A little bit of thinking ahead is useful to plan your experience at tomorrow's (Aug. 18) fourth annual San Francisco Street Food Festival, which takes place in the Mission District on Folsom Street from 20th to 26th Streets, 21st and 25th Streets from Treat to Shotwell Streets, and the Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos and Jose Coronada Playground. Our top tips should get you thinking about the best way to tackle a giant food party for 80,000.
1. Go early
The festivities run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., but the best pickins from the over 80 vendors are definitely going to be had right at the beginning. No matter how much extra space is added to this event every year, it still gets jam-packed with hungry people, and the inevitable long lines and walking rubberneckers follow. Why be the person who shows up late and leaves hungry after waiting hours for some French fries when you can be the person who arrives early and can try Georgian food, Ethiopian food -- basically anything you want right away?
2. Take public transportation
After 45 minutes of fruitless block circling in this event's inaugural year in 2009, you can trust us on this. The fest has only grown exponentially since then, as has the hassle in getting there by car. And if you leave it at home, you get to pick from a literally dizzying array of alcoholic options.
3. Scout out the rarities
There are more than 80 booths and roaming vendors to choose from, but it would be smart to start by targeting those not normally found selling food on the street, such as restaurants like State Bird Provisions, Boxing Room, Local Mission Eatery, Mozzeria, 15 Romolo, Hawker Fare, and Nojo. Likewise, there are vendors who are in town just for this occasion, such as LA's Global Soul and Austin's The Peached Tortilla, so those might be good to seek out early.
4. Fan out
If you're attending with friends, make a plan to split up and wait in different lines for food and drinks. While most vendors sell a choice of small bites and slightly more substantial fare, it really sucks to wait a long time for a thimble-full of food when it can be minimized or even avoided with some teamwork.
5. Bring your own doggie bag
A plastic or paper bag or even a Tupperware; there's no shame in bringing just a little bit of extra storage for later for those tempting items that might not be pre-packaged to go but would still make for heavenly leftovers later. We think you'll find that not only will people not judge you for doing it, they'll be a little bit envious.