed us no one else would be let in cuz it was too busy. I hope they bring it back next year albeit better planning

Daughter Koh said...

Hi! This is daughter Koh filling in for Mama Koh right now. :) Thanks for mentioning Mama Koh's chicken on your blog. This was actually our first time setting up shop.

I hear you on the soggy part, but just know deep frying the chicken had to be prepped way before hand bc there would've been no way to deep fry + sauté all 500 lbs. of chicken on the same day! Trust me, if there was a way to have done that, sogginess would not have been a problem.

Fortunately having Mama Koh as your mother means growing up with this dish, and eating it the way it was intended: fresh from the fryer, to the wok, to the mouth! Hopefully one day she'll be able to do this for everyone else. ;)

Anonymous said...

I was really let down. My husband & I were pretty excited to go. It was pretty funny that there were more people NOT eating at this food fest than were eating. After waiting 1.5 hours in the grilled cheese line and STILL having half an hour more to wait before ordering, we sold our spot in line for $20. So, at least we got our parking and entrance fee back.

Heres a rundown of what we tasted at the Food Fest after being there 3 hours (not to mention the hour in line to get in): Mojito Lime popsicles, shaved ice, tacos from 1 truck. It was a complete waste of time and money.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Well, what changed my mind about going is in fact what happened, unfortunately.

I only had an hour free Sat to jump over into LA. "I'll just get 4-5 truck samples to go. Then outta there!"

Then, my intuition begun to feel a mass of people wood attend with each vendor looking like a Kogi truck line, at the least!

Changed my mind. Skipped it.
Next year - hopefully, if they have better planning.

Tori said...

I hope it will be more than just an annual thing ... like maybe there could be an advertiser-sponsored venue (Rose Bowl parking lot?) And also I liked Christopher's suggestion of doing something akin to an artwalk ...
And most of all I was happy that small businesses were being supported.

AudreyGS said...

We were turned away after only 45 minutes in line. I feel sorry for the artisans showing their wares -- I really wanted to see many of them but couldn't even get in to do that! Ugh.

Keith and Julie said...

Yes, I hope the planners are eagerly awaiting another chance to get this one right. GREAT idea, horrible execution. Mama Koh's chicken was the only food I ate (other than a beer) - wonderful even in its sogginess. :-))) Why is it that most of the vendor trucks had what, 3? 4? people in them to serve the hoards. Seems like they were throttling what food they did have to make it last the duration of the event (regardless of the seething masses that lay before them in line). It was strange to be at a "food fest" and find hardly ANYONE with any food to speak of. I LOVE LA!!!!!

miriamdema said...

wow, its interesting how many people are so negative about an event they didn't even go to.

i went and it was AWESOME!

we got there at ten am.
in a town where everything is always so packed and crowded it totally made sense to go early.

we got in at 11:15 after paying our $5. *right away* we had fantastic bites from Ludo Fried Chicken and Fry Smith.
That Fried Chicken was amazing!
Fois French Fries, YUM!

The rest of the day we ate at Flying Pig, Lemonade, Grilled Cheese, Those yummy wings, Cool Smith, The Indian Truck, Lukas, Flying Pig again and Donuts someone got us from the VIP lounge and many, many rounds of donation only beer. Oh and checked out the vendors selling cool stuff.

Maybe it was because there were 5 of us or maybe it's because we had realistic expectations but we had a great time! it was totally worth $5, now i have to go pass out and dream of that Fried Chicken...

EL CHAVO! said...

I was encouraging people not to go, but apparently for all the wrong reasons!

http://laeastside.com/2010/02/the-day-the-taco-turned-into-a-frozen-yogurt/

danny said...

Like miriamdema, I was also early in line and enjoyed good eats at the beginning of the festival. And the venue was great.

What soured the festival was the constant stream of people coming through the gate and adding to the truck lines. Loading each truck with more cooks and servers to handle the orders wouldn't work--you can put only so many people in a truck. It would make more sense to not have the trucks and pitch tents with multiple cook stations so food can be turned out in volume. Or, sell a limited number of entry tickets. When all the tickets are sold, the gates close.

Anonymous said...

We had a great time.



Everyone who was complaining that they couldn't get in should blame themselves for not getting there early.



Everyone who was complaining that they waited too long for food or couldn't try anything should blame themselves for not being strategic and split up and wait in multiple lines.



Of course, the donation only beer really livened things up.

heather said...

we were part of the horribly disappointed masses walking away from the mile long line before noon.

besides spreading out (the art walk suggestion above), something else that'd help would be MORE THAN SIX HOURS for the event...like, three or four days. thurs-sat, or something...more people could attend, trucks wouldn't be so very slammed... taste of chicago's a ten-day event, you know?

Anonymous said...

For $30.00 "VIP", I expect more than a balcony to look at the crowd and a Dim Sum dumpling (altho it was pretty good). For $30.00, I expect to get in before the guy that paid $5.00, or at least get a Speed Pass to the front of the line. My $30.00 "VIP" ticket gave me a shorter line to get in, but since the "VIP" doors opened last (apparently), the lines were already long when I got inside. I wanted to love this event. I really did. With a few tweaks in execution, I'd consider attending again. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

The last several "streety" festivals designed by foodies or food movement chefs have not been planned very well. This is because the people putting them together are not professional planners, I think. Does it endear consumers to a type of food, food movement or whatever to piss them off and make them unhappy?

