This weekend was the annual street food taste-a-balooza that had food lovers hitting the streets for some tasty  bites from food trucks and restaurants in San Francisco.

But while the marquee event was the San Francisco Street Food Festival in the Mission District on Saturday, this year there was the “preview”/fund-raiser the night before with a Night Market at the Alemany Farmers Market.

Put on by La Cocina, the Mission-based small business incubator that launched the street food festival, the Night Market was promoted to be a food market similar to the night market of Bangkok. I’ve never been to Thailand, but I’m pretty sure it’s not as freezing cold as it was on this summer San Francisco night on Friday.

Laksa from Azalina’s is a Malaysian noodle soup dish served with fried veal brain

Because it was a fund-raiser for La Cocina, there was a $25 admission fee (unlike the street festival, which has a free admission). But that didn’t stop people from signing up and crowding the Alemany market from the very start of the event.

The collection of food vendors reminded me of the early days of the street food festival, with a mix of food trucks and restaurants, with most of the food items (all priced under $10) reflecting a strong Mexican influence (not necessarily in flavor, but format, such as the many tacos for sale).

I went with a bunch of friends and we tried a variety of food, and my favorite was probably the lamb meatballs on a stick from The Whole Beast. The most unusual was no doubt the laksa from Azalina. This traditional Malaysian noodle dish was served with fried veal brain, which was surprisingly the highlight of the cup of noodles. (The crunchy texture made the brain like a light meatball, as long as you stopped thinking of the fact that you’re eating brain.)

Of course, you can’t avoid the long lines for the alcohol and it would have been nice to have a few more dessert options but the Night Market looked like another popular food event that will be making an appearance every year.

Definitely a Mexican flavor at the Night Market

Rabbit braised in orange and Mezcal from Don Bugito (in background is an Old Fashion from Rye)

El Sur food truck decked out in holiday lights added a festival flair

Definitely needed more heat lamps given the exposed location at Alemany

These guys came prepared

Mixing up Old Fashioned drinks at Rye stand

Man of the hour was Caleb Zigas, executive director of La Cocina

Everyone enjoying the food and discussing the good and the bad

Bacon maple kettle corn from Endless Summer Sweets

Serving up beer for the night

The food vendors took over market stands at the regular Alemany farmers market

The guys at the Whole Beast made a great kefta meatballs on a stick with yogurt dipping sauce

There were the good and the bad, but this sign pretty much summed up the food

Of course, I did end up going the next day to the actual Street Food Festival, which this year was bigger at 85 vendors but felt more comfortable because of the extra block of space. There were still long lines, especially for State Bird Provisions’ fried bread with burrata, but there was something for everyone. Check out my photos from the event in my Exhibits section.

3 Responses to Tasty Food Warms Up Street Food Night Market

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    Oooh, it looks mighty chilly out there. I would have immediately gone for the laksa, too. Warms the bones and the soul.

  2. Mai says:

    Brain is crunchy? Did they coat it with flour of some sort? I like brains soft and smooth, like pate hehe 😛

    • Ben Ben says:

      I don’t know if I’m giving justice to the texture of the veal brain. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t coated with flour, and the crunch was probably just the exterior. The inside was still somewhat soft, but not gooey. I know, appetizing, huh?