Eat the Street: The buzz

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We’re expecting an enormous crowd to show for tomorrow’s Eat the Street Kaka’ako, maybe up to 3,000 people if the weather holds up.

That’s an incredible projection for a relatively new, grassroots event. But there’s something about bringing locally owned food trucks and street food vendors together in a giant parking lot in the middle of town that’s lit up this city.

For the first Eat the Street on Kapiolani Boulevard, the Twitter buzz was strong, and more than 1,200 people came. This time — with 26 food vendors and more spacious digs in a four-acre, Kamehameha Schools-owned parking lot — the buzz for Eat the Street is extending well beyond the socially networked set. We’re thinking hundreds of new folks will join the Twitterati and foodies who braved 90-minute lines at January’s event.

Friends of mine, who aren’t on Twitter and aren’t among the typical crowd you see at big events, are coming. And longtime food truck owners, who also don’t Twitter and weren’t part of the last Eat the Street, say they signed up for Friday’s rally at the urging of their customers. There’s talk on Twitter of trying for a Super Swarm Badge on Foursquare, requiring 250 people to check in. And there’s the Eat the Street blog I posted on Monday — basically just a straightforward event listing — which now has about 400 Facebook “likes,” a record for any Nonstop Honolulu content.

What is it about this food truck rally, the brainchild of Streetgrindz.com’s Poni Askew, that’s stirring so much excitement?

First, the event evolves around food, and that alone will inspire crowds. But it’s also a new type of eating event, with food trucks of all genres lining a big parking lot to serve everything from lobster bisque to gourmet cupcakes to Asian-style tacos to Southern fried chicken. Even with such gourmet offerings, just about everything is under $10, which essentially means it’s a free cheap eats festival that appeals to all palates. In this economy, that’s a huge draw.

It’s also fun and trendy. Food truck rallies are huge on the Mainland, so now Hawaii can get in on the action too.

People in Honolulu also love streetfests and outdoor events. With weather like we have, there’s no need to explain why.

And aside from the prospect of a huge turnout, this is a non-intimidating event. The whole family can come. It’s taking place at a reasonable hour (5-9 p.m.). You won’t feel out of place if you’re not a twentysomething or thirtysomething go-out person. And you don’t have to dress up to be seen. (We’ll all have taco sauce and cupcake crumbs spilled on our shirts by the end of the night.)

Finally, the media push has been big. KITV agreed to be the TV news partner for the event and has been running daily segments on its morning show with truck owners showing off their eats. And here on Nonstop Honolulu, as the promotional partner for this event, we’ve been running lots of preview content in our special Eat the Street section.

So anyway, we’re hoping for a warm, clear evening on Friday. And if so, hopefully you’ll join us and the hundreds of other eating enthusiasts out there for what could be a really memorable night.

Eat the Street Kaka’ako
5-9 p.m.
555 South St. (at Halekauwila St.)
Free admission

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KITV is providing exclusive coverage of some of the food trucks participating in Friday’s Eat the Street Kaka’ako. Monday morning’s segment featured Pei Chen and Eliza Hall of Fairy Cakes Hawaii talking about their homemade cupcakes, brownies and Whoopee pies, a dessert that they say is so good, it makes people scream, “Whoopee!” KITV anchor Mahealani Richardson and reporter Yasmin Dar tasted the treats, along with Nonstop Honolulu’s own John Garcia.

Check out the segment, and be sure to catch KITV’s ongoing coverage of Eat the Street this week on KITV This Morning.

15 comments
hawaii
hawaii

Very excited for Nonstop Honolulu after missing the first event. The word is definitely out there as I hear about this Food Truck Rally from people I know that aren't even on social media. "The buzz" is so strong, there's a common undercurrent of, "It's going to be crazy. The lines are going to be insane." I guess it's a good thing that people are already worried that it'll be too successful!

I do hope there were lessons learned from the first event -- I'd rather trucks offer a single, swiftly made, sample-sized portion of their signature dish rather than trying to serve their full menu or even have to manage different orders. I want to try a little of everything, and the best of each truck. Some of the dishes I saw in the gallery from last year were gorgeous, but so big, I know I'd basically only be able to eat one thing. What's the fun in that?

