Today was on par with a Man vs. Food episode.
My chef roommate, her restaurant crew and I were man-hungry, craving every taste the city had to offer, hankering for sweet and sour and feeling a wicked hair of the dog.
So, we ventured out to the annual San Francisco Street Food Festival to satiate our bellies.
Eating our way through the city, we found – six hours, 87 puestos (semi-permanent street stalls), 27 spices, 10 tapas-sized meals, 11 eccentric drinks, two beers gardens and one salsa dance party later -that:
- Street food is not only for hungry visitors, transients or travelers. It’s a neighborhood institution that brings cuisines from the far corners of the world to one neighborhood block.
- There’s really only one perfectly acceptable and doable way to eat your way through a city: at a street food festival.
We stepped out of the Uber and were immediately struck by the smell of meat, onions, garlic, vanilla and ice cream, drifting from a cluster of puestos catering for hungry visitors. We devoured many things, but these I can still taste:
Il Cane Rosso: The beverage, a fresh, lemon-infused ‘Mint Ginger Ice Tea.’
Allegro Coffee: The beverage, a piping hot, double-swirl ‘Cappuccino’ with a hint of raw turbinado sugar.
Fine & Fare: The small bite, a juicy watermelon, cucumber, honey and drizzled ‘Halibut Ceviche’ plate.
A16: The small bite, the ‘Fried Ascolane Breaded Olives.’ The big bite, the parmesan and olive oil-topped ‘Meatball Sandwich with Pecorino and Basil.’
NOJO Restaurant: The small bite, a sweet ‘Strawberries Jam’ dish with complimentary sourdough bread slices to dip with. The big bite, the ‘NOJO Sundae,’ a deep-fried delight liberally topped with whip cream, warm strawberries, lime juice and drizzled honey. And the beverage to wash it down – a classic sounding ‘NOJO Ice Tea’ with a lime and mint twist.
NAMU Street Food: The big bite, the ‘Okonomiyaki,’ a Korean taco-inspired dish with pulled, spiced pork, soy sauce, paprika, garlic and flat toasted tortilla instead of folded.
Gerard’s Paella: The big bite, the hearty ‘Chicken and Shrimp Paella,’ mixed with yellow corn, spicy red and green peppers, paprika, chili pepper and fresh melting cote cheese.
Salumeria: The big bite, the ‘Fried Chicken,’ topped with homemade Italian-style BBQ sauce, honey and poppy seeds. And the beverage, an iced ‘Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca’ with a hint of lime-flavored bubbly club soda.
Sweet Collections: The small bite, ‘Fancy Floral Jelly Cocktails’ in small ramekin-sized plastic bowls drowned in tequila and gin for days.
The Other Guys: The small bite, ‘Citrus Marinated Cucumbers with Seaweed Spice.’ The big bite, the ‘Aromatic Spiced Chicken Wings.’ And to quench all our thirst, the beverage – a ‘Black Cherry Lemonade.’
Sidewalk Juice: The beverage, a thick and creamy ‘Blueberry Almond Smoothie’.
The menu boards sounded appealing. But it was really the food that advertised itself, lining the front of each stand and proudly on display for the world walking by to see.