LA Street Food Fest 2015
LA Street Food Fest 2015 took place this weekend at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Believe it or not, this is the first time I’ve attended the event, now in its 6th year. I meant to attend last year, but it conflicted with Tacolandia. This year, I made sure my schedule was clear for LASFF. I even decided to arrive “early” but got a bit turned around in the area surrounding the stadium, and pulled into Lot F shortly after 3pm. To my surprise, hundreds of people were already in line for early admission.
The VIP entrance at Gate F put me right by the Latin section of the festival. Since the event I attended most recently was Tacolandia, I felt right at home. In fact, many of the participants were also at that event last month. Having early entry meant that the line for MexiKosher‘s Katsuji Tanabe—also of Top Chef fame—was actually manageable; he was such a big hit at Tacolandia that I couldn’t even get near his taco there. He told me he was serving a similar taco here, suadero w/chicharrones, and, yeah, it was worth the wait!
Other highlights of the Latin quarter included a spicy shrimp taco from Mariscos El Mazateño that actually went on to win “Best in Show” from the judges, a decadent octopus and sea urchin aguachiles by Ceviche Project‘s Octavio Olivas, and El Coraloense‘s lemon pepper shrimp. I might have had a half dozen samples of the latter two… and washed them down with some micheladas from the MicheMobile!
The rest of the fest was a veritable cornucopia of food options, similarly grouped into themes. While I didn’t fully explore each section as well as I had the Latin section, and while I didn’t quite properly pace myself enough to really even touch the plentiful sweets at the event, I properly gorged myself on a variety of food.
Though they’re on my regular dining rotation, I had to check out my recent favorites Sweetfin Poke (review) and Howlin’ Ray’s (review). On the former, while there were no less than three participants serving poke, I think Sweetfin’s spicy tuna poke was the best out of them! On the latter, I gave their extra-hot heat level another try, and it still kicked my ass!
In the VIP lounge, chef Phillip Frankland Lee served a pair of sake shooters, a vegan one with roasted tomato, sake, and avocado mousse, from Gadarene Swine, and a non-vegan one that replaced the tomato with mussel and added uni into the mix, from Scratch Bar. Though VIP-only, he had run out of food within the first hour! I had tried the latter dish at last year’s Plate by Plate, and I’m still amazed how many contrasting flavors he packs into a shot glass!
I did actually try food from places I hadn’t been to before too. Status Kuo served up legit Taiwanese 油飯 (youfan or “oil rice”), sticky rice with bacon, mushrooms, and aromatics, while Komodo did a smooth Jidori chicken liver pâté on toasted baguette. LA Culinary Inc. had a delicious tilapia ceviche on toast point topped with their La Sriracha Racha sauce.
It wasn’t all stuffing myself with food at the LA Street Food Fest though. I also got to interact briefly with Jonathan Gold, who was one of the judges. And I basically followed Starry Kitchen‘s Nguyen Tran around while he tried his darnedest to sample every dish, since he was also judging. It was quite fascinating watching people react to him in his banana suit!
Not everything was perfect, of course. Foodwise, nearly everything I had was great, though I was disappointed with two items I sampled. First, Cassell’s Hamburger’s cheeseburger slider was way too salty. I don’t think it was on purpose, or at least I hoped it wasn’t. Second, La Guerrerense‘s seafood tostadas just didn’t measure up to their usual quality. Which meant that they were only great instead of amazing… I guess I’m spoiled by the fact that I’ve eaten their food at all three Tacolandia events as well as at their stand in Ensenada, Mexico. I’m also a little disappointed that I didn’t get to try as many participants as I had wanted to, particularly in the sweets department. But that’s on me.
Overall, I had a fantastic time at the LA Street Food Fest 2015. I love that the website had a guide to all the dishes each participant planned on serving, and that most stations had clear signage of the participant and their dishes! The event seemed very well run, most of the queues moved quickly, and the restrooms were clean and plentiful!
Even though it was at the same location, I had heard last year’s festival was a bit of a mob scene, and many people were unhappy with the crowds. This year, they doubled the space they rented, keeping the event lively but never overcrowded, and there were plenty of seating and decent amount of shade too! Someone said they thought the festival might move to Dodger Stadium next year, but I actually hope they keep it at the Rose Bowl if they can have the same setup as this year. Can’t wait to come back!
Oh, as I mentioned, there were some judging involved and winners announced, but it seemed like that wasn’t clear to everyone. One of the participants mentioned they hadn’t realized awards would be given, or they might have done something riskier, or more interesting. Oh well, there’s always next year! For more on the judging and winners, check out Elise Thompson’s article on The LA Beat!
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LA Street Food Fest
At the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA