San Francisco, California: La Cocina Street Food Fest

Most of you suburbanites do not venture to one of the most colorful, misunderstood, yet culturally rich neighborhoods in San Francisco, The Mission.  Saturday is the LaCocina Street Food Festival in the Mission.  This is the third time the event is being held.  Perhaps they were ahead of their time, before the food trucks, taco carts, and hot dog stands.


Over 70 vendors are expected, or about ten times the number of vendors in year one.  But this is not your typical Mission Street fare.  The food will vary from bacon wrapped hot dogs, to Jell-o shots, to guava-provolone plantain cakes, whatever those are.

The executive director of LaCocina is Caleb Zigas.  LaCocina is a non profit incubator kitchen.  The Festival will take place on Folsom Street between 22nd and 26th Streets, with seating set up at 23rd, 24th, and 25th, between Treat and Shotwell.  There is no admission fee, but a Festival “passport” will be required to buy food, priced between $3 to $8.  perhaps the best part of the passport is a journal, on which to record your favorite food items and carts.

Some of you attended the “Off the Grid” swarm of food trucks which became famous for their long lines. To cut down the lines, food choices at each booth will be limited, and all transactions are cash only.  Matt Cohen of Off the Grid strongly supports the concept of offering low income food producers some kitchen space and technical assistance.  One rule for the Festival is that all food must be prepared on the street!  So, famous places like the Slanted Door rub elbows with the likes of Curry Up Now.

Last year, Elvia Buendia made 1000 mini cupcakes and sold out in about two and a half hours.  This year, she plans to triple her output as well as add some new items to her menu.  i had her red velvet cupcakes, 2 for $3.00.  Each vendor tends to relate a similar story.  And for those of us who get to try this great variety of food, it is foodie heaven!

Other famous names invited to participate include Blue Bottle Coffee, Nettie’s Crab Shack, Pizzeria , Delicias Bakery, and La Luna Cupcakes. I have gone to places in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangkok that have no names, and no running water.  In fact, they have no refrigeration.

Only a lonely gas powered wok, or a small pit of wood burning grills.  But I felt confident knowing the meat was slaughtered in the morning, and the greens were picked at sunrise.  Closer to home, the roach coaches in Honolulu have always provided good “plate lunches” for locals, and some tourists like us.

The Festival runs only on Saturday, and begins at 11am.  I doubt any food will be left when it closes at 7pm.  The best way to get there is via BART.  Get off at the 24th Street Mission station.

FYI, I had a chicken empanada, then a Pad Thai taco, followed by carmelized worms over vanilla bean ice cream.  I really could not finish the red velvet cupcakes.  But the red corn chicha was potent!!!!
August 27, 2011

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