Deliver me from the Chicken Skewer

I do not understand, in this town which is obsessed with food; and with precious little gourmet food carts; and with street fairs; why the food at every street fair is exactly the same disgusting meat-on-a-stick bullshit.

Seriously, a street fair in (let's say) Japantown where nobody on the street will hand me a bowl of noodles? How is this even possible?

I sense the invisible hand of a monopoly.

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32 Responses:

  1. Luke Burton says:

    I smell laws regulating street food that probably drive a monopoly.

    "Cut Me Own Throat" Dibbler buys his Rat-onna-stick from FoodCorp Global Deep Freeze, thus moving the litigation target elsewhere.

  2. dr_memory says:

    In NYC at least, it's exactly what you suspect: there's a cap on the number of permits for temporarily erected food vendors, and various mafiosos own all of them. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's the same deal here, especially given the effort that the city occasionally puts into chasing off DIY vendors.

  3. cje says:

    You still go to the street fairs? You deserve the crappy food, long lines, and obnoxious crowds. As one of my leading misanthropic friends, I'm shocked you'd even consider going - let alone actually do it.

    On the upside, if you see a necklace or something you like at one of those things, you can always just pick it up at the next one because the vendors are all the same, too.

  4. zapevaj says:

    This is one of the few times I will say this: hooray for Los Angeles! We have food trucks here- so many that the brick-and-mortar restaraunts are feeling threatened. Downtown LA Artwalk (another thing that totally rules about LA that makes me go "why doesn't SF do this?") had like fifteen food trucks last time, featuring every cuisine from Korean/Mexican fusion to South Indian street food to a million of the "gourmet comfort-food-of-the-moment" things.

    In general (and this might make John unfriend me, like, for realz), but I think the food scene in LA is way better than the SF food scene.

    • sheilagh says:

      especially chrome airstream trail trailers, with farm to market folks who have wonderfully complex menues, or oddball narrowly focused offerings.

      If jwz makes it to SxSW, hopefully our city council feebs won't have figured out how to shut them all down.

    • lloydwood says:

      LA has so many food trucks as a side-effect of catering to filming on location.

      [captcha: palleic OOCYTES. Que?]

      • zapevaj says:

        ...kinda. We have breakfast wagons on location, and the food trucks do occasionally work shoots, but there's not as much of a crossover as you'd expect. Mostly the food trucks serve huge office buildings, or clusters of them, on Wilshire or in Beverly Hills. And also, of course, outside bars during late-night drunkfood service.

    • jkonrath says:

      Food trucks are the new cupcake bakery; everyone has them. San Francisco has them; New York has them; someone just did a reality show with them; I'm sure there's someone out in Akron or Topeka or whatever that's surfing eBay motors right now, thinking about their future Cambodian/Ethiopian fusion taco empire.

      • zapevaj says:

        Yes, but LA is particularly suited to food trucks. Geographically- because it's too decentralized for a food cart to travel the necessary territory. Logistically, because we have parking spaces and streets big enough for a full-size box truck. And economically, because there's a huge amount of medium- to high-income people wandering around who want your food and will pay for it...but even with all their cash, you still couldn't afford the real estate prices to open up a real restaurant. Really, the only things that SF has in common are the high real estate prices. It's a natural outgrowth of the city's layout and culture, just like street food vendors in Europe and Asia (and New York, if they'd let them.)

        Sadly, this means that SF probably won't ever have a decent food-truck scene. Seriously, where would you park one?

  5. So are you saying that this hypothetical Japantown street fair, yakitori is verboten?

  6. pikuorguk says:

    Homer: "Oh, alright. Give me one bowl."
    Khlav Kalash Guy: "No bowl. Stick, stick."

    (PS: LiveJournal needs to die, the comment preview/post cycle is so confusing)

  7. Depends on the street fairs. While many of the larger ones are the same ten agents of meatsticks, some aren't - and you shouldn't diss Japantown, as the Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the few times I see food that *is* yakitori and isn't the same ten vendors. That's because the Cherry Blossom Festival gives the food licenses to the local nonprofit organizations, who often make most of their yearly budget off selling me yakitori and beer. (Folsom gives some of the booze concession to nonprofits, IIRC, as does Pride.)

    I'm assuming you were at Sunday Streets, which is pretty lame for vendors so far, and which was *not* put on with much help from any of the Japantown associations of which I am aware.

    I've been meaning to check out Off the Grid food truck events ( ) but I'm lazy.

    • jwz says:

      No, it was the "J-Pop Festival". They closed down the usual 3-4 blocks, but just had meatsticks.

  8. carbonunit says:

    Allow me to gloat. In Sydney, yes, there are meat on a stick vendors, but also, depending on the ethnicity of the festival, green mango salad, hot kim chee and beef, pad thai, pofferjes, churros, fish chowder, mousaka, pintxos, etc etc. I think the licensing laws are slacker so the people actually putting on the festival can sell their product.

  9. fantasygoat says:

    I wish I could get meat on a stick!

    Here in Toronto, the city bylaws only allow the selling of Hot Dogs and Sausages from carts. That's it.

    There was some brief hope when they started a pilot project to have other types of food at carts, but it died under the weight of regulations and city council posturing.

  10. tjic says:

    Ever since 1982 I've know that when you're in a West Coast city in the 21st century, you can't get noodles, even if you shout "4 ! 2 , 2 , 4! With noodles!"

  11. In New York street fairs also have the same kind of homogenous vendorage: greasy arepas, bad tacos, more arepas, corn on the cob, very bad "italian" sausage, funnel cakes, nightmarish gyros, etc. Even the plastic banners are printed from the same file. The twin rumors are that they are a) controlled by certain friendly fraternal organizations and b) the fees are so high, that only the highest possible margins will allow vendors to make any money.

  12. icis_machine says:

    I think kyron will disagree. She enjoyed her meat on a stick.

    you couldn't have tried one of the million cupcake booths in the vicinity?