About the festival
Aaaaaand we’re back! On Saturday, August 16th, La Cocina will be hosting the 6th Annual Street Food Festival in San Francisco’s Mission District with over 80 local vendors to celebrate food entrepreneurs in the Bay. We’re still working on all the details for this year’s epic festival, but read more below on last year’s event and what makes this day so special.
In 2013, guests left no block untouched, no menu item undigested, and no elastic pants unstretched. We saw evil genius in the form of deep fried mac ’n’ cheese from 4505 Meats, adorable umbrella-adorned Doughnut Burger Supremes from Hella Vegan Eats, to downright heavenly homemade marshmallows and TCHO chocolate s’mores from Kika’s Treats.
More importantly, we saw renowned Bay Area chefs cooking next to La Cocina entrepreneurs—the women who drive and inspire the festival every year and serve food any street, neighborhood, and the whole Bay Area should be proud of. By serving food, they serve the community, and continue to make the Bay Area's foodscape one of the most vibrant and diverse communities out there.
Where is the Festival, you ask?
The Festival will take place in the Mission District from 11 a.m until 7p.m on Folsom St. from 20th to 26th, 21st and 25th from Treat St. to Shotwell St., as well as the Cesar Chavez Elementary School parking lot, Parque de los Ninos Unidos and Jose Coronada Playground.
And how do I get there?
Skydiving, paddleboat, lawnchair with a million balloons…but these methods are probably safer:
BART: 24th St Bart Station
MUNI: 12, 14, 14L, 27, 48, 67
BIKE: thank you SF Bike Coalition for providing monitored bike parking located on 22nd St. between Folsom St. and Treat St.
From the BAY BRIDGE: Take I-80W toward San Francisco ($4 toll bridge) and merge onto US-101S. Take the Cesar Chavez St exit. Keep right at the fork and follow the signs for Cesar Chavez St W/Potrero Ave. Keep left at the fork and follow the signs for Cesar Chavez St W and merge onto Cesar Chavez St. Turn right at Folsom St.
From the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: Head south on US-101S toward San Francisco ($6 toll bridge) and turn right at Van Ness Ave. Turn left at 24th St and take the 2nd right onto Folsom St.
From I-280: Take I-280N toward Civic Center/Bay Bridge and take the exit toward Cesar Chavez St/Potrero Ave. Merge onto Bayshore Blvd and a slight left onto the Cesar Chavez St ramp. Continue straight and onto onto Cesar Chavez St. Turn right at Folsom St.
From US-101: Take US-101N and take the exit toward Cesar Chavez St/Potrero Ave. Take a slight left at Jerrold Ave and a slight left onto the Cesar Chavez St ramp. Continue straight and onto onto Cesar Chavez St. Turn right at Folsom St.
Interested in learning more about La Cocina? Take a peek at the best 6-minute piece of cinema you’ll ever see about food entrepreneurs, a little video about two big La Cocina personalities called “Tamales & Piroshkis: A Journey Stuffed with Love”.
- What is La Cocina?
- Why do we host this festival?
- Why is your festival in the Mission?
- Why is this the last year?
- What do you do with all that $$$?
- Why are there so many restaurants? And why are they from outside the neighborhood?
- What about parking?
- How much is it to get in the festival?
- I’m a food vendor and interested in participating in the festival whom do I get in touch with?
What is La Cocina?
La Cocina is a non-profit incubator kitchen that provides affordable commercial kitchen space and industry-specific technical assistance to low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing food businesses.
Why do we host this festival?
La Cocina was born out of the entrepreneurial spirit of women vendors in San Francisco’s Mission District who launched businesses out of their homes, on the streets and wherever they could find the spaces to do it. Beginning in 2005, La Cocina advocated for progressive city policies that would allow these incredibly talented chefs to formally bring their products to the marketplace. This festival is a celebration of the taste, the heart and the commitment of our vendors, the small business owners in San Francisco who have supported a community of eaters that believe in this kind of food and the food trucks, carts, trailers and informal entrepreneurs that continue to make this city the best food city in the world.
