New Orleans: Street Fare Derby Showcases Quick, Delicious Comfort Food

By Diya Chacko |

On a hot Saturday, crowds of people waited in line to sample high-quality street food from about a dozen trucks and vendors at the Fair Grounds.  The well-attended Street Food Derby, hosted by, demonstrated the popularity of mobile restaurants as the latest trend in the New Orleans culinary industry.

Veggie Banh Mi

Diya: At first, I didn’t expect a lot of people to attend this event, especially because there was a $15 cover charge plus the cost of food tickets.  I arrived about 10 minutes before the Derby started, and the vendor area was already starting to fill up with families and the sounds and smells of grilling.

Lauren: I also wasn’t sure if many people would be there because it was the first event of its kind. I got there at 12:45 p.m., fifteen minutes after the gates opened to the general public, and I quickly remembered that this is a food town. The place was crowded, but not yet packed.

Diya: Because I don’t eat meat, I thought my options would be limited.  I was wrong.  Vegetarians were so well-accommodated, I had trouble figuring out where I would use my food and drink tickets.  I decided to skip the beer completely in favor of the food.

I went traditional for my first choice — a cake batter-flavored snowball from Peace, Love and Snowballs.  The vendor, John Gaines, mentioned that the four-year-old snowball truck usually parks by Audubon Zoo on the weekends, and has regular patrons.

Next, I joined the line for a goat cheese panini from Fork in the Road, which advertises “light, fresh sandwiches.”  The line was already seven people deep, and it took a while to get the panini, which had sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes covered in melted goat cheese.  The taste really was light and fresh, with a lot of Mediterranean flavor.

Lauren: Don’t forget the jerk pulled pork sandwich from the same truck. Diya left this one for me to try, and this was by far my favorite. I love anything with jerk flavoring, but this flavor was subtle and light. Perfect!

Diya: Lauren

Diya: My last choice was a vegetarian Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) from Geaux Plates — so popular the truck ran out of bread a few times.  The flavors of the cilantro and shredded carrots on Portobello mushrooms were brought out with the addition of a really spicy sriracha.

Lauren: I tried in vain around 3 p.m. to get a couple of crepes from Crepes A La Carte, but after 15 minutes in a line that did not move, and a crowd that was growing hot, tired and disoriented from all the lines running into each other, I had to give up. I did, however, hear that the crepes were fantastic.

Diya: While the lines weren’t much fun, I was really happy to see the crowds at the track.  Street food has become an integral part of many cities, and New Orleanians clearly respond to the trend.  Seeing as how the Derby is now a can’t-miss event, I hope we end up with many more food trucks around town.

What did y’all think of the event? Let us know if you went and which item won over your taste buds.

brought over four types of grilled cheese sandwiches from The Big Cheesy.  The first had caramelized onions, the second was studded with jalapenos and the third had a few different cheeses melted together.  These were probably the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had.  According to their Facebook page, The Big Cheesy sold out early.

Lauren: My husband came along for this very tough assignment, and he got two plates from the BBQ and Some set-up. Each plate included baked beans and potato salad, both sweet, and different kinds of meat – sausage, a rib, chicken and brisket – covered in sauce but not overwhelming.