Street Eats Food Truck Festival Offers Tasty Food, Long Lines, and a Few Lessons for Next Time

Editor's Note, in the interest of full disclosure: While Chow Bella wasn't directly involved, Phoenix New Times was a sponsor of the Street Eats Food Truck festival. 

From $5 parking to $4 samples (what happened to the $2 vouchers we were promised?!) Saturday's Street Eats food truck festival at Salt River Fields wound up being pricier than advertised. And with an accident on the 101 and oversold tickets, more time-consuming, too. 

But also tasty, for those who persevered. 

Like last fall's street truck festival on Roosevelt Row, this inaugural event featured super-long lines to get to small portions of really good food (unless you wanted to shell out $8 for a full serving) -- a lesson again in the overwhelming popularity of food trucks. Particularly when you bring in the big guns, namely Tyler Florence of the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race, and some of the trucks featured on the show. (We'll have a post up later this week with our chat with Florence.)

As for the two Chow Bella contributors who stood in line all day for a few morsels? We're both of the mind that it might be best to simply seek out our favorite trucks around town on a meal-by-meal basis. That said, it sounds to us like the Valley definitely wants more food truck festivals. No doubt Saturday can be instructive for the future.

Perhaps the biggest lesson of the day: If you are going to require cash payments, be sure to a. warn folks ahead of time and b. keep those ATMs stocked. 

Find out what was worth those long lines after the jump.

​Many were disappointed that not all the trucks offered samples and that some of those that did offered abysmally small samples. Notable examples include Luncha Libre's $4 half al pastor quesadilla. And Epic Hot Dog's $4 half hot dog with fries. Granted, the al pastor was very tasty but $4 tasty? All of the trucks we saw offered full meals at their regular rates, typically $8 and up.

Our biggest question: Why would you wait hours to eat a full size meal from a local food truck? Why not simply catch up with them at their regular haunts? You would think that the point of a large festival like this is give people the opportunity to sample a wide array of trucks in a reasonable amount of time. Judging from the grumbling we heard in line it was clear that many attendees were upset that their plans for a food truck smorgasbord were dashed. 

It wasn't all bad, not by a longshot. The venue was large and well-advertised. There was music and beer. For many of the people we interviewed, this was their first experience with the food truck phenomenon. People like Melissa Newberg of Cave Creek, whose only previous experience was watching The Great Food Truck Race. Or people like Debbie Ontiveras who made the trek from Peoria to Salt River Fields. Ontiveras had Pizza People for lunch Friday and found the experience so enamoring that she packed her family up the very next morning to get to the festival. 

Both knew that the event was going to be huge and were mentally prepared to stand in long lines for food. It was also a big ego-boost for the trucks that were there. Old World Brewery's debut effort, Lobster on a Roll, sold out completely by 1:30. Owner Geoff Lowell said that he was prepared to serve thousands of sandwiches and completely bought out his seafood supplier's inventory in preparation for this event. He still didn't have enough food.

The experience was clearly better for the early birds. Ontiveras said she left her home at 10:30 but struggled with traffic and parking so she didn't actually get into the
venue until 12:30. An hour and a half later she was about halfway to her second food truck, T-Licious Tacos. 

Newberg and her friends arrived promptly at 10 and knocked out five or six trucks in the 
first hour. But each time they got in line the wait was longer. We caught up with her just after she received a cheese-steak from Food Truck Race favorite, Devilicious. Her wait time? One hour, forty minutes.

My colleague Lauren Saria arrived around noon, waited half an hour to park, and reports her experience here: 

Our strategy was to hit up the out-of-state food trucks first so we got in line at Montana Bar-BQ...and that's about where the story ends. I waited in line for two hours at that truck. An hour or so in we decided to divide and conquer so I had my companions bring me back food from Street Kitchen (a crispy chicken that was good but for $4, probably not worth it) and Duck Duck Pig. Both of those lines were moving at a more reasonable pace but still about a half hour each.

The food at Montana Bar-BQ was certainly good, but after eating at Texas BBQ House in South Phoenix earlier this week I can say confidently that it was NOT worth the wait. 

The people next to us in line young club kids who were clearly there to seen-and-be-seen (and pound about five beers each) than anything else. For them, it was a better bet -- as a social event, this festival gave you plenty of time to people watch and chat with friends. 

Want to see more deliciousness and action from Saturday's festival? Check out our slideshow.

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