This Year's Eat Real Festival Is Bigger, Better Organized, and More Entertaining

Categories: Food Fests
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Jonathan Kauffman
There are moments like this at Eat Real, but they're rare.
In their second year, the organizers of the Bay Area's back-to-back street food festivals have clearly learned from the surprise throngs and food shortages of last year. Last week, John Birdsall commented how much better conceived the SF Street Food Festival was. Today, after five hours wandering around Jack London Square, letting my forehead turn bright fuchsia and eating a Chinese royal banquet's worth of three-bite dishes, I'd say the same is true of the Eat Real Festival, which continues through Sunday afternoon.

Before the event, I had been concerned about the festival's apparent lack of a central focus. Each week leading up to the festival brought details on some new feature: 80-some vendors, urban homesteading demonstrations, beer gardens and wine stands, pickle competitions, an indoor farmer's market, craft collaborations between farmers and food-producers, a lit festival, not to mention two music stages. With one caveat ― I was never able to find the entrance to the farmers market ― the festival was so well laid-out and marked that it was easy to float from one activity to another; in fact, that that diversity helped keep the festival interesting.

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Jonathan Kauffman
Avedano Meats' Dave the Butcher breaks down a goat on stage.
The lines for the trucks ranged from three people (most of the traditional taco trucks, the many competing barbecue stands) to 50 or more (Chairman Bao ― whoa, people, you really like the steamed buns). To spend the afternoon moving from one line to another, like Disney Land with more calories and fewer robots, would have made the festival a chore.

That's why the lawns for sprawling and food-craft lectures turned out to be welcome interludes between snacks. The Kitchen Sisters' Davia Nelson helped Jordan Grosser, the Alembic chef turned cheesemaker, keep his ricotta-making demonstration entertaining even though his tabletop burner never heated the milk high enough to complete the operation. The Avedano's Meats crew broke down an entire goat in 40 minutes, a grisly ballet of flashing knives and flying flesh that drew a crowd of hundreds, as well as a few live goats waiting for their turn at a goat-milking show later on. And Blue Bottle Coffee's quick-witted James Freeman demonstrated how to roast beans in a toaster oven, flanked by assistants who dressed like 1970s TV cops on disco detail. On Sunday there's noodle pulling, pig butchery, kimchi making, and bacon curing.

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Avocado-lime paleta from Fat Face: lovely.
As for food, I spent about $40 ― way more than I had to ― in order to try food and drink from producers new to me: pulled-pork sliders from Phatt Matt's, sisig tacos from Señor Sisig, two different fresh-fruit ice pops, ceviche cups from Whole Foods, Maui fish tacos from the Taco Guys, heirloom tomato salads (there are two ― get the one from Radio Africa), a lovely Saison from Odonata Beer Company, plus a cup of Ritual coffee and bites from friends' plates. Skip beer and make one of your purchases a sandwich (the Prather Ranch stand was a mighty popular one) or a burrito, and you could keep your expenses down to $10-$15. Just don't forget to pack in a water bottle, some Wet Naps, and a jug of sunscreen.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

Location Info

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Blue Bottle Coffee Kiosk

315 Linden, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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