Outside Lands Eats 2011

Bay Area food trucks and mobile vendors fuel a feeding frenzy for more than 130,000

“I’m fueled by Crack!” Brass Knuckle’s Crack Bar from 2011

"I'm fueled by Crack!" Brass Knuckle's Crack Bar from 2011
"I'm fueled by Crack!" Brass Knuckle's Crack Bar

I left my heart at Outside Lands. And most of my cash, a pair of sunglasses, approximately 18 beer cups, and whatever shred of caloric discipline I may have once possessed. Three days afterwards, I’m only barely entering back into reality (so cold! so harsh!) and I won’t lie to you — the wheels fell off my cart more than once, so bear with me while I recount the tale.

One of the largest music festivals in the Bay Area, the three day event packs and estimated 130,000 fans into Golden Gate Park August 13-15, 2011. But along with the music, food is becoming an increasing part of the draw. So why do you care? The food-ing of major events from the upscaling of Infineon to the upcoming Handcar Regatta (which I will host an entire homestead area and a number of local trucks/mobile vendors will be featured), Maker Faire (which included a number of SoCo trucks and vendors) is a hot trend in the culinary world, and we’re the better fed for it.

At the heart of it are mobile-friendly vendors which include food trucks, restaurant spin-offs and up-and-coming food purveyors provide local flavor instead of the bland, institutional eats we’re usually subjected to.

Snoop Dog at Brass Knuckle
Snoop Dog at Brass Knuckle

At this year’s Outside Lands than 50 Bay Area eateries fed the hungry masses with everything from buttermilk fried chicken to bacon-topped funnel cakes. Farms were represented, hawking seeds, fresh melon and fruit. Spread out into distinct areas — Chocolands for sweets, The Food Truck Forest and WineLands — the hunt for killer comestibles was nearly as fun as running the length of the park listening to favorite bands. 

For certain, it wasn’t a dieter’s dream, but BiteClub put in some serious time at pigging out, sating the munchies and generally stuffing my face (trust me, there was plenty of exercise walking from one end of the festival to the other) over two days.

Check out some of the faves. You might recognize some. Others are worth a trip to Off the Grid, a collection of some of the Bay Area’s best mobile vendors.

Food Cost: Around $120 for food. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. I kind of lost track.
Beers Consumed: 14
Eateries Visited: 22 of 52
Crack Bars Consumed: 4
Funnel Cakes Consumed: 2
Wine Consumed: 2 glasses (Claypool Cellars’ Pinot Noir & Medlock Ames’ Sauvignon blanc)

Favorite Food Truck: Brass Knuckle (SF)
If return visits are any gauge, this San Francisco based truck has mobile eats down cold. McNibs and I were regulars at this Food Truck Forest staple. Owner Shellie Kitchen ups the ante on everything, adding sriracha ketchup, a dose of cilantro cream or jalapeno apple slaw to her already ridiculously sandwiches. With names like the Snoop Dog (a bacon wrapped 4505 dog with spicy teriyaki mao, furikake, slaw, radish sprouts and bonito flakes) or the Fryin’ Maiden (a spicy fried chicken sandwich with the aforementioned slaw and cilantro cream), they’re both naughty and nice. What had me coming back over and over was the Crack Bar, a ridiculously addictive confection of shortbread, peanut butter cream, salted carmel and a dusting of cocoa powder. “I’m fueled by Crack!” was my Outside Lands mantra. (Watch for them at Off the Grid)

Best Munchie Buster: Regardless of what gets your tummy a rumbling, gourmet funnel cakes from Endless Summer Sweets were our go-to in moments of desperate food weakness. The key, real whipped cream slathered atop a crunchy fried funnel cake. In between the two, bacon, organic agave syrup, strawberries and/or syrup. Funnel cake vendors take note…it’s time to step it up. Coming in a distant second was Straw’s “Flying Saucer”, peanut butter mousse with a chocolate fudge crust, candied bacon and caramel.

Longest Continual Line: Those Fabulous Frickle Brothers were mobbed from opening to well past sundown for their fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. So worth it. Soooo worth it.

Biggest Trend: Korean tacos seem to be losing ground to the barbecue zeitgeist. Every other vendor had pulled pork, ribs, or beef smoking on the ‘cue. Our favorite was  Carolina Pulled Pork Sammie from Southern Sandwich Co. We didn’t dare brave the line at Memphis Minnie’s, though we’re assured it was amazing.

Best Vegan Gluten Free Food I Really Loved: Azalina’s Penang Braised Tofu Buns

Most Disappointing: I wanted to love Straw, I really did. The carnival-themed restaurant had several stands hawking sweet potato tots with blackberry sauce and delish desserts. Now, I’m not going to cast aspersions to pointedly (it was a massive festival, and feeding hundreds of thousands isn’t easy) but I’m sorry to say I recognized those tots. Now I’m not saying they were from Sysco, but I will say they bear a strong resemblance to the ones from Sysco.  Which is fine, but not necessarily inspiring.

Most Sorry I Missed: Loving Cup’s Rice Pudding, Memphis Minnie’s and The American Grilled Cheese.

Other favorites…
Andalu: Crispy mac and Cheese
Asqew Grill: Cilantro lime chicken skewers
Farmer Brown’s Little Skillet: Fried Chicken, mac and cheese, slaw, bourbon pecan pie
Full of Life Flatbread: Mushroom, caramelized onion flatbread
Kara’s Cupcakes: Buttercream. ‘Nuff said.
Maverick: Pulled pork sandwich
Namu: Korean short rib taco on nor
Nombe: Fried rice balls
Pica Pica: Arepas
Sataysfied: Mi Tek Tek Fried Indonesian Noodles
Southern Sandwich Co: Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich
Three Twins: Organic Ice Cream
Frickle Brothers: Fried Green Tomatoes
4505 Meats: Chicharrones!

Curious what the bands ate? SF Eater did a great story on fave band eats.