SJEats was supposed to be a meet up of food trucks from around the Bay Area. The idea was to head down to the event, split up to wait in a few different lines, try a few interesting dishes off of each (or most of) the trucks, have a good lunch talking with friends and then go about our day.
I will tell you this. The week before the event, I kept telling Mr. L that they better expect large crowds. Because anytime there is a food event down in this area, tons of people tend to show up.
They should have listened to me.
Way too many people for the event. Not enough space for the trucks plus people. No line or crowd control. No trash receptacles (the ones that were there were full in an hour). One bathroom (at SJMade...and I hear it stopped up). Trucks running out of food. To be honest, all problems of which I could have dealt with.
Waiting an hour in line just to get one item from a truck? That's what I had a problem with. It better be some damn fine food to make me wait an hour in line.
When we got there, it was just a sea of people. We had to ask around which line was which. Chef Barbie went to stand in the line for "Babaloo" as we all wanted to try their Cuban sandwiches. I went to stand in line for "Chairman Bao" since I don't think it's ever been down in this area and I'd heard great things about their food. The "Bao" truck was the main reason I went to the event.
After a few minutes of waiting in the "Bao" line I realized not only was the line not moving, but it didn't even look like the truck was open. A bunch of us started talking and exchanging information and we learned that the Chairman Bao truck had arrived late and were still setting up. They weren't even going to open to take orders for at least another half an hour. But I also heard that they line should go pretty fast once they did open so I stayed in line. As you could see by the photo above, there were lines going every which way, but there did seem to be some order and it didn't look like folks were cutting in line. I figured I'd stay in the "Bao" line and we'd at least get food from two trucks.
After about 45 minutes of waiting though, I noticed something interesting. A "second" line had all of a sudden appeared several lines over that seemed to be leading to the "Bao" truck. So several of us did a little reconisance and found that indeed, there was a second line that had formed off to the side leading to the truck and a third line had actually formed coming from the far side of the Bao truck. At that point the truck had opened for business and there were now three lines feeding into one order window. Yeah, I bailed and went to stand in line with Chef Barbie for the Babaloo truck.
After at least an hour wait Chef Barbie and I made it to the order window at Babaloo and ordered three "Ricky Ricardos" which was a classic Cuban sandwich made with slow-roasted pork and cheese. We then took the sandwiches to Mr. l (who had bailed early and was standing across the street where most people were using the curb to sit and eat). The sandwich was actually pretty good and I'd definitely order it again should I run across the Babaloo truck. But would I wait in line an hour? Absolutely not.
While eating our sandwich we looked at the lines for all the other trucks...which were at least a half hour or more. Not worth it. So, after an hour or so, we had our one sandwich and went about our way.
The San Jose Mercury News said "The majority of the people who crowded into the Fallon House parking lot appeared satisfied"...no Merc, the majority of the people who seemed satisfied must have just been ecstatic to actually get food after waiting in line for an hour. Most of the folks I talked to were really disappointed. There were quite a few people who didn't even bother to partake once they saw the crowds and left. The restaurants that were open around SJEats did a brisk business as those who were still hungry after only getting a few bites of food (or those that saw the lines and bailed) spread across downtown looking for food.
I heard that the evening part of SJEats went better with at least one truck staying way past the 9PM end time to accommodate customers. They also used tape on the ground to show where the lines for each truck were...smart move.
I realize that this is the "first" event, so I expected there to be some kinks here and there. I'm hoping that the organizers put this event on again because I really would like to have a place to try several different food trucks I might not get normal access to here in San Jose. As I mentioned above, there is a huge contingent of people in the San Jose area that are adventurous when it comes to food. Maybe a different venue so there is more room and the trucks aren't so close together. Some sort of line control. Access to bathrooms. Place for garbage (and how about a recycle bin for plastics and cans). I really think that this idea of getting the food trucks together on a regular basis will work, it just needs to be planned better.
But an hour to wait in line to get a sandwich from a food truck? Never again.
UPDATE: The organizers have posted an appology on their site here.