Here's what I saw on July 1 at the : Thousands of people from Palo Alto, Brisbane, the East Bay and most cities in between, gathering for a gourmet street food and music event.
Let me rephrase that. Thousands of new faces visited San Mateo without even a glimpse of the many businesses housed here. Twitter and Facebook were buzzing with comments. Newspapers, PBS, and my own San Mateo Patch all .
So how did we fail to see what a boost to the downtown area a large street food event could be?
I know, I know. will be held downtown in the coming week. If it has only a fraction of the draw of the Event Center's street food festival, it will have to grow, and fast. The Caltrain station setting may be a start, but I think not a finish. Also, if it operates independently of our merchants and eateries, how will it benefit the community?
If only we had a large park setting with public transportation nearby. Someplace with multiple parking structures where event attendees would have to stroll past our many merchants to arrive at the festival. Someplace with an organization in place to coordinate our local eateries and multicultural entertainment into the mix.
Hold the phone! You say we have all that? Yes, and the surrounding area is perfect! Then why, I ask myself, isn't this being used to boost our local economy? Has the Downtown San Mateo Association put all its eggs in one basket focusing on the possible Property Business Improvement District (or PBID) to the apparent exclusion of all else? I digress, that is .
OK, so I sound like a Negative Nellie. Let me jump off my a moment and share my evening at Moveable Feast.
I drove over to the Event Center at 7:15 and queued up to happily pay my $10 to park. The 25 minutes in line for parking might seem like a bad thing to some. However, it just increased my excitement at going to an event so popular. No one seemed to be leaving!
I'm not shy, so as I walked in, I chatted it up with all the others hoofing it from the parking lot. By a 5-to-1 ratio, they were there from someplace other than San Mateo! It's not a scientific study, but it is a sample.
Upon entering, my jaw dropped. There were people everywhere! Lines, and I mean a lot of lines. Not one of the 25 trucks had a line of fewer than 20 people. I asked how long the people in the front had been waiting. Most had waited between an hour to two hours!
Call me a food snob, but only the French Laundry would inspire me to stand and wait that long. Lucky for me, I attended with a handy husband to stand in line while I scoped out seating and spoke to a couple of chefs.
From the Whisk Truck I feasted on a dinner that was unexpectedly fabulous. I ordered their Angus Burger with a roasted pepper-onion blend, sweet roma tomatoes with baby greens, and cheese along with a roasted red pepper stuffed concoction on the side. The Panna Cotta was also delicious.
OK, that meant we had to try another truck, so onto Yumsilog for a fried rice and egg dish that was also to die for.
The muddy lawns didn't deter anyone from from sitting down and tucking in to their food while upbeat music lent an air of festivity.
Judging from Twitter and Facebook comments, one's experience depended on one's time of arrival and how savvy one was in street food gatherings. For example, not bringing your own portable chairs marked you as a newbie.
Some trucks ran out of food. The band announced that 5,000 had been expected and they were guessing that 10,000 were actually there. The vibe was a bit frenzied rather than relaxed due to the unexpectedly large crowd.
To me, none of that is a negative. It screams that the Bay Area is hungry for a new-style multicultural event. The Street Food Revolution is no longer a trend when mainstream media such as Sunset Magazine cover it.
I'm not going out on a limb saying it is here to stay. So come on San Mateo! Let's hop on that bandwagon (or truck) and give the people what they want while helping our local economy.