SF Street Food Festival

by janet on August 24th, 2009

I try not to be too big of a hater. So this…post…will…be…difficult. Read my prose and imagine it all said between clenched teeth.

The SF Street Food Festival was Saturday, and I had been looking forward to it since I moved here. An entire city block, shut down and filled with street food vendors and FREE ADMISSION? Be still my heart!

Then I got there and talked to my pal Venus on the phone, and she was like, “I’m in the beer garden! Find me!” A BIERGARTEN?!? Heart, be even stiller!

As I walked through the festival, however, I started to get alarmed. I saw only about ten tents set up and lines about fifty to sixty people deep, and lots of “XXXXX”s over items that were sold out. X’s are never good unless there are only three of them. Good thing I had a pluot, a string cheese, and a white nectarine in my system so I wasn’t too hangry (even though I lied and put on my FB status that everyone was hangry).

I found Venus and her crew and quickly slurped down a contraband Bud Lite that her cousin had brought. Then I waited for everyone to get ready to go eat and realized that there would indeed be no eating for these peeps, just drinking. That’s how they roll and they are hardcore.

So I stole Venus away and we went to the first tent (Poleng Lounge) and waited. For CLOSE. TO. AN. HOUR. The morsel we got as a reward at the end of the wait was a Balinese lamb and pork satay sampi on lemongrass skewer (they were out of their Vietnamese style BBQ oysters with rendered bacon-scallion oil and lemon pepper sauce cry cry cry), which was $3 for one and $5 for two. We each got two, and the guy handed them over, and Venus kept waiting for more. I was like, “I think this is it, Venus,” and she’s like, “NO, we got a double order,” and I said, “No, this is it – see? Two skewers,” and she said, “Are you fucking serious?” and the guy piped in and said, “Sorry” in a non-sarcastic, genuinely apologetic manner.

It was just that Venus was already feeling ripped off because she had come expecting carts. Street food carts, you know? Bacon-wrapped hot dogs and shit.  In fact, these vendors seemed all from schmancy real restaurants, not genuine street food.  Her indignance was contagious and I started to feel jipped too. “HEY YEAH! WHY AREN’T THERE SOME MOTHERFUCKING CARTS ON THIS MOTHERFUCKING STREET!!!” I yelled.

Anyway, we took our food, which was provided to us on a nice green leaf (cute touch) and got in line for the second stand, which was Sabores del Sur serving Anticuchos Chilenos -Marinated New York Strip and Beef Heart with Potatoes. They were sold out (natch) of their empanadas but I was lusting after the skewers after seeing a number of people tearing the shit out of some beef heart earlier. (“Imma eat everything in skewer form today!” I declared irrationally.) But as soon as I walked toward the line, they sold out of their last one. Balls balls.

I would have to make do, for now, with my one tiny morsel of food from Polang. And what a bite it was. The yellow curry sauce it was made my tastebuds sing – it was sweet with a tiny bit of heat and coconut-y smooth and savory. I sucked on that lemongrass skewer like one of those starving abandoned tiger pups that they cross-foster to a housecat mom, which is to say I sucked on it like crazy, hoping to get just one more drop of the sauce.

Meanwhile, I got in line for elotes (grilled corn) from Los Cilantros while Venus waited at El Buen Comer. Ideally, Venus and I would have waited in line together (I even recall saying something tender like, “My priority is to spend time with you! Let’s wait in line together!!”) but that shit flew out the window right quick when the low blood sugar kicked in.

El Buen was, naturally, sold out of their Torta con Mole Verde which broke my by-now very still heart since I adore mole. But Venus trotted over (after 45 minutes) with two Tacos de Guisados with Rajas con Crema, which were actually quite tasty. It was all veggie, but grilled, hearty, meaty veggie, and the cool and creamy sauce against the pleasant sandpapery-ness of the corn tortilla was interesting and addictive.

The corn line was atrociously long. I waited in it anyway like a dumb bum. Sure, the corn was grilled to brown-and-yellow spotty perfection. Sure, the mayonnaise slathered on the outside made my nerves trill with excitement at the gross decadence of it. Sure, the spicy chili powder mix that was sprinkled on the mayo was unexpectedly and delightfully complex. But what fucking idiot waits AN HOUR in line for grilled corn?

To add insult to injury, a guy pushing an ice cream cart chose that moment to wade through the crowd and offer me ice cream. No line for ice cream (which I despise). Smart entrepreneur, that one.

Venus and I looked at each other and she said, “Let’s go, like, EAT.” So we went and had a proper dinner at a real restaurant. So long, clusterfucky SF Street Food Festival!

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