Street Food Festival Might Leave the Mission District

Categories: Street Eats

Photos by W. Blake Gray
Caleb Zigas directs traffic at the end of the Street Food Festival
​La Cocina's Street Food Festival was so popular this year that it might have outgrown the Mission District.

La Cocina executive director Caleb Zigas said he's thinking of moving the festival next year to Mission Bay, in the parking lots next to AT&T Park.

sabores del sur550.jpg
Beef empanada ($3) and beef heart anticuchos ($8) from Sabores del Sur at Saturday's Street Food Festival
​"The size of the festival warrants consideration of other places to do it," Zigas said. "Mission Bay is interesting. It's big. It's urban. It's accessible by public transit."

Another advantage, Zigas said, is that because the area is already fenced, patrons could have beer and cocktails anywhere, rather than the restricted bar areas used at this year's festival.

"We wouldn't have to have these beer cages," Zigas said.

Zigas spoke in the immediate aftermath of the festival, as vendors were still cleaning up the detritus from a crowd he estimated could have reached 50,000. Though the event was festive and without major incident, at its peak, from about 2 to 4 p.m., the crowd was so dense that walking was difficult.

Sitting atop a garbage container outside La Cocina's office on Folsom Street, Zigas dreamed of Mission Bay.

"You can see the bay from there, but it still has an urban atmosphere," he said. "People could walk around. And it's unoccupied much of the time."

Gail Lillian debuted Liba Falafel's new truck on Saturday
​Zigas was quick to point out that this year's third annual festival, with more streets blocked off than last year, ran much more smoothly than the previous two. "It felt good here, where in the past it felt too crowded," he said. "And almost every business still had food at the end of the day."

That said, most vendors sold food as fast as they physically could. Joshua Henderson, who flew down from Seattle to operate Skillet Street Food, had some of the shorter lines, yet sold out 1500 fried-chicken sandwiches. Azalina Eusope sold more than a thousand Penang Curry Bomb Buns and, when she ran out of buns, resorted to selling the curry on tortillas. Gail Lillian of Liba Falafel, one of the most efficient of all trucks, said "people were lined up when we opened, and the line didn't slow down until about 6."

A new venue might allow even bigger crowds, but that's going to mean making more food.

"We had people go back to the kitchen to roll more lumpia," said William Pilz of Hapa SF. "But there's only so much lumpia five people can roll."

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Why do hipsters like to wait in line for food?


Just use more streets in the Mission, including wider ones like S. Van Ness. Mission Bay is gross and windy.


I totally agree. I think the streets of SF are way too crowded, now that the word is out about the festival.It was very difficult getting from one truck or street vendor to the next. It was even hard to see what each vendor was selling since you had to get right up next to them to read their food boards. I think a HUGE parking lot would work much better. The alcohol areas at both  ends of the festival were also extremely crowded and uncomfortable. There also weren't enough garbage cans so they were already over flowing by 2pm.  

Jennifer Bratko
Jennifer Bratko

Was VERY crowded, and lines were really had to get into/figure out.  People cutting in line, people making their own lines disregarding lines already formed, people cutting through lines to walk through... it was crazy.  I think it does need to be moved to a larger venue.

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