Tag Archives: eating out in the Mission

SF Street Food Festival Recapped!

Ahoyyyyyy, mateys, and happy Tuesday! My weekend was swell, filled as it was with good company, restorative sleep, and street food. That’s right: I spent most of my Saturday wandering Folsom, eking through masses of people, and waiting in line to try some of the city’s tastiest morsels.

Confession: I miss the Minnesota State Fair. I don’t miss too much about living in Minnesota — my family, thunderstorms, and the megamall are notable exceptions — but I do miss our annual trek to the fair. Weeks before our trip, I’d consider the foods I had to try: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was always on the list*, as were the cream cheese wontons served at the International Bazaar. Sometimes I’d get a Pronto Pup; sometimes I wouldn’t. Ali would inevitably wander to Sweet Martha’s, where she’d purchase a plastic pail of baked-on-the-premises chocolate chip cookies. As we wound our way through the barns (which were sharp with the odors of livestock), we’d swing the cookie pail, nimbly sidestepping cow pies.

Cow pies! Good times.

Now, instead of looking forward to the State Fair, I look forward to the San Francisco Street Food Festival. It’s like the MN State Fair, minus the livestock, John Deere equipment, Midway, grade-C early-2000s pop stars, and flocks of grandmas wearing khaki shorts/white New Balances.

A trip to the SFSFF requires some prep: you’ve got to review the list of vendors, determine which foods you’d most like to try (because you can’t try ’em all), and arrive early. EARLY. Like, right at 11:00. Alex and I got there at 11:05, and already the booths were crowded. San Franciscans are serious about their food.

I won’t recount every item I tried, because 1) the rest of this entry would just be a list, and sometimes lists are boring**; and 2) you’d consider me a glutton if you got the full recounting of everything I ate. (Seriously: I had to take a nap before making a second trip to Folsom.) Highlights it is!

First, NO, I did not try the wax-moth-larvae tacos (or the mealworm ice cream). Jasper tried the former, closing his eyes for the first bite or two, then realizing that moth larvae don’t taste like much. This absence of strong flavor isn’t enough to get me excited about eating insects, though. Cultural bias? Sure. I also dislike bugs in a way that I don’t dislike cows, pigs, chickens, or tofu blocks.

Prior to the fest, I decided that I’d only try foods that I couldn’t get anywhere else (or that would be difficult to get). That stipulation ended quickly. The first bite Alex & I tried was A16’s Duroc pork meatball, pictured above. A bit larger than a plum and smothered in sauce, the ‘ball was tasty — but not tasty enough that I can recall specifics three days later. (Sorry, A16!)

In direct rebuttal of my “no everyday foods” rule, I had a cup of Three Twins’ lemon cookie ice cream, which was divine. With Smitten now on the scene, I’ve gotten spoiled; rarely am I awed by plain-old, non-liquid-nitrogen-produced ice cream, but this scoop was different. After so many heavy foods, the delicate lemon flavor was a necessary palate-cleanser. I am, admittedly, a sucker for ice cream with cookie bits: I love how the cookies soften, retaining a semblance of their shape. Mark my words: I’ll be back for another cone.

Around 1:30, deep into round one of sampling, Alex and decided we needed to nap. The sun was high; we were full of pork and tequila. Nap we did, and once we awoke, we were ready for round two.

Round two was much tamer than round one, this owing to the denser crowds and the fact that we’d eaten a goodly amount. Still, I had a mild hunger: hunger enough to justify a 20-minute wait for Kung Fu’s Nunchuck Chicken Tacos. Confession: I wasn’t super stoked about these tacos — I almost always prefer carnitas or carne asada. As in the Three Twins Ice Cream Incident, Kung Fu’s tacos unraveled my loose-constructed bias. Oh, man: the chicken was soooooo savory: umami savory (#marinatedfordaze). It had a depth of flavor I normally associate with beef. Garnished with diced red onions, brilliantly dotted with sriracha, these tacos were a hit. I only wish I’d eaten two instead of one.

