If you're a food truck fanatic, the LA Street Food Fest is the place to be. At this year's sold-out 2nd Annual Summer Tasting Event – served up by saucey Shawna Dawson & Sonja Rasula – $45 bought you bites from over 60 Food Trucks AND unlimited free drinks from Singha Beer, 14 different tequilas, and Sailor Jerry Rum.
Simmer that with an Ice Cream Social, mini Unique LA marketplace, DJ, and live concert and you've got 1 meal ticket that's totally fulfilling – and the extra $20 tip for the VIP ticket ($65) let you bypass the 5,000 General Admission crowd for an Amouse-bouche Preview, sans the long wait.
Naturally I was in foodie heaven all day, tasting 13 new Food Trucks, drinking free beer (see how much I like beer at YourNextPint.com), and running around like a psycho ex-girlfriend trying to stalk her old flame – in my case, The Grilled Cheese Truck.
- surprisingly incredible, crunchy 'n spicy Crispy Tofu Ball with Creamy Aioli Sauce from Starry Kitchen
- cold, wet 'n kinda bland Peruvian Potato Cake with Amarillo Sauce from Mo-Chica
- intriguing cinnamon 'n greek spices that kept me biting Beef Skewers from Kabob 'N Roll
- uber tender, sweet 'n succulent Pork Belly & Pineapple Adobo on Jasmine Rice + just ok mini Lumpiang Shanghai Egg Roll with Spicy Pork, Carrots & Ginger from Manila Machine
- plump, kinda strange, u-might-have-2-b-high-2-appreciate Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Butter & Chocolate AND Regular Fries with Guacamole & Sour Cream from Fresh Fries
- light, fresh 'n crisp Pork Bahn Mi with Carrots & Onions from Mandoline Grill
- vibrant Zucchini Squash Blossom + meh Mushroom + tangy Green Mole + too potent Traditional Mole Tacos from Antojitos Mi Abuelita
- chunky chewy gooey Chicken Dumplings from the Dim Sum Truck
- love me some meat sauce, but coulda done without the peas Arancini Risotto Balls with Meat Ragu + fluffy fried donut Zeppole with Powdered Sugar & Nutella from Rosa's Bella Cucina
- simply fresh, ensanada style Shrimp Taco with Salsa & Mexican Crema from Mariscos El Tetos
- not-so spicy Kimchee Taco with Death Sauce, Crunchy Peanuts & Tofu from the Flying Pig Truck
- lackluster, hardly munchie worthy, tiny Grilled Vegetini Pesto Sandwich bite from Munchie Machine
- just like mama used to make The Original + at long last, scrumdiddlyumptious, Cheesy Mac & Rib + herby fresh Heirloom Mozzarella Caprese Sandwiches from The Grilled Cheese Truck
- thick 'n rich Chocolate + crunchy almond Rocky Mountain Dipped Cones + dead-on s'mores flavor Campfire Milkshake from King Kone
Happy Food Truck FEST Friday Biters! This one's the mother of all Food Truck reviews, so make sure you've got your Twitter handy in case you get a monster craving.
With so many food truck stalls inside the Rose Bowl last Saturday, it was definitely hard choosing where to go first – especially since the sign-age was hard to read. But the Starry Kitchen Banana dude wearing a sign that said "Please Enjoy Our Balls in your mouth" seemed like an appropriate start. My hand model-turned-cameraman-for-the-day and I were literally blown away by how crunchy and crispy, yet spicy and creamy the Fried Tofu Ball with Aioli sauce was. (He is nowhere near a vegetarian and hates tofu, so I was surprised to see his satisfaction.)
After Starry Kitchen, our strategy was pretty much "find the shortest line" and Mo-Chica was next. Unfortunately, I could tell why. Despite the beautiful presentation and multiple components, the Peruvian Potato Cake with Amarillo Sauce was soggy and wet with a hint of spice.
Feeling intimidated from the ridiculously long Dogzilla line, we decided to cross the field and hit up Kabob 'N Roll. I absolutely loved the Beef Skewer with Greek spices like cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh (not really the latter two). But, it was one of the most original tasting meats I've had from a Mediterranean truck so far.
Next, the Manila Machine. The Pork Belly and Pineapple Adobo totally wowed us. Succulent Pork Belly, not too fatty with sweet 'n tart Pineapple – thank you sir, I'll have another, and we certainly did. I liked the easy to bite size of the Egg Roll, but the Pork Belly definitely trumped it.
