“Winter is coming.” - Game of Thrones
By Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
On August 10 at Cal Anderson Park, the Seattle Street Food Festival will descend upon our city’s hungry with over two dozen food trucks, scads of carts and many other vendors of non-edible goods. Food trucks are a trend that has been taking over lunchtime in America for several years now, owing to a mix of increasingly adventurous eating in the traditionally finicky American palate and the need for lower-cost dining options during the recession.
Seattle made room for mobile restaurants in 2011 when the city council unanimously passed a law that allowed food trucks to operate outside of private lots. Today, there are more than enough food-on-wheels businesses to justify, nay, necessitate an event like the Street Food Festival. To get the most out of the experience, visitors to the SFF should consider dividing their options into categories. For example:
Some street food appeals to the weird and wild side of dining, while others stick to more familiar eats. These are the taco trucks, hot dog carts and pretzel vendors of the American street food scene. The SFF has businesses on the docket from everywhere on the spectrum of the unusual, but those who want to see what’s up with the standard stuff still have plenty to choose from. There are alliterative crepes from Crisp and Caravan, cased meats from Secret Sausage and Po Dog, and various things stacked on top of other things, aka the sandwich category. The yelling Viking mascot and the name are enough to pique interest in Now Make Me a Sandwich, which only gets up to the Hill every now and then when it’s tucked away in a corner of Harrison and Boren.
Street food businesses not only have to compete with brick-and-mortar restaurants, which are typically more expensive and less convenient, they also have to compete with each other. This often means offering something nobody else does, which can result in some deep cuts in the culinary catalog.
At the SFF, some of the delightful weirdos on the docket have items too intriguing to pass up. BeanFish Taiyaki is high on the list. BeanFish makes its home in Fremont for the farmers’ market crowd, but occasionally comes south to serve up its fish-shaped Japanese waffles. Taiyaki are traditionally filled with sweet bean, but BeanFish goes wild with other options like custard, bacon, bananas or apples. For something a little more Western, The Grilled Cheese Experience takes the classic sandwich and runs with it until it collides with local organic cheese and some ambitious additions like slow-smoked ribs and albacore tuna.
Eating off the Hill
The dense bubble of Capitol Hill has more great restaurants than we know what to do with, so it’s easy to forget that other neighborhoods have some excellent eats of their own. While plenty of Hill-based businesses will have their booths and carts at the SFF, some outlanders are putting down temporary stakes as well.
The Stumbling Goat, one of the ever-evolving Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood’s great sit-downs, will have a booth at the SFF. No word yet on what they plan to offer, but the folks at the Goat have been known to braise a good rabbit and fry a nice farro cake. We’re also getting some much-needed spice and smoke from Drunky’s Two Shoe Barbecue up in Ballard. Nothing fancy there, just meat made yielding by lots of slow heat.
By Name Alone
The Street Food Festival seems to be as good a time as any to test the walk behind a food truck’s talk. A lot of them have attention-grabbing names, so the festival could be a perfect staging ground for a test of skill against marketing. Aside from the aforementioned Now Make Me a Sandwich, there’s How a Pickle Got Out of a Jam, Where Ya At, Bikelava and Soda Jerk. Fun to say? Sure. Tasty compared to the more traditionally named trucks and carts? It’s worth testing.
The Seattle Street Food Festival will begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug.10 at Cal Anderson Park. The event is free and open to the public, though there are special passes available for purchase that include priority line access, gifts and other benefits. Most vendors will have $5 sampler plates to make trying a variety of different offerings easier on the wallet.