The fourth annual San Francisco Street Food Festival sponsored by La Cocina has over 70 food vendors in a holding pattern about to divebomb six blocks of the Mission this Saturday. This year, there is also a ticketed Night Market fundraiser on Friday night at Alemany Market (with heat lamps), and a host of food entrepreneurship related panels on Sunday. Whether you're a dabbling street food enthusiast or an industry die-hard, there's a perfect bite waiting to be had. Here are a few pointers to help navigate the weekend's street food madness so you can get the most out of it.
Before we tell you anything, let's just say there's an app for Android or iPhone, and a PDF printable map to arm you when you're out in the wild all weekend long. Now, without further ado, some tips according to personality and desired experience:
For the sweet tooth:
Heirloom Cafe will have a supply of their chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, Blue Bottle will have saffron snickernoodles, Bi-Rite Creamery will offer salted caramel ice cream, Neo Cocoa will bring a load of amazing dark chocolate truffle brownie, and the Creme Brulee Cart will wield it's "Yes, Please!" Nutella- and balsamic strawberry-infused creme brulee. We're sure we missed a good one. Sorry, this is not going to be easy.
For the soup nazi:
At the night market, head straight to Soup Junkie's stall, where owner Hung Lam will be serving his crowd favorite crab and tomato bun rieu. On Saturday, Hapa Ramen and Turtle Tower will be there to take care of you, along with Local: Mission Eatery, offering a chilled summer corn soup.
For the Indian food connoisseur:
At the Night Market, Preeti Mistry is in the house representing Juhu Beach Club with vada pav, a crispy fried mashed potato ball with heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions and ghost pepper hot sauce served on a Starter Bakery bun. What could go wrong? The following day, Curry Up Now's chicken tikka masala burrito owns your taste buds. Oh wait, you need to save room for Kasa Indian Eatery's curry chicken wings or a kathi roll, too.
For the bragging rights:
Go to the Don Bugito stall for a moth larvae taco and toffee mealworm ice cream, so you can tell your friends you ate this. Then go back again because you actually thought they both tasted awesome.
For those who want to travel to flavor country:
Azalina's traditional Malaysian laksa topped with fried veal brain is going to stop crowds on Friday night. If you're just in it for Saturday, she'll have a peanut tofu taco and her now famous Penang chicken chilaquiles in tow, topped with coconut jam, raspberry sauce and a delightful array of other palate exploders. Nombe's takoyaki will probably also shut you up for a while, if you're into fried octopus balls slatered in spicy mayo.
For the burger aficionado:
Two words: 4505 meats. Meat guru Ryan Farr puts the perfect ratio of ground beef to brioche bun with pickles, cheddar cheese, a crisp layer of iceberg and juicy tomato. One bite proves this guy knows what he's doing. Queue: eyes rolling back into your head.
For the Mexican/Latin American food lover:
El Huarache Loco can do no wrong as far as we're concerned, and they're breaking out the big guns for the Night Market: birria, a spicy Mexican goat stew. EHL will also serve a huarache nopal on Saturday. Remember La Cocina started with your region of choice, so there are way too many great options to handle, including Chaac Mol's gorditas de barbacoa, El Buen Comer's tostadas, and Alicia's Tamales Los Mayos.
For the food snob:
At the Night Market, Jardiniere will be serving a Wagyu beef slider with French fries and pickles from Jarred SF. During the day, you can head to see what a few restaurants are serving: Tacolicious for grilled squid Veracruz, or Zare at Fly Trap for a Persian lamb wrap served with fresh herbs and cucumber, wrapped in warm lavash.
For the cocktail geek:
Rye on the Road will be curating the cocktails for the Friday Night Market and Saturday's festivities. The barmen will be shaking a spicy Paloma (tequila, grapefruit), a classic Flor De Cana rum daquiri, and a Wild Turkey mint julep. Also: the gelatin shots from Sweets Collection will be back in the rotation.
For the beer lover:
Amstel Light and Amstel Wheat will be offered all day Saturday, but The Night Market is your time to shine. Not only will there be food from some high profile people that won't be at Saturday's gorge-fest, but there will be many craft beers to try. Whole Foods Market's Steep Brew will have a stall, along with Magnolia Brewery, Pacific Brewing, 21st Amendment, Lagunitas, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Anchor, Speakeasy Brewing Co., Almanac Beer Co., and Finnriver.
Have a favorite bite from last year's San Francisco Street Food Festival? Share it in the comments section below.