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Monday, August 29, 2011

Food Truck Social 2011

Posted By on 08.29.11 at 05:12 PM

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I met a friend Saturday afternoon at Ashland and Chicago for the Food Truck Social 2011, hosted by Time Out Chicago, the West Town Chamber of Commerce, and Empty Bottle Presents. We were mostly interested in seeing what Michael Carlson would be making, not realizing that he'd canceled after injuring his ankle (TOC did mention it in a blog post Friday afternoon, but the West Town Chamber never updated its event page).

Matt Maroni of Gaztro-Wagon (and now Morso) was serving his signature naan-wiches instead, which we would have happily tried, but we couldn't seem to find the end of the line. By 3 PM, they were sold out—Maroni said he'd gone through 500 sandwiches in 30 minutes. Lines at the dozen or so other trucks were similarly horrendous, and my friend and I ended up leaving without buying anything, hitting the nearby Branch 27 for flatbread and beer instead. A coworker who went at 12:30, just after it opened, had a similar experience—except he went to Sultan's Market for lunch.

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The event didn't seem particularly poorly planned, though, except that the setup meant that the lines for the trucks tended to run into each other. Rather, it was a victim of its own success, popular to the point that none of the trucks could keep up with demand. And—because, of course, in Chicago cooking on the trucks isn't yet allowed—replenishing supplies was problematic. By early evening, many trucks were out of food entirely, which upset a number of attendees (several of whom commented on TOC's slideshow of the event).
Picnic tables for eating. Almost no one has food, though.
  • Picnic tables for eating. Almost no one has food, though.

But I'm not sure what they expected. Or what I expected, really. Aside from the trucks running out of food, which happened after I left, my problem with the event was the same one that I have with most of Chicago's street festivals: you pay $5 for the privilege of standing in long lines to buy food and drink you can easily get elsewhere. Often there's good music, but at this event, the music didn't seem to be a big draw.
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It reminds me a little of the obsession Chicagoans have with outdoor seating at restaurants, to the point that if the weather's decent, they're perfectly happy to sit in the least scenic places imaginable, just as long as there's no roof overhead. The weather on Saturday couldn't have been more perfect, but there isn't enough sunshine in existence to make me feel like standing in line amounts to a good time. Just as I don't want to sit under the el tracks to eat, I don't really understand everyone's love for street festivals—but to each his own. There were plenty of people there, presumably less curmudgeonly than I am, who seemed perfectly happy, so I'm not about to declare the event anything but a success. I can't even say I didn't get anything out of it. For just $5, I picked up a lovely candle.


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(Yes, that's a pig riding a motorcycle. With goggles on. In case you were wondering.)

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