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The waiting game: In line at the L.A. Street Food Fest

It was midday at the first-ever L.A. Street Food Fest, and the line for free bottles of water grew so long its starting point couldn't even be seen, lost in a serpentine formation that snaked its way all through the most outer patches of grass. Nearly as many event-goers were waiting for a drink as were queued up for foie gras fries from the Frysmith truck.

The festival, held Saturday on the grounds of downtown's L.A. Center Studios, was a celebration of the street vendors and gourmet trucks that have been Tweeting their way into Los Angeles' collective heart. If the likes of Kogi BBQ reignited Angelenos' interest in street food, the festival was that fascination at its zenith. Buzz among employees and festival volunteers predicted a crowd of over 10,000 attendees.

There were traditional street foods like Sabor da Bahia’s acarajé, Brazilian black-eyed pea fritters, and Antojitos de la Abuelita’s pambazos, potato-filled, chile-soaked Mexican sandwiches. There were also those vendors who took a chance at twisting conventional classics, like the Flying Pig’s duck tacos and chef Ludo Lefebvre’s event-only fried chicken.

But for some, the food was overshadowed by the sheer crush of people. This being the age of instant Internet judgment, online anecdotes of hungry festival-goers waiting as long as two hours at some trucks and enterprising eaters selling their spots in line took almost no time to pop up on blogs and Twitter feeds.

The festival wasn’t without its mistakes, but whether they were forgivable seems to be up for debate. What’s your take?

-- Miles Clements

Photo: Thousands of food lovers attend the LA Street Food Fest in downtown L.A., an event featuring 30 of the city's most popular food trucks. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

Comments () | Archives (18)

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Horrible. Was in line for 2 hours and 15 feet away from the entrance, when they closed the gates, without any apologies. The Venue was too small, they should have known that people come out for these types of things, look at the grilled cheese sandwich fest last year.

Brilliant idea. Terrible execution. Hopefully, they'll figure out the logistics next year.

People easy on the personal attacks. I, too, was surprised by the turnout. It was from the goodness of mine and friends heart to warn people when we exited the place around 3:00 pm. The wait was very long but what can you really expect from 1 food truck from each vendor. If they had 2-3 food trucks for each vendor, which I know they have in stock, the wait would've been shorter. I hope they have it again next year and hoping the weather would be good as well.

As for the one that posted who paid for the street cleanup and other city services, the organizers did. They had to get a permit from the City to get this running and fixed.

There was real street food beign sold just a couple of blocks away from this location. The wait time depended on how fast they could make the popusa or taco.

As much as I enjoy food trucks, there is no way in heck that I would wait for two hours for anything they might prepare. I truly hope those who waited were rewarded with the most unique, most flavorful dish they ever experienced.

While waiting in the inevitable long lines I came to the realization that because these trucks basically have only one cook, there will always be a long wait for food. My party got there early, patiently waited in line, went in when the event opened, and found already long queues at each of the trucks. It was like being at Disneyland or Magic Mountain. We never really got to sample what we wanted. We wish support for the two ladies who organized this event and hope they'll find a better solution in the future.

It was a great concept but unless the event organizers pre-sell tickets, they will always have this problem and I will never again come to this event. Maybe that lessen the throng of the crowd.

By the way, I decided to take the Metro from Marine Station and discovered what a mess it was connecting and using the Blue Line. There were very long delays and the cars were literally packed with riders. At times the cars didn't move for 20 minutes and there was no explanation for the delays except for construction that was suppose to have started later that night. Our driver obviously was on her learner's permit since she kept hitting the brakes hard and not taking off smoothly. It will be a very long time before I decide to try the Metro again.


Why not just leave Los Angeles and make us all a little happier, no one more so than yourself.

Good gosh, It's not like street fairs are new. Leaders of such first time events should go to established venues such as the Chicago Food fair to see how it is done. 3 million people visit every year and I have never, ever waited in line for more than 15 minutes, even on the 4th of July!

Just what downtown needs...more CONGESTION!
Aren't the streets/traffic tied up enough without food trucks?

Also, who's paying for the street cleanup, street maintanence..WE ARE THE BROKE TAXPAYERS IN THE CITY OF LA!

If they do it again they really need to pay attention to vital details like fire code and safety. I know someone that fainted while waiting in line to get in. She approached festival staff for help and they just told her to leave. That is pretty irresponsible. I am shocked.

I didn't know about the event until 1:30, so by the time we got over there the lines weren't worth trying to find a space. It reminded me of the American Apparel Sales.

I think its an excellent idea, but the logistics of the space limited it. Since it was a success this year, they should look at a bigger space to allow for the lines for truck to be more coherent.

Reading about the free water line mayhem conjured up a chuckle. Its a hot day people, why didn't you bring something to drink?

The First LA Street Food Fest was just fine. YES, there were long lines to get into the Food Area and YES, there were long lines at the Food Trucks, but so what. Everyone who follows the Trucks understand that if you don't get there early, you stand in line.

I do believe that the number of people were a surprise to the Organizers, but you go with the flow. My daughter and I had a great time.

It took a lot of work and time to get the Festival together and the Organizers should be thanked. This Summer will be a blast, I have a lot more Trucks to follow and enjoy good food

I was there and all I can say is the quality of food was superb for the little amount everything cost. I loved it and totally hope they have it again. I sure didn't mind waiting in line, it was a beautiful day out and had great friends to talk to.

Why wouldn't anyone wait in line for a free bottle of water, or 2 hours for some food from a cart? You have to be really, really bored to waste your time doing that.

Seems to be one of the nicer reviews floating out there...

What a joke! After paying $20 for the pre-paid entry entry ticket, it was a disappointment not to be able to enjoy the event. We walked straight in, but the lines for food! With so much good food in L.A., I can't see any reason to wait in line for more than 1 1/2 hours to buy a taco. And those poor people sweating out the wait in the general line - some for four hours just to get in to wait on another line for food - I wasn't sure if I should feel badly for them or not...after all, they did make the decision to stay in the line - go figure!

Just one more reason why L.A. doesn't fully function as a real city. But keep trying L.A. - you'll get it one day.

It seems most who have given their opinion have voiced dissatisfaction, to say it nicely, with the long lines both for food & just getting inside.

We have to be patient with a first time event. And, be thankful for the pair of girls put their time & efforts to kick start what hopefully will be an annual event. We need to give them a 2nd chance to get it right, or there may not be another. That wood be a shame.

The "festival" was a line of lines just to stand in line. It was cool to be able to go from vendor to vendor in such a small space, but after 45 minutes in line you can only visit so many places.

I think the people who organized it did an okayish job, but they clearly did not plan for the turnout. It wasn't a total disaster, and that seems like a success for a first annual anything (let alone one with a ~10k turnout).

Make it take place from 11-8 on Saturday and Sunday next year, and it will be one of the highlights of the year, hands down.


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