ExclusiveSan Francisco’s Mission District recently served up local street fare to a hungry crowd.
In the Mission district of San Francisco last Saturday, an expansive variety of street food was served at the 3rd annual San Francisco Street Food Festival, put on by La Cocina. Food carts, trucks, stands, coolers, grills, and brick-and-mortar restaurants showcased their offerings of food and drinks priced from $1-$8. People carried cash or special event passports in search of all the best food they could find. EcoSalon was on the scene scouting local foodie goodness.
Here are the top picks from this indulgent day:
#6 Watermelon Gazpacho from Commonwealth
In several years of covering food events, I like to think that I have reached some kind of method for the madness. For instance, after judging a cupcake challenge, I go straight to a vegan restaurant for some on-the-fly cleansing. Rational? My approach perhaps makes no nutritional sense, but it’s what I do. Another well-honed tactic: There is something to be said about starting an event off with a shot of liquid courage, so that is another food fest rule. For this afternoon, I started with a shot of watermelon gazpacho with lemon verbena oil artfully decorating the top. It was sweet and tart as I shot it down, prompting a handful of fellow foodie goers to ask, “That looks so refreshing, where did you get?”
The answer was Commonwealth, a top Mission restaurant who had a stand for this event and offered the shooter for $2. It was an inexpensive way to coat my stomach with something ostensibly healthy before the delicious abuse it was about to endure.
Next up was the most beautiful-looking chicken and sticky rice I’ve ever seen. I was on the prowl for something substantial but not too heavy (read: fried). I was excited to encounter Lers Ros, a top Thai restaurant in San Francisco. The restaurant features a diverse menu including items such as frog legs and alligator. I have yet to visit and try these exotic meats that “taste like chicken,” so it was beneficial to see how they actually prepared their food. They do it very well. It fell off the bone. I generously rescued it with a spoon and grabbed some sticky rice for a full dip in the sweet and spicy chili sauce. My first thought? Oddly enough, that this is how mall food should taste.
In an interview I did with San Francisco local and Top Chef: Just Desserts winner, Yigit Pura, he confessed that Kika’s Treats were one of his favorite sweets. I endured the long line to see what spell the chocolate-dipped graham crackers held over a master pastry chef. One look at the torch turning a marshmallow and a graham cracker into a S’more and I got it.
#3 Banh Mi and Pad Thai Taco from The Peached Tortilla
Some out-of-state vendors were present and I was so intrigued by one menu that I had to try all of the offerings. A food truck from Austin, Texas that was serving a Pad Thai taco and a Banh Mi taco? Obviously I had to try both. I got the Pad Thai taco with tofu and was a little turned off by the look it. Noodle-free, essentially a mash-up of toppings, I had my doubts. One bite in and I realized the best part of pad thai: the sauce, the crushed peanuts, the bean sprouts and the lime wedge. The tortilla was just the vessel for this flavor powerhouse. The Banh Mi taco was similarly fashioned, but had Vietnamese braised pork belly with pickled Daikon and carrots topped with Srichacha mayo and cilantro. Once again, the toppings were supreme. If I lived in Texas, you can guarantee this would be my go-to truck after a night of cocktailing.
#2 The Yes Please! from The Crème Brulee Man
Living in San Francisco, the Crème Brulee Man – and his Twitter feed – is one of my regular haunts. For the festival, I had a mouthwatering brulee featuring Nutella and balsamic strawberry. I can now die and go to heaven.
#1 Arepa de Queso from The Arepa Lady
I do not recall when or where I first heard about The Arepa Lady, but like a mythical creature, I knew she existed. Hailing from Jackson Heights in New York, she also goes by the nickname “Sainted Arepa Lady.” As part of the visiting vendor program, she graced us and gave us all a great Arepa gift. It may have the same appearance as a Salvadorian Pupusa, but the Arepa version is much denser and sweeter. Summed up? Imagine tender dough cheese-filled, buttered and grilled to a brown and crispy sweet perfection – and then topped with more cheese. This was, without question, the best thing I ate at the festival. Possibly ever. (Butter! Cheese!)
I was quite full by the time I ate this, but my mouth and taste buds were completely reawakened by all the cheesy goodness. I am one who prefers to savor, so with only two bites taken, I saved it. Later in the day in my food coma nap, I even dreamed about it.
Editor’s note: The author and EcoSalon’s editor-in-chief, Sara Ost, are not related (except by their love of food).