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What Is Real Street Food Anyhow?

The Magic Curry Kart, the  Sexy Soup Lady, Bike Basket Pies, the creme brulee guy, the French taco truck. Boccalone's Salumi Cycle is delivering sandwiches. The economy seems to be turning San Francisco into one big Twitter-fueled, "nonrestaurant" bake sale (with elements of Burning Man thrown in)—all under the guise of street food, "authentic" or not.

Of course, when any trend reaches a frenzy (and I'd say we're at the frenzy stage), there will be dissenters. Today on Eater, Citysearch editor Patrick Heig rants:

"I'm not against street food, I'm just anti-novelty, anti-trend, and 100% pro delicious, cheap, convenient street food—real street food. The whole idea of people following a hobbyist with a cart to a secret alley where they wait an hour and half for a meal that requires a fork and a plate—which is what's happening—might be "fun," but so misses the point of what street food is supposed to be … let's just say it would make a great topic for Stuff White People Like to explore." I'm thinking that at some point in its evolution, the bacon-wrapped hot dog was a trendy novelty when someone (most likely non-white) came up with the idea—but that's just a guess.

I called Caleb Zigas, Director of Operations for La Cocina, organizer of La Cocina's San Francisco Street Food Festival in August and twitter'er of StreetFoodSF, to see what he thinks about all this. He's excited about all of the new "streetcomers" but he's also concerned: "I think the current trend is great. But my current fear is that it shifts the attention away from the people who have been using the street to sell food for years. It's a low-cost option, legal or illegal. [SF's street food scene] might lose a level of diversity."

Either that or we've got to get a twitter account open for every bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor. Twitter'ing equality for all.

But Twitter just might be the street food trend's ultimate demise. I asked Zigas about the legalities of all this street food. Isn't the Health Department going to get savvy to the Twitter map points soon? "Yeah," he agreed. "It's only so long before the health department gets fed up with lines around Dolores Park." According to an article in the Chronicle, a street vendor on public property can be fined $10,000 by the police department. That's a lot of creme brulées.