Food Trucks Draw a Crowd to Santa Anita Park

The lines at many trucks like the Lobsta Truck were long. Credit: Melissa Berlant

By Melissa Berlant | Arcadia Patch

The lines at many trucks like the Lobsta Truck were long. Credit: Melissa Berlant

Foodies and families joined horse racing fans at Santa Anita Park on Saturday to sample food from more than 60 food trucks at a food truck festival hosted alongside the races for Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day.

The Santa Anita Food Truck festival was conceived as a way for the park to broaden its audience and lure a younger crowd, including many young families. The festival began small in January, but the fourth festival Saturday had more than 60 gourmet trucks serving foods ranging from fried chicken to samosas and gelato.

Director of Publicity for the park Mike Willman said they really didn’t know what to expect when they had the first event back in January, but they were overwhelmed with the crowds the food trucks were able to draw in through Twitter and Facebook.

The Ragin Cajun truck owner Stephen Domingue said he was excited about the event. He was at the original festival back January and said the trucks sold out within 4 hours.

 “It’s been a pleasure with the horse racing going on here and the crowds. I mean, we’ve got a following that is crazy,” Domingue said.

The Grilled Cheese Truck was especially popular and had a snaking line before the event even began.  President and chef of the truck, Dave Danhi estimated that he would sell about 1,200 sandwiches at the festival.

“We love the venue. Each venue, each community takes on its own feel…This has always been a very family-oriented, fun, group thing, as opposed to a the drunken guys coming out and saying, ‘let’s go eat’ like Abbot Kinney [in Venice Beach] can be,” Danhi said.

Danhi recommends strategic eating to manage long lines like the ones at his truck.

“It’s all about divide and conquer. Come with a group of people. Two people go here, two people go there, boom boom boom. Come back and feed the people waiting at the busy trucks,” he said.

When Anna Castillo of Whittier entered The Grilled Cheese Truck line, she had about an hour wait ahead of her. She was willing to wait in the line thanks to her love of grilled cheese sandwiches, but followed good food truck festival form by sending her sister to wait in line at the Lobsta Truck. Twenty minutes later, she was still in line, but had the sandwiches her sister bought to stave off the hunger.

Other less well-known trucks used a variety of techniques to draw costumers in. Joyce Cachapero helping at Almoosal Filipino Fusion Cuisine lured people over using a cow bell and free samples. Paradise Cookies had a violinist playing as customers enjoyed fresh ice cream sandwiches.

Sanata Anita Park is betting on the event bringing in new horse race fans.

“There’s an energy here that you’re not going to find in parking lot somewhere. There’s professional sports going on in conjunction with this event,” Willman said. “We view it as a great opportunity to expose an entirely new demographic to our game at Santa Anita, and we’re hoping we can have some of them come back on occasion and participate in this sport.“

While some guests like Castillo only came for the food, others planned to check out the horses too.

Jennifer Sotelo of Montclair and Raquel Alcantara of Covina were drawn by the food, but came for the whole experience including the races.

“I want to place some bets,” Alcantara said. “Hey, if I win something, maybe I’ll come back.”