Last weekend, Oakland held its third annual Eat Real festival on the waterfront at Jack London Square. It was quite the sight to behold: foodies and food trucks of all sorts gathered under the sun to queue up for small bites.
I visited on Friday, which was just a half-day affair. The full complement of food trucks wasn’t there, nor was the marketplace, but it was nevertheless a fun event, a classy carnival of sorts for die-hard foodies. (And I saw one local foodie complain about the lines. Um, clearly he’s unfamiliar with the Bay Area’s food truck scene—lines come with the turf. Visit any of the local food truck festivals, and you’d better be prepared to wait.)
I have to come clean and admit that I didn’t plan too well. I wound up gorging on brunch at Zazie in San Francisco that morning because I was famished after a long night in SF, so by the time I rolled up in Oakland, I didn’t have room to gobble up as much street food as I’d hoped. (Needless to say, it’s best to attend such festivals on an empty stomach, if possible.)
Check out the highlights below the fold . . .
The Grilled Cheez Guy
I will be the first admit that I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I guess I’m a kid that never grew up. I love the gooey cheese, the crispy bread, the nostalgia of it all. I’ll order grilled cheese sandwiches anytime day or night. (Seriously—I ate one at 2 AM the night before after a show at Popscene.) And I’m totally onboard with the gourmet grilled cheese trend.
So when I saw The Grilled Cheez Guy had a booth at Eat Real, I immediately hopped in line. They were offering a combo deal—a grilled cheese, a tomato soup shooter and the grilled peaches dessert for $10. With temperatures in the 80s, it broke my heart to pass up the soup—I opted for just the sandwich and the peaches.
The grilled cheese was made on Acme bread, which was toasted to perfection with a nice crispy outside. The cheese inside was a rich blend of cheddars and perfectly gooey. Mmmm. I probably should have ordered just a half sandwich, but I couldn’t say no to the full thing. It was delicious! I gobbled it up in a few bites.
After a bit of a wait, the grilled peach dessert was ready. These were pretty popular—and The Grilled Cheez Guy was having a hard time sending out desserts to meet demand. The half peach was grilled so it was nice and tender, with a dollop of goat cheese in the center. The sweet peach and savory cheese were a simple combination, but a tasty one.
The WOW Truck
You’ve already read my rave review of the silog sushi bites from the WOW Truck this week. That sushi bite, with rich and complex flavors, was the best thing of the whole festival I’d say.
But it wasn’t the only thing I tried from the WOW Truck. I mean, after standing in line for 15 minutes, I wasn’t about to order just one sushi bite! I also ordered a turon, basically a fried roll of banana. Mmmm. It was the perfect sweet bite to complement the sushi and all the savory foods I’d been nibbling on along the way.
It’s been 10 years since I’ve eaten red meat, but lately, I’ve been feeling the itch to bring red meat back into my diet. I guess the bone marrow at Restaurant 1833 was my gateway drug . . . three times. I took another plunge into bovine-infested waters at Belcampo Meat Company’s truck at Eat Real.
No, I didn’t go all the way with one of Belcampo’s much-hyped Koreatown Waygu hot dog. Instead, I eased my way in with beef tallow fries.
The fries were cooked in beef tallow, making them extra crispy and extra rich. There wasn’t an overwhelming beef flavor, just a crispier outside. Sure, frying them in tallow made them extra greasy and certainly not very heart-healthy, but they were mighty tasty.
And slowly my 10-year break from beef is breaking down . . .
Learn more about Belcampo’s locally sourced meats here.
I wandered over to Brass Knuckle just as my stomach was getting filled to capacity. My last bite of the festival was the fried chicken slider and “Crack” bar from Brass Knuckle’s truck.
The “Fryin’ Maiden” fried chicken slider included some fried chicken, topped with a jalapeño coleslaw. I was worried the coleslaw would turn the chicken soggy and mushy. Nope—the chicken stayed perfectly crispy. The chicken was nicely seasoned, but I think the real star was the garnishing jalapeño coleslaw. It was the right balance of sweet with a bold, spicy bite of jalapeño peppers.
The “Crack” was also quite tasty—and it’s easy to see how it got its name! It’s basically a bar of pure peanut butter, chocolate and caramel served over shortbread. Very decadent, that’s for sure. I wish I could have taken more time to savor this dessert, but under the 80+ degree sun, it was melting fast which meant I had to scarf it down faster.
LaLoo’s Ice Cream
When I turned my palate towards sweeter fare, I headed right to LaLoo’s to try their goatsmilk ice cream.
I got a cone of the “capraccino,” a coffee-infused ice cream with a clever goat-y pun. The coffee flavor was perfectly balanced, not overpowering. The ice cream itself was so rich and creamy, and very smooth. The goatsmilk made it feel rich, but not heavy.
Apparently LaLoo’s is available prepacked in pints at Whole Foods markets, and I spotted it at our local Whole Foods here in Monterey. Definitely something I’ll be picking up next time I’m wandering the aisles of Whole Foods.
Learn more about LaLoo’s ice cream here.
Ici Ice Cream
Berkeley’s Ici Ice Cream shop also had a booth at Eat Real, serving up scoops of ice cream, as well as ice cream sandwiches. It was the latter that really piqued my curiosity. Why? How about this: gingerbread cookies with Meyer lemon ice cream. Yes, please!
Sure, the portion was a little small for the price—and speaking of price, why $4.25? Why not just $4?—but it was so flavorful.
The spiciness of the ginger went perfectly with the sweet and tart lemon ice cream inside. These were the perfect little refreshing bites to snag to cleanse the palate.
Learn more about Ici Ice Cream here.
Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about all those great food trucks. The food truck trend has hit the Bay Area with a vengeance. It’s a shame the trend is catching on too much down here in our neck of the woods. But take a tip from me, foodies, and head up to Off The Grid, MVBL Feast and other Bay Area food truck festivals sometime. The drive and the wait are but small prices to pay for the payoff of a delicious melting pot of different cuisines. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.