Why is your festival in the Mission?
The Mission is our home. Our entrepreneurs come from here, our hearts beat for here and we really and truly believe that street food should be eaten on the street. If we could, we’d get rid of all the white tents, and just do it block party style, but that’s not so cool with the health department, so you will have to imagine it with us.
Also, and worth noting, is that we believe that this is the best neighborhood in the world. The merchants, the neighbors and the community as a whole are part and parcel of who we are. And we wouldn’t be here without them. At its soul, this festival is not only a celebration of food and entrepreneurship, but also of this neighborhood. Support our neighborhood businesses!
Why is this the last year?
We began this festival with a dream to prove, to anyone who would listen, that San Francisco was the best food city in the country and that the heart of that food economy beat from the homes and streets of micro-communities like those represented by the entrepreneurs at La Cocina.
In 2009, we closed the street that our organization, La Cocina, has been on since 2005, where we have been involved since 1999, with the idea of a small block party, 5,000 guests, some drinks, some music, some dreams. At a certain point (let’s say 1PM that day), we realize that the demand for homemade food, sincere stories and folks making a living doing what they love to do in San Francisco was far greater than we could have imagined. You waited in lines, you left 1-star Yelp reviews, we sat, thrilled and heartbroken at the same time, on sidewalks trying to figure out how to make this event even better the following years.
Over the next five years, we grew the event to an annual celebration of owner-operated food businesses in the Bay Area, with over a mile of incredible, hand-made food and drink to order, all priced under $10, free to enter, and, we hope, the best food event that you’ve ever been to. The Yelp reviews improved (marginally, but Yelpers Yelp), the lines shortened and we began to think of ourselves as an institution.
But La Cocina was born out of a community and into a neighborhood, and it is our obligation to listen to the voices of that community and of our neighbors, and the festival has grown beyond the bounds of size and intent that are reasonable for a small space to accommodate. In a Mission that is changing, a food economy that is in constant flux and a festival that still bursts to the seem, we’ve made the very difficult decision to move the festival from the beautiful streets, canopied trees and Victorians that inform the event with sense of space, and look for grander, and equally urban, settings to feed you faster, better and with ever increasing attention to detail.
The honest truth is that we don’t know where that’s going to be, or, really, how we are going to do that (we’re taking ideas! got one? Email Caleb!), but we know we’re going to try as hard as we can. The reality is that hosting an event that is good to vendors, great to customers and makes sense for an 8-person staff at a non-profit that has other outcomes to worry about, proves to be more difficult than just throwing a block party. And so we go out this year with a celebration. With a thank you to every neighbor who has had to deal with the inconvenience of a lost parking spot, to every merchant on 24th Street who has either been too busy or too slow for a day because of the event, to every customer that has waited in line, or enjoyed every item at the event, and to every vendor who has spent days, if not weeks, prepping to feed folks only to sell out to soon, never sell enough or, in those rare circumstances, sell juuuuust right. The point is, we love this damn festival, and would give the world to keep growing it with you, and we hope you will join us this year, just in case we don’t figure that out.
What do you do with all that $$$?
We began this festival as a celebration of vendors and entrepreneurship, and that has always been our focus. As a result, this event, while something of a fundraiser for La Cocina, generates far more revenue for the vendors than it ever will for us as an organization. We keep the entry costs at break-even and work to provide as much support to vendors to ensure the opportunity for them to create the capital they need to grow. In the meantime, your donations, support and passport purchases all benefit La Cocina to some extent.
Why are there so many restaurants? And why are they from outside the neighborhood?
Firstly, well, 80,000 people is a lot of people to feed! But, more importantly, because street food is a global phenomenon that produces some of the most amazing food you can put your mouth to. In order to speak to the quality and diversity of global street food, we hand-select some of the best and the brightest vendors in the city of San Francisco, all from owner-operated establishments, to come to the streets for one day and play by our rules. No fancy restaurant kitchens, no high price tags…not even any electricity.