Here we go!

hawaii
hawaii

@Camillesonwheel Great to hear thoughts from the perspective of one of the food truck operators! I hadn't connected a 'sampler' dish with 'profit margin' sizes. Finding the right balance is tricky, to get more revenue out of 1,000 small fast-moving dishes than 500 full plates.

And yeah, production time was a challenge for a lot of trucks. My wife got into what looked like a shorter line for one truck, and it still took maybe 30 minutes to get her food -- during which time my kids and I got food from two other trucks and got back to her before she reached the front.

Definitely another big strategy to advocate is, "strategize with friends"! Go to "Eat the Street" in a group, and people can hit several lines for several orders then come back together to share everything.

Camillesonwheel
Camillesonwheel

@hawaii As a truck vendor I concur about the portions. I helped coordinate the first "Taste of Honolulu" almost 20 years ago and we emphasized then, that to allow for more tasting opportunities, the portions should be small. The problem is that it decreases the revenue for the truck that evening! (smaller portions=smaller checks) However, If it were seen as more of a tasting/marketing event then perhaps people could try more trucks.

Another thing I saw was slow production time for some trucks-the time from placing the order to receiving food. The limited space in trucks just doesn't allow for serving full meals in a "timely" manner. Tables in the front or back for assemly could help expedite food, but the quaint, romance of ordering at the truck's window gets lost. (I set the cashier outside to create more working space in the truck.)

The shear volume of people this wonderful event has attracted is nothing short of phenomenal! I, for one, appreciated every attendee!!

svache
svache

@hikino @hawaii @nonstopmari Well, next time I wont be taking the long lines either, that much is sure haha, then again, we never expected it to take so long to be able to get our order out. Max we thought it would be was an hour, and after that hour we didn't feel much for giving up our spot in the line lol.

It was ok though, when we started standing in that line we had some yummy crepe to help us through the wait, and we were able to get some more things from some other trucks just after that, like some ice cream from onops.

Biggest reason for us to try that line after all was because we were looking forward to visit them for a couple of weeks now, but everytime something else came up that prevented us from checking them out. So in a way we just had to check them out, and we're glad we did it but I don't think we would do it another time with such a huge line haha.

hikino
hikino

@hawaii @svache @nonstopmari That was how I attacked Eat the Street. I skipped over trucks that I've gone to before or know will be in a better position to serve you later (such as @xtremetaco colocating with @korean taco truck next week) and gunned after things that would disappear quick (like cupcakes or @camille's on wheels pie) or trucks that normally don't come to town (like taco vincente).

hawaii
hawaii

@svache @nonstopmari Glad it was worth it! And I have to admit, I've yet to try them.

I was actually perplexed by people who stand in that line, when you could seek out either truck on any day and have no more than a dozen people in front of you. I bet you could get something from nearly every other truck in the time it took to get one item from Gogi (or Melt)!

Then again, surviving that line is probably a great badge of survival and endurance!

svache
svache

@nonstopmari @hawaii lol my comment now is so funny, seeing we went and stood in line at @eatgogi for over two hours haha.. oh well, it surely was worth it!

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@svache @hawaii i do hope u guys can come. my advice is to go early. last time lines got longer as dinner time approached. tonite's event starts at 5. hope to see u there!

svache
svache

@hawaii "It's going to be crazy. The lines are going to be insane."

While it is good, at the same time that might be working completely different as well.. thinking about what I heard so far about the 90 minute lines makes me a bit hesitant to go tonight since we (me and my wife @shelle808 ) will also have our young daughter with us, and I'm unsure how that will go for such a long time... still doubting if we should or shouldn't go..

johngarcia
johngarcia moderator

@hawaii Not sure — I don't see why not! Is the badge tied to the location or is it just a standalone item?

hawaii
hawaii

@johngarcia A Foursquare super swarm would rock. Can you have more than one? I nabbed one at Comic-Con last year!

DianeSeo
DianeSeo

@hawaii You make good points Ryan. Hopefully, truck owners will listen and follow this advice. So see you tomorrow.

johngarcia
johngarcia moderator

@hawaii Great comment, Ryan! Looking forward to hanging out tomorrow! I think the smaller space of the last event contributed to the congested and stuffy feeling. Lots more room to spread out at tomorrow's event and lots of the trucks are streamlining their items.

Let's spread the word for a Foursquare Super Swarm!