Of course not. The irony of the whole thing is that a food truck is meant to be simple, inexpensive and convenient. This new "Food truck" fad has changed the whole food truck dynamic.

I have tried the food from a few, and it was rarely worth it. The experienced taco truck guys do better. This fad was over before it began. Yes, something about hurtling over sharks, but saying that phrase is so over, as well.

LA chefs would be better served concentrating on making really great sit-down places is new areas that need the commerce. What about looking at towns with lower rents such as Sylmar, North Hills, San Fernando and so on? Oh ah scary, possible gangs. not really, go there and see the potential!

Either plan more realistically for a fad-fueled city such as LA or move on to something else!

Anonymous said...

I must be a crank, but paying to get into a place to pay again is silly. Why not just mass the trucks at some location?

J said...

Street Food Fest is overrated.

The lines are too long. We got in around 12pm. The lines are insane. My friend waited 2 hours for kimchi fries and my other friend waited 1 hour and 45 minutes for BBQ. Some of the food are good, some are just ok, but none of them are good enough to justify the insane waiti.

Anonymous said...

For a city full of unemployed producers there was no reason for this event to be so disorganized. We waited in line for over an hour, then heard the food lines were going to be another hour or two, we walked to Bottega Louie, waited 30 minutes and had a great meal.

So next time, bigger venue, better line layouts and more staff to inform and keep things going.

Big Love to all the trucks.

djjewelz said...

There are definitely a lot of things that the event organizers can/should do better next time. With that being said, spending the day with friends, mingling with 10k+ Angelenos, tasting some new dishes, all in DTLA under beautiful 70 degree weather in February, it wasn't a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

gregnett said...

Only if everyone had the kind of day you had...

streetgourmetla said...

Well, I'm with Djjewelz, it was a great day to be an Angeleno, despite all. Lines are a reality of any food festival, always.

THis festival didn't run out of food, 90% of the vendors were able to continue serving when the event shut down. I even got the last sample of Ludo's chicken after the place was empty.

As for real street vendors, I worked on this and most didn't return calls, and I even went to their shops several occasions to find lame excuses why they couldn't call back. Nina's decided she wasn't going without telling us, I found out when I visited her last week. Antojito's Carmen and the other vendors they were supposed to bring were a straight up no show. They stopped answering ther phones the day before and haven't even been tweeting, not a peep. In hiding!

I ran back and forth between the Valley(Thai temple vendors)and East LA to get these people and Shawna went all over LA with me to scout street vendors, but ultimately, the newer trucks are much more business oriented and professional.

Anonymous said...

Fun to read the review and the comments. After a mile walk, and 20 minutes in line, my friend picked me up. We had a lovely lunch at the Lazy Ox Canteen. $30 each - with alcohol, no waiting, and pleasant seating. The idea for the food fest was great. Execution, um..not so much. I do like the idea of spreading it out over 3 or 4 days, or selling timed entrance tickets. Elissa

Anonymous said...

We parked three blocks away...saw the long line and I said, "I'm not standing in line two hours for a taco. I don't care if it's made out of yak meat." We kept walking...down to Broadway and 7th, where we had a great meal at Clifton's. As we were walking back, people still were lined up, but the food festival was turning them back. Fun day, anyway.

robert said...

I was there a total of 3.5 hours and all I got was 2 beers.

hungrydrunk said...

it was a fun event, planned to get there early, bought the $10 presale tickets, got to eat and enjoyed the day. c'mon haters don't be bitter.
i would really like to see some suggestions on how you would have arranged this event. a lot of critics for people who didn't plan their day to go early. who knew it would get that big? no one did, it was their first time. the suggestion on spreadnig the foodfest out over a couple of days is the best suggestion on here.
rant done.
anyways - Mama Koh's and Monsieur Egg kick ass!

Sam said...

"For $30.00 "VIP", I expect more "

Your VIP ticket is a DONATION, for a FUNDRAISER. The perks are an INCENTIVE. But of course like everyone else, they are thinking about filling themselves up and how "expensive" it was to go to this event. And the 30 dollar VIP is cheaper than 95 percent of the tickets out there for a majority of the food festivals.

HerbyN said...

i think the consensus here is clear. not only was the event a bit of a failure (as someone mentioned, the "success" of the food truck trend/fad in LA led to, ironically, the failure of the event b/c the vendors couldn't handle the number of patrons). what was the source of the failure? greed and overbooking? maybe. but whatever the reason, i think that i am one of the many that are pretty much "over" the food truck craze. i don't generally find that the quality of the food is mitigated by the inconvenience of finding the vendor you what when you want their product, or the amount of time you have to wait in line for okay but not great food (often overpriced). except for rare exceptions i'm back to my brick and mortar standbys and the truck movement has pretty much lost its luster for this grumpy foodie...