Los Angeles, CA: L.A. Street Food Fest Goes Beyond the Food Truck

Japanese hot dogs at the first L.A. Street Food Fest Anne Fishbein

By Sarah Bennett  |  LA Weekly

Japanese hot dogs at the first L.A. Street Food Fest Anne Fishbein
Japanese hot dogs at the first L.A. Street Food Fest
Anne Fishbein

The L.A. Street Food Fest brings a diverse swath of L.A. street food — not just from food trucks, carts, stands and pop-ups, but also from celebrity chefs and brick-and-mortar restaurants — to the Rose Bowl July 11.

“We never considered ourselves a food-truck event even though we became built that way,” says founder Shawna Dawson.The festival’s first year, 2010, was at the height of the food truck craze — and, as a result, most of its vendors were trucks. “As we got bigger we knew we wanted it to be what it was always intended to be — a street food event. Restaurants are inspired by street food. Same goes for stands, carts and pop-ups. Street food is way more chef-oriented than truck-oriented.”

Dawson grew up in L.A. and spent much of her life eating food from vendors that were never represented at the city’s growing number of food festivals. In fact, she noticed that many events had only the same 20 or 30 names attending, mainly because festivals require the food to be donated and many small producers don’t have the resources for that, she says.

The L.A. Street Food Fest was created as a way to give exposure to the L.A.’s most underrepresented food-slingers. It does this by subsidizing most of the food costs for its vendors, which include a curated selection of taco, burger and dumpling makers you’ve probably never heard of.

“That remains our goal: to search out hidden gems and to enable their participation in events like this,” Dawson says. “We put our money where our mouths are.”

A customer photographs her Buttermilk Truck red velvet chocolate chip pancake. Anne Fishbein
A customer photographs her Buttermilk Truck red velvet chocolate chip pancake.
Anne Fishbein

Every year, the festival’s offerings and participants have expanded, and have come to include cocktails from Corner Door and Magnolia House, ice cream from Salt and Straw and popsicle pop-ups, coffee from Copa Vida and Frijolitos Mobile Coffee and — new this year — doughnuts from Donut Friend and Colorado Donuts. An Artisanal LA station (Dawson is also a founder) will feature small-batch jerkies, jams, pies and more.

This is also the first year that Dawson and her team have had to say no to a few vendor — because there wasn’t enough room at the 5,000-capacity event. They received more than 100 requests to participate from vendors willing to come from as far away as Tijuana (yes, La Guerrerense is still coming up from Ensenada with her famous ceviche).

The final list includes: Bachi Burger, Cassell’s, Comfort LA, Elbow Room, Faith & Flower, Gadarene, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, Howlin’ Rays, LA Wing, Little Beast, Poke2Go, One Veg World, Osso, Status Kuo, Stuffnit, Sweetfin Poke, Tom’s Urban, Top Round Roast Beef, Arroy Food Fusion, Berliners, Bibimbap Backpackers, Bling Bling Dumplings, Bronzed Aussie, Crepe’N Around, Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe, Eat Buddha Bing, Fred Eric / Ramen 62, IMLI, Kai Kai Dumplings, Kaya Street Kitchen, Middle Feast Truck, Momed,Monsiuer Madame, Newport Seafood, Spitz, Komodo, Vada Pav, Bull Taco, Casa Oaxaca, Ceviche Project, Diablo Tacos, El Coraloense, La Guerrerense, La Monarca, Loteria Grill, Mariscos El Mazateno, Mexikosher, Pinches Tacos, Sarita’s Pupuseria, Solita Tacos, Tacoteca, Tacos La Bomba, Taqueria El Severo and Yuca’s.

Bites include everything from jamaica tacos to bibimbap bowls to burgers to shawarma. The $60 ticket includes all food and drink.

“We have gone back and forth between really just dropping the word ‘street,’” says Dawson. “Ultimately that’s what this is: a celebration of L.A. food, the many expressions of that, which ultimately, in Los Angeles, has some level of street-food inspiration.”

L.A. Street Food Fest, Saturday, July 11, 3-8 p.m., $60, tickets available here; Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena.