The shorts were short, the cocktails were complicated, and the most popular dish was … grasshopper?

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Gerard’s Paella served up a colorful helping of traditional Spanish flair.

By Marke B.

August 17, 2015 — There may have still been lines for Nombe’s infamous ramenburger, but this year the threat of being trampled by thousands of other casual foodies evaporated in the weekend’s shimmering air.

Yep, the seventh annual San Francisco Street Food Festival was a big hit in its new, much-more-spacious home at Pier 70 (soon to be developed into a Mission Bay-like mini-city of its own, with, as its representative assured us, up to 30 percent below market rate housing, although the details are still a bit fuzzy about whether it will actually be affordable, and whether anyone wants to live next-door to a giant power plant and buzzing switchyard).

Beating the crowds: Sunday at noon was the perfect time to arrive. Photo by David Schnur
Beating the crowds: Sunday at noon was the perfect time to arrive. Photo by David Schnur

For now, though, the wonderful, rundown industrial aesthetic of Pier 70’s main area made for a carnival-like atmosphere, as dozens upon dozens of booths represented most of SF’s most exciting restaurants and pop-ups inside and outside the pier’s enormous light warehouse, while food trucks hummed along the periphery, almost as loud as the rumbling in my belly. It’s all in benefit of La Cocina, the nonprofit food business start-up incubator for women, which in and of itself is a pretty darned cool thing.

Mister Jiu's beef cheeks braised in root beer, another popular dish, posted by instagram user kristinaszeto
Mister Jiu’s beef cheeks braised in root beer, another popular dish, posted by Instagram user kristinaszeto

Arriving at noon on Sunday proved to be perfect timing — no lines, all the stalls prepped and ready, and the dizzying sunlight and swoon-inducing heat not quite reaching their apogee. The place buzzed with cheer; Hunky Beau and I grabbed our compostable forks and dug in to big bites ($8-$10), small bites ($5-$6), and about 1000 different versions of lemonade (many delightfully spiked).

Bini's momos: always our go-to. Photo by David Schnur.
Bini’s momos: always our go-to. Photo by David Schnur.

One thing I get every year, and the perfect way to kick things off: scrumptious turkey and vegetable momos from Bini’s Kitchen, a dumpling-like Nepalese treat drizzled with nuclear orange tomato-cilantro chutney. The wrappers on these babies are the closest to mouth-feel heaven you will probably experience.  I love them so much.

Once that bit of appetizer was scooped up, and passing friends gave us a taste of their Filipino lechon (decadently fatty sliced roast pork) from Jeepney Guy, we regretfully passed up the cheesy man’oushe (Middle Eastern roasted flatbread) from Reem’s and the sizzling cumin lamb buns from Beijing Restaurant.

Beijing Restaurant's sizzling cumin lamb bun, posted by Instagram user theotterpopper
Beijing Restaurant’s sizzling cumin lamb bun, posted by Instagram user theotterpopper

We were in search of some thing a bit more adventurous, and we found it at the Lanxang Kindom stall: fried whole grasshoppers and crickets. Eating insects has become less of a big deal, thanks to groundbreaking food truck Don Bugito’s (who know larvae tacos would be the bomb?) and a growing consciousness about the necessary sustainability of creepy-crawly cuisine.

Hunky Beau tucking into a tasty grasshopper (was a little leggy).
Hunky Beau tucking into a tasty grasshopper (was a little leggy) from Beijing Restaurant.

A nice little serving of grasshoppers (kind of leggy) and crickets turned out to be just the ticket for hundreds of others, too, all chomping into the snack — a tangy hot sauce helped, as did a refreshingly coconut-y Lao iced tea chaser — with aplomb.

The dish of the day, from Beijing Restaurnat. posted by Instagram user s.naik4
The dish of the day, from Beijing Restaurnat. posted by Instagram user s.naik4

After that it was time to head to more surer ground, with a hefty bowl of rainbow-colored chicken and shrimp paella from Gerard’s (a little moister than I’m used to but perfectly spiced) and a slice of Peking duck pizza topped with hoisin sauce from deaf-run pizzeria Mozzeria, where we leaned that the sign for pizza is basically “hang ten.”  The slice really did taste like a savory green onion pancake, as the promotions attested.

Mozzeria's Peking duck pizza, yum.
Mozzeria’s Peking duck pizza, yum.

We snagged a tangy agua de tamarindo from Salvadoran booth D’Maize, and headed inside the warehouse to chow down and check out the vast array of sit-down eateries and bars featuring wonderful concoctions featuring celery gin, watermelon, Meyer lemon bitters, and other bright flavors, perfect for our sudden summertime.

hibiscus lemonade from Radia Africa, posted by instagram user wearerinse.
Hibiscus lemonade from Radia Africa, posted by Instagram user wearerinse.

Then there was really only the matter of desert left, now that we were too stuffed to move (what lightweights!) A nice, thick slice of peach pluot pie from Three Babes Bakeshop seemed season-appropriate, and it was gone in seconds, devoured as one of the live bands on stage tore into jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.”

But wait! I wasn’t going to quit until I was entirely defeated. So yes, I headed back out into the blinding light to grab some irresistible mushroom pho rolls from Rice Paper Scissors, whose perfect rice pastry wrapping and luscious, aromatic filling topped off a perfect afternoon of tickled tastebuds and culinary wanderlust. It was time for a nap.

Thanks for all the pho rolls, Rice Paper Scissors!
Thanks for all the pho rolls, Rice Paper Scissors!

 

  • Greg

    OMG! This was the best street food festival evah! I was such a pig! Among the things I ingested were bacon cheeseburger lumpia, calamansi lime lemonade, BBQ pork stick, some sort of Korean pancake with mayo and shaved bonito, momo dumplings, fried daikon rice cakes, spicy carmelized bacon, thai gelato over sticky rice, ceviche, soup dumplings, tequila jello shot, two kinds of empanadas, and just when I thought I could take no more, a Wayfare Tavern fried chicken slider because it was being given away for free. I was temped by The Chairman, my favorite food truck, but I just ate there on Friday so I decided to give it a pass yesterday.

    Best of all, I got to get in early. Nobody served till 11, but I got to scope out the offerings and strategize the best way to avoid the lines. I got there at 10:45 on my bike. The line was already a block long, but the Bike Coalition was offering free bike valet and the gate guys said I could just go on down since I came by bike. Awesome!

    • It was so good! mmmm tequila jello shots ….