Were you at the San Francisco Street Food Festival on Saturday? Of course you were! I was there, your neighbors were there, hundreds of pairs of heels clumsily clunking against the pavement were there. In fact, according to unsubstantiated estimates, a grand total of 80,000 people were sucked into the inescapable force--enough to make Dolores Park seem like a relative hot spot of cell signal strength.
With the festival, the Mission was afforded easy access to elusive street food vendors, such as Osha Thai, Blue Bottle Coffee, Whole Foods Market, and The Samsung Galaxy III Experience. We feasted upon cured meats, tacos from seemingly every continent, mac n' cheese on a stick, ice cream sandwiches from Three Twins, and discounted cell plans from T-Mobile.
In some cases, vendors even provided make-shift photobooths to educate the world about being a "total FOODIE," with some backdrop about eating local. Or less traveled. Yes, something like that.
Whoa now, slow down on the snark, Kevin. Let's get to the grass-fed meat and potatoes of the fest.
My food was entirely open to interpretation. To the vendors, a gourmet fry-bread taco with yam-infused refried black beans, topped with locally-sourced lettuce and cabbage. To me, a well-garnished cracker. But one thing was damn sure: my $8 Picasso taco was no where near as delicious as the $2 offering from Farolito down the street.
And therein lies the real problem with the Street Food Festival. It's not really a place for people who know anything about the landscape of San Francisco's food offerings, but for people coming in from out of town. Its placement in the heart of the Mission is charming, but ultimately inappropriate. The majority of the vendors have nothing really to do with the neighborhood, and for the most part, the festival would carry the same caliber of authenticity in the Cow Palace parking lot.
It's too bad, too. It was just a few years ago that food carts were lining up along dead-end Linda Street seemingly every Friday night, dishing out equally-tasty food at reasonable prices.
Those food cart nights had an unmatched energy to them, inspiring dozens of cooks, armed with family recipes, to risk their careers and jump into one of the riskiest industries in our country. It legitimately created a sense of lasting community, bringing the neighborhood to the same table and providing a fresh venue for strangers of varying backgrounds to meet.
The Street Food Festival is hollow in comparison. It bastardizes the entire Do It Yourself ethos of street food, while enforcing the notion that our food industry is increasingly dominated by well-funded players. Small, local establishments were there, but have been losing ground to deeper pockets with every passing year.
I mean, do nationwide chain stores really need another opportunity to beat us over the head with how 'green' they are by rolling out sod for 8 hours?