Against all odds, Endless Summer Sweets’ funnel cake was my favorite item of the day. Seemingly brainless, the funnel cake is a true marvel of food engineering; the intricacy with which the dough coils and solidifies is, frankly, pretty badass. So many cakemakers smother their goods with powdered sugar, but not Endless Summer Sweets — the cooks dusted just a few shakes of sugar, followed by a spatula’s worth of fresh whipped cream and quartered, late-season strawberries. Those berries? Those were what did me in. Mercilessly sweet and bright as lacquer: oh, strawberries! I wish I had some of them now.

At one point, twenty minutes into the wait for my funnel cake, I asked myself, “Is this worth it?” The jostling, the cost, the empty calories: so worth it.

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*When I was ten, B&J’s seemed hella gourmet. Remember the time before artisan ice creameries popped up on every corner? I do.

**Not always, though. The Awl usually has good lists.

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Burrito? Don’t mind if I do.

I don’t know if any of you recall my rant (now a few months past) about how taco salads are far superior to that lowly log, the burrito. I haven’t recanted, but I can say with certainty that I’m gradually warming to the burrito.

With Hook in Tahoe all weekend, my schedule was free & clear. How did I choose to fill it? With friendship times, multiple thrifting trips, and high-sodium foods, of course! Saturday, I met Gail in the Mission for “Burritos & Thrift,” soon to become a monthly tradition (or every other month, if it happens that way). I’d been craving a burrito for a few days, some thrift action for a few weeks, and a rainy afternoon lay open, obligationless. Gail agreed that my planned course of events sounded awesome. We were off.

My experience in the Mission is pretty much limited to Zeitgeist, Kilowatt, Gestalt, and some brunch places; this paucity of knowledge, coupled with my previous burrito aversion, left me stranded when it came time to name a lunch joint. Enter Yelp (and the opinion of A.Hook). After ten minutes of “research,” I decided that El Farolito would be our lunch destination. Near Mission and 24th, the taqueria would take us past some prime shopping locales — Goodwill and Thrift Town — and some churro vendors, as well. (Note: SPOILER ALERT: we didn’t get churros. Sadly.)

Peel back the foil and you will find/a five-pound burrito that blows your mind.

El Farolito isn’t a restaurant I’d wander without prior knowledge of its reputation, to put it kindly. Narrow as a Chicago apartment, the dining room is dim, greasy-aired, and crammed with plastic booths that look like they’ve been lifted straight from a Chuck-E-Cheeze. The menu offers typical “American-friendly” options (like chicken burritos!), as well as less-common proteins like tripe and brain. Typical as I am, I went for a super burrito with grilled chicken and no avocado. I was expecting to be pleased with the meal — that’s the Pollyanna in me! — but oh, man: even my raised expectations were blown away.

Let’s start with the tortilla, which was warm, fresh, and oh-so-chewy. This thing was roughly the size of a parachute* and I ripped off small pieces of it, dipping the pieces in salsa or using them to scoop out the fillings of the super burrito (“Super Burrito”). The beans (refried) were suitably creamy — made with lard, I’m guessing — and the rest of the fillings (rice, chicken, sour cream, cheese, red salsa) were fresh and gut-bustingly good. What impressed me most about the burrito was its scope. Aw, who am I kidding, trying to gussy up my description with fancified language? The burrito was HUGE. Roughly the size of a football, the thing probably weighed five pounds. I ate almost precisely 1/3 of it and was full long past my normal dinnertime.

That, and it was cheap — $8.00 got me the Super Burrito, a side of chips, and a can of soda. Not bad, given this town’s prices. Not bad, really, for any city.

El Farolito, you’re [half of] the basis of a new tradition. I adore your suede-smooth tortillas, your friendly cashiers, and your flickering fluorescent lights (which serve to enhance the low-key mood of the place/call out the bobos from Hayes Valley who schlepped to Mission + 24th to eat “authentic” food). Be mine! xoxo.

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*From what I gather: I never actually saw it in its unfolded state.