The Food of Outside Lands

“San Francisco has only one drawback. ‘Tis hard to leave.” – Rudyard Kipling

As I sat in an airport café at 5:00 AM on a Monday morning, sipping coffee and slathering maple syrup onto a pile of bacon and French toast, I read those words scrolled across the ceiling through bleary eyes and reflected on just how right Kipling was. I’d been awake for nearly 24 hours and I didn’t even want to go to sleep, much less leave.

I usually limit myself to just one music festival every summer, but my trip to San Francisco was long overdue and this year’s stellar lineup at Outside Lands was too much to resist.

Put on by the same folks as Bonnaroo, there were many similarities between the two festivals. Similar crowd, similar bands, similar vibe. Except, instead of being held on a farm in no-where-Tennesee, this is smack in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

One significant difference was the food. Every single food stand in the festival was run by a Bay Area restaurant, rather than a standard traveling food vendor.  That meant no carnival pizza stands and a great chance to check out some of the local flavor without leaving the festival grounds.

And there are lots of good eats to be had in that town, so you can imagine how excited I was when I figured this out. I’ve been used to the food being fantastic at Bonnaroo, but the Outside Land’s spread took things to a completely new level. The complete list of participating restaurants is here.

As soon as I spotted someone slinging fresh, raw, pacific oysters, I knew where I was heading for my first stop.

Anchor and Hope

Run by Anchor & Hope, this stand doled out raw and BBQ grilled pacific oysters by the thousands. Literally. According to their twitter feed, they went through over 8,000 oysters during the 2-day festival.  And it was no fluke either, because these really hit the spot.

Namu was right next to Anchor & Hope, so my oysters were just an appetizer for some Korean Tacos. Their nori-wrap-style tacos took me by surprise, both before and after eating them. It was shocking how packed with flavor these little tacos were. The marinated beef and kimchi could have carried the dish on their own, but the hint of seaweed was a great extra touch. If I lived in San Francisco, I would crush these things by the handful.

What is a boy to do when he has just eaten oysters and Korean tacos, and then spots a sign like this?

 

If you said, “get an Argentinian BBQ sandwich”, then you win a cookie. Give yourself a high-five.

When I smelled the citrusy whole chickens roasting over the wood fire BBQ pit, I had to get my hands on one. Served by the Oakland based food truck, Primo’s Parilla, this was loaded with roasted red peppers, chimichurri, and a whole slew of awesomeness that I didn’t have the patience to stop and identify. This sandwich absolutely blew me away. It should be illegal for me to be able to get a sandwich this good at a festival.

Hippies love music festivals and they love grilled cheese. But California hippies? They do it a little differently.

Grumpy's Outside Lands

Grumpy’s had so many sandwiches that I wanted to eat, it made my head spin. But I couldn’t resist the grilled brie, green apple, and rosemary jam sandwich.

Grilled brie with apples and rosemary jam

As I passed it around for my friends to get a bite (and subsequently had to beg for it back) words such as “insane”, “ridiculous”, and “shockingly good” were thrown around. The rosemary jam was fantastic, and without it, this would have probably been a little bland. However, this is the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had…not including any that I make for myself at 3 AM after a night out drinking. Because, without fail, THAT is always the best grilled cheese EVER. But this was damn close.

There were too many options and too little time for me to hit all of them, but here are some snapshots of grub that I missed (and some that I didn’t).

Potato and curry samosas

Spicy fried calamari

It was a great weekend San Fran. I hated to say goodbye.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted August 18, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Damn, looks fantastic!

  2. Kelsey
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Yum! I didn’t make it to any of the food, just barely made it in time for the acts I wanted to see. I want that sandwich…

  3. tanline
    Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Did you eat all that in one day?

    • Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      ha…no, not all of it…well, actually…the taco, sandwich, oysters, and grilled cheese were all in one day…and the samosas…and the calamari…so yeah, that was all in one day!

      Damn!

  4. ryan
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    looks like you had a blast in San Francisco. shoot me an email next time you’re in town. got a whole lot more local places for you to eat at.

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