5 Rules for Eating at Food Festivals

Attack the summer’s biggest food festivals like a seasoned vet

Summer in L.A. is the season of food festivals. From L.A. Street Food Fest to the new DTLA Night Market, to Tacolandia, Food GPS’ Ribfest and L.A. Food and Wine Fest, it seems like there’s something happening every weekend. But while festivals have been proliferating like Grelims at midnight over the past couple years, odds are your food festival eating strategy hasn’t changed one bit.

Back in the day, it was fine to charge through Wolfgang Puck’s American Wine & Food Festival eating every last morsel until your heartburn blazed like the fire of a thousand Jitlada dinners. Nowadays, though, running and gunning will not cut it. These festivals (feast-ivals? Can I coin that here?) are arriving fast and furious and you can’t be gorging yourself every single weekend. You need a plan.

Rule 1: Identify your targets

Act like the criminal you’ve always wanted to be and case the joint first to plan your attack. Prioritize favorite chefs and new restaurants over places you’ve tried before. Skip the nectarine and burrata (you can make that at home!) and go for the awesome-looking octopus dish instead.

Rule 2: One bite and go

Most of these events have thirty or forty restaurants vying for your attention. If you ate every portion doled out, you’d be toast before you even got to the toast (probably kaya toast from Susan Feniger, actually). Eat just enough to sample the dish and move on. As Jay-Z says, “on to the next one.” Is it wasteful? Yes. But so is holding a food festival in the first place. 

Rule 3: Have one glass of wine, not four

The more you drink, the slower you get. That’s a fact. You don’t have to go all teetotaler here, but if you limit the amount of drinking you do, you also eliminate that voice in your head that says “We don’t really have to try the booths on that side, do we?” Don’t miss out on great dishes because you drank yourself to malaise. By cutting down on the alcohol, you’re also cutting down on bathroom breaks and that’s going to make you a Food Festival Ninja.

Rule 4: Do NOT throw out your fork

Every festival handles the inevitable flatware problem differently, but once you get your hands on a nice, sturdy fork you should hold onto it for dear life. Keep it in your pocket, attach it to a necklace, stick it behind your ear— it doesn’t matter how you keep it close, just do it. There’s nothing worse than trying to scrounge up a new fork at a festival when there are none to be found.

Rule 5: Check the restaurant roster before you go

With so many festivals in L.A., restaurants are getting a lot pickier about which ones they’ll attend. If the festival has a sub-standard list, don’t go. The ticket prices are just too high to show up to something just because it was good the year before.

If you follow these five simple rules, you should be in good shape. If you ignore these rules, I have no problem stepping over you as you lay on the ground in agony wondering why you ate that entire hot dog.