We are going to have 80+ vendors, half of whom are part of La Cocina’s incubator program. La Cocina works with low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs and is committed to creating this festival as an opportunity to show all of the city exactly how talented these entrepreneurs are and how delicious their food is. We fully believe that the tacos from Chaac Mool, Azalina’s curry or down-home Mexican food from El Buen Comer are as good (and often better) than the foods made by this food-obsessed town’s top chefs.
What about parking?
Due to the festival and the street closures, there will be no street parking available. Please keep in mind that any driveways on the affected streets will also not be accessible. We encourage you to take public transportation or ride your bike in order to avoid any unnecessary headaches.
Are you a Mission neighbor? Check out our neighbor page for details on the big day.
How much is it to get in the festival?
The event is free, but is a fundraiser for La Cocina, so donations are encouraged at the door for those that are able to give.
All festival proceeds benefit La Cocina’s business incubator program. Food vendors will only be accepting cash or pre-purchased passport tickets.
I’m a food vendor and interested in participating in the festival: whom do I get in touch with?
We love new vendors! We’re already in the process of reviewing vendor applications for this year, but to be considered or take part in a future contest to enter, please sign up here!
When we began this festival in 2009, Street Food in San Francisco meant late night bacon wrapped hot dogs, pretzels at Golden Gate Park and possibly running into the Creme Brulee Guy’s homemade cart on a walk through the Mission. In the four years that have followed, there has been a veritable Street Food boon in this city. Curtis now sells his creme brulee from a state of the art trailer, you can legally buy Yucatecan nachos from the Chaac Mool trailer in Dolores Park and Off the Grid Markets have set up shop at seemingly every park and plaza around.
Within the last two years, the City of San Francisco, in an effort to acknowledge the rapidly evolving street food industry, has taken steps to facilitate the permitting process for MFFs (“mobile food facilities” like food trucks and trailers) by making the regulations more accessible and financially feasible. In March 2011, new legislation came into effect that transferred the authority to permit to the Department of Public Works and opened up a significant amount of public street space to use by street food businesses. While this legislation is progressive, and a testament to the passionate street food advocacy of constituents through the city, there continue to exist inherent obstacles within the permitting process. Entrepreneurs and organizations throughout San Francisco continue to work alongside the City to advocate for improved regulations. Currently, stakeholders are collaborating with Supervisor Scott Wiener to oppose statewide legislation that will increase the buffer around schools, eliminating a large portion of areas available for street food permitting.
These complicated regulations make it particularly difficult for entrepreneurs who lack access to resources, or for whom English is a second language, to take advantage of the opportunities for formalization that are increasingly available. The result is that while street food has experienced a huge rise in popularity, there still exists an informal economy that is struggling to maintain its vibrancy and diversity while coping with city laws and ordinances that have (often) been established to favor the existing tax base of brick and mortar businesses.
The simple fact is that while many people start mobile food carts because it is an inexpensive option for culinary entrepreneurs, the goal of transitioning to fully legal members of the San Francisco business community is full of burdensome financial costs and confusing regulations. For this reason we need to continue to take steps to ensure that regulations around and opportunities within mobile food are made equally accessible to and viable to entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and means.
Revised regulations and policies that allow street food vendors greater flexibility in how, where, and when they can sell their goods to reach a broader consumer base can help to activate underutilized space, provide job opportunities to entrepreneurs at all levels of the economic spectrum and have the ability to provide the city with increased tax revenue and jobs at a time when it would be very valued. This will require an on-going collaboration between government, non-profit and community stakeholders, as well as a continued passion from you, the consumer to give talented entrepreneurs the opportunities to make a living doing what it is they love to do.
Please note that this is a smoke-free event.
Do you have questions about the San Francisco Street Food Festival or La Cocina? Please email Michelle for more details.