Atlanta Street Food Festival does not beat the heat

Photo by Monica Jamison

On Saturday, July 11, Piedmont Park was crammed with over 50 food trucks and thousands of people waiting in line to try the mobile restaurants’ fare. The crowds gathered for the Atlanta Street Food Festival, an annual event with food vendors specializing in everything from pie to Southern-Latin American fusion.

The overcrowded event had long lines both to enter the festival and to buy food at each truck. At peak hours, the line to receive a wristband for those who had pre-purchased took two hours, and eventually the organizers stopped issuing wristbands at all. The wristbands were required to buy food at a truck, though they were not required for entry to the Park. Part of the wristband price was donated to The Giving Kitchen, a charity that financially assists members of Atlanta’s restaurant community who are experiencing hardship.

Despite the inconveniences, this festival is about the food, and the attendees’ taste buds were not disappointed. One particularly delightful food option was found at tried-and-true, Viet Nomie’s. Their tofu bánh mì has a delectable balance of flavors and textures: spicy jalapeños and subtle cilantro, chewy tofu and soft bread. A refreshing change from milk tea, Viet Nomie’s pomegranate lemonade with boba paired well with the sandwich and the high temperatures. While Viet Nomie’s has always been an Atlanta favorite, the crowds voted Cousins Maine Lobster the best truck.

For a sweet fix, many festival goers deserted the crowds around the dessert trucks and the King of Pops stand for Pop Stars, a lesser known local popsicle purveyor that sets up shop in the Mayors Grove playground. Its unique dairy-free Chocolate Salted Coconut Popsicle is reminiscent of two different childhood favorites combined: Fudgsicles and Mound bars.

Welcome respites to the long lines came in the form of the musical guests performing throughout the 10 hour-long festival. Visitors pulled out the blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy a full line-up of Atlanta based bands. Among the acts present were the New Orleans-style, jazz and blues original music of Wasted Potential Brass Band, and the vintage soul sound of Second Hand Swagger.

For those that were unable to attend the festival, multiple food trucks that were present at the festival, including Viet Nomie’s, regularly visit Tech’s campus on weekdays.

For an even greater degree of variety, one can head to the Atlanta Food Truck Park, which is located on Howell Mill Road. Another option involves attending a “Street Food Thursday,” which takes place at the corner of 12th and Peachtree Streets.

The festival rates a D for its subpar planning and execution. Many guests who wanted to attend the festival were denied access after 6:00 p.m. after the Fire Marshall arrived. Refunds were offered to those  individuals who had had the foresight to have pre-purchased wristbands.

Since over 60,000 people planned to attend, according to the event’s Facebook page, the organizers should have managed the festival better in order to minimize the discomfort of the many attendees.

To combat the overcrowding, the trucks might benefit from having increased space between them. This measre would remove some of the claustrophia that plagued the festival this year.

Piedmont Park is vast, yet the trucks were parked almost back to back along short strips of road. Additionally, the organizers should consider hosting the Atlanta Street Food Festival during a cooler time of year for future iterations of the event.

Even though the festival team has their work cut out for them with planning process of next year’s festival, being overly popular is indeed a good problem to have.

Another Atlanta Street Food Festival has come and gone, allowing many to experience a day packed with great food, music and fun. Despite some flaws in this year’s event, it was well worth battling the sometimes long lines and sweltering Atlanta heat for an opportunity to taste food from a variety of quality food trucks.