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What We Ate at the SF Street Food Festival

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[Photos: Adrian Elliot and Rose Garrett]

For the fifth year running, the San Francisco Street Food Festival attracted the hungry masses to the Mission for a day of unabashed eating. Bigger and more organized than ever before, this year's fest covered everything from La Cocina food entrepreneurs serving their wares for the very first time, to established restaurants getting their menu into the hands of a more casual crowd. From Friday's Night Market to Saturday's all-day fiesta, here's what we ate, drank, and observed along the way.

· The weekend kicked off with a Night Market at the Alemany Farmer's Market space, where a brisk and steady wind did little to deter attendees from enjoying 40 vendors' worth of activities and eats. A karaoke station saw intermittent use, but one man's spirited rendition of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" made it a worthwhile addition. The event was divided into sections representing different world cuisines, from Mediterranean to East Asia, and the more intimate feel of the event meant lines weren't really a factor, unlike Saturday's notorious queue-fest.

· The Night Market's American South booth did booming business, with 4505 Meats' smoked brisket, hot chicken wings from Comstock Saloon, and cheesy grits from Sugarfoot Grits served alongside baked beans and collard greens. We came hungry and immediately got our fill of meat with the brisket and pork shoulder from Helen Turner's BBQ.

·We were thrilled to see lamb momos on the menu from Bini's Kitchen, since there's a distinct dearth of these comforting Nepalese dumplings around town. Chewy and fresh, with a lightly spiced lamb filling, they were so good we had to go back for more. Another winner from the Southeast Asia booth: Azalina's warming murtabak, a pleasantly spiced stuffed pancake of sorts.

·The albacore tataki from Nojo was the hands-down winner for prettiest plate of the night. Served with ponzu and microgreens, the presentation of fresh raw fish was a welcome interlude after sampling the more meat-heavy options.

·Reza Esmaili of Ananas ran one of several bars at the event, but his two offerings (one with Auchentoshan scotch, Cynar and basil, the other with No. 209 gin, Campari, pineapple and bergamot) hit the spot.

· Come Saturday, the weather warmed up and the crowds came out to the Festival's tree-lined stretch of Folsom Street. Early arrivals made a beeline for State Bird Provisions' hand-pulled garlic bread with burrata, anxiously queuing up before the festival even got underway for a chance to sample one the oversubscribed restaurant's dishes.

· The day's longest line, though, was for Nombe's much-hyped ramenburger, which had a long, snaking queue of culinary thrill-seekers extending far past the other vendors. Once attendees finally got their food, the burger sandwiched between two small noodle buns looked fairly unassuming. Worth the wait? Maybe not.

· Plenty of excited up-and-coming food entrepreneurs were on the scene, some of them serving crowds for the very first time. We sampled the refreshing drinks over at Clearly Kombucha and enjoyed the sweet cornbread bites from Minnie Bell's Soul Movement. Other great options were the strawberry lassi and street sandwich from Kama Food Lab, and the kamikaze fries from Local Forager contest winner KoJa Kitchen.

·The fenced-off beer and spirits garden run by Rye on the Road held a multitude of delights, from the VX Swizzle (Appleton VX rum, lemon, black tea syrup and bitters) to the prettiest jello shots known to man, courtesy of Sweets Collection. The best part? All proceeds from the bar, including tips, went back to La Cocina, making it a civic duty to get one's drink on.

· Our most unexpected discovery was Hella Vegan Eats' donut burger, an improbable combo of a vegan patty made from rice and beets, sandwiched between two sugar donuts. It was a strange offering, but a weirdly good one: proof positive that the opportunity for experimental eating is the SFSFF's greatest achievement.

What was your favorite sip and/or bite at the Street Food Festival this year? Let us know in the comments.

·The Street Food Festival Is This Weekend; Here's the Menu [~ ESF ~]

Nojo

231 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 896-4587

Nombe

2491 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 681-7150 Visit Website

4505 Meats/Chicharrones

Ferry Building SF, San Francisco, CA 94111 (415) 255-3094

A16

2355 Chestnut Street, , CA 94123 (415) 771-2216 Visit Website

KoJa Kitchen

370 Linden Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

State Bird Provisions

1529 Fillmore Street, , CA 94115 (415) 795-1272 Visit Website

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