RECAP: Del Mar Racetrack 2nd Annual Gourmet Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival Experience

Everybody seemed to have fun!
July 30, 2012

Since the food truck phenomenon has spread like wildfire across the nation, it has trickled down into America’s Finest and suddenly exploded – culminating in a massive congregation of more than 50 mobile eateries at the Del Mar Racetrack on Saturday, July 28th for the 2nd Annual Gourmet Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival.

I’m not sure if it’s from being a product of the 80s or if it’s from being raised around New York City, neither or both, but, traditionally, when I heard ‘food truck,’ I thought “roach coach” or silver bullet.  I imagined the quintessential providers of coffee and crumb cakes to construction workers or mystery meat hot dogs and gyros to Times Square tourists, eateries scraping by selling mostly prepackaged foods or uninspired simplicities.

Never had I imagined a world where over fifty gourmet food trucks would come together, each offering its own uniquely extravagant delicacy, to stage the scene for one helluva foodie event.  And at $6 for entry into a world of food and craft beer (or free with paid racetrack admission…depending on how you look at it) how could I pass up the opportunity!

Whether the advent of the modern day gourmet food truck is a product of the flailing economy, common sense (why all the overhead and stressors that come with a full-fledge restaurant when you can run a truck that can barely fit two cooks?), or simple hipster-ness, the trend is surely digging it’s heels into the sand in SoCal.

Slap Yo' Mamma's
Soft Shell Crab Po' Boy
Of the multitudes of trucks, not one was your ordinary taco or hot dog truck that you’d find in front of Home Depot (no offense to Scott Slater).  These gourmet trucks showcase niche ethnic and fusion cuisines, often focusing on a limited but creative menu, from lobster rolls to soft shell crab po’ boys, sweet and savory crepes, outrageous burgers, vegan organic eats, Jersey-style ‘fat’ sandwiches, triple brownie ice cream sundaes, and beyond.  Whoever thought we’d be boldly shucking oysters off a food truck?! Not I.

While the food truck traditionally provided a means for the person on the go to grab a quick, cheap meal, today’s food trucks are hardly quick or cheap.  We waited a solid 20 minutes for a couple of Devilicious’ famous $12 lobster grilled cheeses…mini pieces of buttery bread topped with hardly a mouthful of lobster and melted cheese.  Was it good? Sure.  It was no dollar dog in 5 minutes though – which is what I am biologically, environmentally, and historically inclined to expect.  Nor was it worth twelve dollars, as I could have inhaled it with ease in a few bites.  

Devilicious' Lobster Grilled Cheese!!  But wait, you say beer is $9 for a 12 ounce draft in San Diego (or $17 for 5 tasters)?! If the weather had been any less perfect, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds slightly less beautiful, I would have forgone the beer and ventured back to the land of cheap eats and booze known as P.B.  However, not only were their remarkable numbers of food trucks, the frosty craft beer selection impressed as well.  The sun glistened on Green Flash’s Le Freak’s tap, a favorite Belgian Style IPA equating to a party in my mouth…a party that kept the party going and that encouraged us to peruse the food truck line-up for our next indulgence.

Even the kiddies appreciated the
variety of choices.
The lines were long as the sun was hot.  We were lured to Thai-1-On by the overwhelming scent of garlicky deliciousness, a line of hungry festivalgoers, and generous servings.  We placed our order for the drunken noodles with beef as well as T-1-O’s famed chicken satay.  Then we waited.  And waited.  I tried desperately to take small sips of my beer so as to avoid having to wait on the insane beer lines again before eating my salty and spicy noodles, but it was almost a half hour later, as the crowds started to fluster, that we received our food.  The noodles were flavorful and spicy, the chicken satay moist and juicy, and the fellow attendees with whom we shared our table super pleasant, as festivalgoers tend to be.

We ate, we drank, swapped stories, and relished in the San Diego afternoon in delight.  We skipped over to the track, placed our bets, and cheered on our horses, making the (albeit expensive) trip to the fairgrounds yet another success!

We’ll be sure to put this event in our calendar for next year, but hopefully the economy picks up so I can afford the food truck experience.

P.S.  Dear Food Trucks In General - you have reduced over-head compared to restaurants, stop making your food cost more than your grounded competitors.  We just don't get it!!!  If you care to explain the inflated prices, feel free to email us at [email protected].