It’s been a little while since I’ve made a post that’s primarily an excuse to show you photos. But this past Saturday was the Manayunk StrEAT Food Festival. And excavating my camera and a couple of rolls of last year’s unexposed film from a growing layer of domestic sediment (and in the process, hopelessly disturbing the nascent fossil record that is my house) I decided to head down there to see what’s what.
Here’s what you need to know: Manayunk — that oddly named, sometimes fashionable, mostly obscure neighborhood in Philadelphia — is just about my home turf. I live a short couple of blocks up the hill from its cluster of bars and shops, its packs of brightly-dressed bicyclists, and its copses of abandoned textile mills. Every year, Manayunk holds several street fairs in which they close down their main drag, bring in vendors with tents, queue the live music, and do their best to induce folks from elsewhere in Philly to come by for a stroll and a shop.
The StrEAT Food Festival — saddled with a moniker almost as odd as Manayunk itself — is one such event.
This time around, the Manayunk powers that be seem to have gotten up early in the morning, blocked off all the parking on Main Street, and then piped in a steady stream of gourmet food trucks from around the city. They shut down some of the side streets, too, to make room for (mostly non-food) booths. And they demarcated a couple of parking lots for folks with the will to sell street food, but not the four-wheeled means to make it happen.
All in all, it was pretty delicious. There were trucks selling crepes and burgers, cupcakes, ice cream, and kimchi. There was mighty good coffee, deep fried cheese curds, and a couple of graduates of a local university where I used to teach who had — if not the best food of all — at least the prettiest truck.
After a stroll around the grounds, I found myself in one of the closed-off parking lots, staring at a spitted pig, its skin crisping and cracking, rotating slowly over a low wood fire. And I thought to myself: This must be the place. This — this is lunch!
So I bought a Greek-style pita filled with tender, savory pulled pork. I picked at collards cooked with strawberries. And I wandered around and about, gawking at the guys tossing pizza dough in the open air, the folks selling shawarma and calling it tacos, the tiny booth hawking ears of corn on sticks, and the pushing, pulsing mass of people who were visibly enjoying the opportunity to stuff themselves silly, outdoors, on a sunny afternoon.
Slightly to my surprise, it was all well-organized and smoothly run. Except for one thing. I mentioned before that the Manayunk muckety-mucks are fond of closing down traffic on Main Street to make these festivals happen. But for reasons beyond my comprehension — perhaps (I imagine) in consultation with Manayunk’s own Clairvoyant Monica — they decided not to do that this time. And so as thousands of people jostled and bumped along the sidewalk, moving at a snail’s pace from one truck to the next, cars came trundling down the road, at a similarly slow speed, leaving the smell of exhaust and a sense of imminent danger in their wake.
I am pleased to announce that nobody — at least to my knowledge — got drunk and stumbled into traffic. But it seemed to me then that that was a distinct possibility. And it seems to me now that allowing cars and trucks to drive through a street fair, no matter the reason, is probably bad policy.
And yet things did indeed go swimmingly. The revellers were pleased. And though I don’t know, I dare say that the vendors had a pretty good day, too.
If you’re interested in more details about the StrEAT Food Festival, you could have a look at the Examiner.com article I wrote about it here (warning: lots of annoying ads). Or you can skip right to the vendors, and check out Primal Pit, Rival Brothers Coffee, Farm Truck Philly, Real Fruit Jewelry, and all the other cool Philly folks who set up shop there for the day.
(As with all my photo posts, the images in this one are best viewed large. Click on them and see!)