Eat Real 2011.  Boy, it was good to me.

Coming from San Francisco and being spoiled with all the Off the Grids in the City and the SF Street Food Festival, I thought I had seen it all.  Boy, was I wrong.

Eat Real not only features awesome street food, but it also shows eaters who to make their own food at home.  There were demonstrations on how to make your own bagels, how to butcher your own cut of meat, the list goes on and on.

But let’s face it, I was here to eat [real].

The best part was that nothing was over $5!  I was determined to try trucks and vendors I had never had before.

Eat Real took over Jack London Square.  It was hard to choose which ones to hit up first, but I do have a default amuse bouche:

4505 Meats and Chef Ryan Farr can’t do wrong.  This hot dog had bits of bacon running through it creating a juicy treat.  I always start my street food fests having something from 4505.  Tradition still stands.  I bought a bag of their spicy chicharonnes.  My two-year-old niece ate the whole bag.

Chop Bar – This was a place I have always wanted to try, but making my way to Oakland isn’t a common thing.  Glad they were at Eat Real!  The team from Chop Bar definitely wow’ed the crowd with their pig presentation.  They used La Caja China boxes to roast their pigs creating that golden blistered skin.

Once chopped up, the meat was paired corn bread and some tasty sauces: barbeque, green tomatillo, and veggie mole.

Tamarindo Antojeria is another Oakland restaurant that is serving up incredible Mexican fare.  Situated in Old Oakland, you can enjoy small plates that go perfect with tequila.  Here at Eat Real, I got to try their Elote – a concoction of fresh corn, lime, and spices.  It’s a burst of flavor – tang, sweetness, and heat.

When my party and I first got to Eat Real, we ran into a LEGIT East Bay food critic who steered me to Nieves Cinco de Mayo – an ice cream vendor hailing from Oakland’s Fruitvale.  My guide told me to talk to Luis Abundis and order the Chongo, an ice cream made with cheese curds.  I was not disappointed.  The ice cream only tasted even sweeter when Luis explained how he only uses whole milk – no creams – and in the Chongo spices it up with a little cinnamon.  I’ll be sure to find him in Oakland and try his other flavors: rose, queso, and more!

Sam’s ChowderMobile from Half Moon Bay was not a truck I was to miss.  The line was long, but the prize was worth it.  The toasted bun cradled huge chunks of buttered Maine lobster.  My sandwich had two giant claws in it.  I love that the sweet meat was not drenched in mayo which only hides the lobster’s natural flavors.

Ebbett’s Good to Go!  I admit, I  needed another sandwich!  This East Bay truck, run by two mommys, had two offerings: a Cuban pork sandwich and a roast beef sandwich made with meat from Niman Ranch.  I went for their Cuban which they are known for.  I opened it up and saw melted Gruyere, jalapeno relish, and all that pork goodness.  It is true, they make great hand warmers!  The ACME bread was toasted nicely making the perfect platform for all the fillings.

My favorite bites from Eat Real was the slider and roasted corn from Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q.  After some research, I found that Jim N’ Nick’s is a chain of restaurants with very few locations west of the Mississippi River.

The pulled pork and slow-roasted beef brisket sliders were both satisfying.  The sauce on the pork was tasty and not too spicy and the brisket sandwich had nice pieces of fat in it, but the star was the roasted corn.  It was perfection – sweet, juicy, with a little char.  It is so simple, but it was the best.

Knowing now much area Eat Real covered, I am going to be sure I reserve three whole days to take it all in!  Though San Francisco’s street food scene is amazing, I have learned that the East Bay, especially Oakland, has so much to offer.  I can’t wait for next year’s Eat Real Festival!

Here are my tips to thoroughly enjoy next year’s event:

  1. Bring your own water bottle – there are several refilling stations around the square.  Save money and the environment.
  2. Bring a picnic blanket, straw mat, banig, etc – the Main Stage was situated on a nice grassy area.  Great place for you to just lay out, enjoy, the music, and eat.
  3. Divide and conquer – when it comes to food festivals, I like to bring at least 3 others with me.  This way, you taste all the food, but not have to spend so much money.
  4. Bring an insulated lunch bag – you never know how long you are going to stay in line sometimes.  Bring a lunch bag so your food doesn’t get cold.  Hint:  the Cuban at Ebbett’s was an awesome heat source and was conveniently wrapped in aluminum foil for easy transport.
  5. Bring wet wipes – one thing I neglected to do this year.  The square has dusty areas which get on everything from your kids’ hands and clothing.  Plus, you want to eat with clean fingers right?

See you next year, Eat Real!

All Photos by Joanne Boston