Oakland, California: Eat Real Festival Recap

[Photographs: Jennifer Maiser]

The Eat Real Festival was held for the second time in Oakland, California, this past weekend. An estimated 100,000 people gathered together to imbibe in craft brews, eat affordable and sustainable food, hear writers speak, watch butchery contests, and listen to music in Jack London Square. Anya Fernald, the founder of the festival, aimed to bring quality, well-made food to the masses. The Eat Real Festival seems to embody the amazing food in the Bay Area without any of the pretension—everything offered over the weekend is $5 or cheaper, and event entry is free.

I spent three days at the Eat Real Fest and ate some wonderful food (which you can see highlighted in this slideshow) in a relaxed party atmosphere full of friends and people from the Bay Area community. As hard as I tried, I probably only tasted 1% of what was offered.

Here are my favorite three bites (and a sip!) from the weekend.

  • Falafel sandwich from the Liba Falafel truck (read more about them here). Every single component of the sandwich made for a completely resonant and amazing bite. The delicious falafel almost played second fiddle to the tangy sauces and housemade harissa topping the sandwich.
  • Fish tacos from The Taco Guys, made with Pacific Rock Cod. The fish was the perfect size for the small tortillas and covered in plenty of sauce and toppings.
  • Pork tacos from Senor Sisig. The taco meat was prepared in Filipino style with soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice and jalapenos. This was one of the longer lines all weekend. I quickly discovered when I took my first bite.
  • My beer highlight was trying the "Rye'd Piper," a red rye from Ale Industries. Looking at this dark-colored ale, I expected it to be overspiced and sweet. However, this balanced beer had a nice bitterness and a surprising amount of hop with a good rye flavor to add an interesting complexity.

The Eat Real Festival also featured a LitFest, which hosted over 30 speakers throughout the weekend who spoke around specific food topics. Friday and Saturday featured writers mainly from the Bay Area. Richie Nakano, the chef-owner of Hapa Ramen, a pop-up in San Francisco, admitted to not speaking in public much, then entertained us with his start-up philosophy: "Don't be a little bitch," which he told himself repeatedly while launching his business. I was actually on the organizing committee for the LitFest. It was fun to pepper in well-seasoned speakers with writers and bloggers who never speak in public.

There's no doubt that the Eat Real Fest is a good time. But, I wonder what the longterm effects are (aside from my pants being a little tighter today). I can only hope that event attendees walk away with a higher expectation from their fast-food, however, it would be interesting to hear whether the Eat Real Festival changes any minds. The same goes for the vendors—some of the vendors typically don't cook with sustainable food, but the Eat Real Festival works with them to find sustainable ingredients for the event.

Are they back to their regular ingredients today? Or does the event change minds about sustainable ingredients?

Did you attend the Eat Real Fest? What were your highlights?

The Eat Real Fest hopes to expand to Los Angeles this year.