On to Fresh Fries (for big highs) with wacky combinations you could only come up with if you were on something, like Sweet Potato with globs of Creamy Peanut Butter & Chocolate Sauce. It tastes exactly like you would imagine it too – sweet, salty & weird. I wish they used a Dark Chocolate sauce instead of the (probably) Hershey's syrup to cut out the sugaryness. I liked how plump the Regular Fries with Guacamole & Sour Cream was, but I missed the saltiness you get from a tortilla chip.
Now I'm not the biggest Bahn Mi fan because I think Carrots in a sandwich is just plain weird, but Mandoline Grill's Pork was very tender and at least the bread sunk down when you sunk your teeth in.
At this point it was 5pm, DJ Bryan Davidson was blasting some beats, and the General Admission crowd started rolling in. We decided to cross the field again to find an uber short line – low and behold, Antojitos Mi Abuelita was wide open (probably because they were one of the only food stalls to turn there food out mega fast.) I grabbed all 4 tacos, but the best were the "green" ones: Zucchini Squash Blossom that was packed with so much flavor, it was like zucchini to the 10th power, and citrusy, tangy Green Mole. The Mushroom Taco was bland. And the Traditional Mole Taco tasted way too chocolatey – wow, I never thought I would complain about something having TOO much chocolate.
The Chicken Dumplings from the Dim Sum Truck were quite large, meatpacked, and had a sweet 'n tangy sauce. (Note: do not attempt to eat these cold, they lose their zing.)
Both my hand model/cameraman and I fell in love with Rosa's Bella Cucina's Arancini Fried Risotto Balls with Meat Sauce – however, the Peas made it feel like Shepherds Pie sans potato. And the grubworthy, powdered sugary Zeppole Italian donut had the cutest mini Nutella pack you ever did see.
While I did not get to try the Best of Show Taco from Mariscos Jalisco – and announced by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa himself – I quite enjoyed the simple, fresh flavors of Mariscos El Teto's Shrimp Taco with Salsa Fresca & Mexican Crema.
At this point, our hunger was winding down and I had to save room for the yet-to-show Grilled Cheese Truck. But with a name like "Death Sauce" I just had to try The Flying Pig Truck's Kimchee Taco. I love kimchee and I like spicy – not to the point of dripping sweat beads from my forehead. Unfortunately, the Sauce was nowhere near Hell, not even Purgatory. At least the Crunchy Peanuts kept it interesting.
Since the Munchie Machine was right next door, I snatched up a Vegetini Pesto Sandwich with none of the Red Onions, Roasted Peppers & Zucchini they described it to have. With a name like "Munchie" I felt taken for a fool – perhaps they meant their food will still LEAVE YOU with the MUNCHIES?
In search of the Grilled Cheese Truck, we went outside to discover the mini Unique LA Marketplace, some refreshing Passion fruit and Papaya Naja Whole Leaf Teas, and the Ice Cream Social. Since I'd previously reviewed the Coolhaus Truck and was in the mood for something small 'n sweet, we headed to King Kone. Their nostalgic Chocolate Dipped Kones had a thick chocolate coating that was very tasty, and unless you ate it carefully, it exploded all over you. And the Campfire Milkshake tasted exactly like a Frozen S'more mixed with Cookies 'N Cream Ice Cream.
We went back inside the Rose Bowl, just in time for the live concert with The Deadly Syndrome and Warpaint, and ran smack into the line for The Grilled Cheese Truck! FINALLY, THE WAIT WAS OVER! The last time I'd had The Grilled Cheese Truck was a good 4 months ago, so you can imagine the drool running down my face while I was waiting in line. Sadly, they did not have my FAVORITE Tator Tots, but I did grab all 3 Sandwiches, and then some (the lady holding the tray started getting angry with me and told me to limit myself, ha!) The Cheesy Mac & Rib was just as cheesy, salty 'n sweet as I remembered with INSANE Mac & Cheese stuffed right in. The Original didn't shy away from extra slices of cheese, and the Heirloom, while fresh and herby, could've used a little more seasoning.
After 13 Food Trucks and a reunion with my old flame (The Grilled Cheese Truck) my meal ticket had been complete.
Upon exiting the Bowl, to the conveniently easy parking in Lot F, I just HAD to take a pic from the Oh Snap Studios Truck. If you look closely in the photo, you'll see "YourNextBite.com" in the caption bubble, me taking a "bite" of plastic pizza, and of course my trusty hand model celebrating his finished cameraman duties for the day by holding a GIANT CUPCAKE – face & body not included ;)
If you missed the Street Food Fest this time around, follow @LAFoodFest for updates on next year's event.