Monday, March 29, 2010

Picnic Nitpick - Atlanta Street Food Coalition's Urban Picnic

There's been a large petition circulating around the web to allow and show support for street vendors in Atlanta. While I'd love to have delectable, cheap and fast eats on every corner, I question the feasibility for such an endeavor in a city that's hardly walkable. However, I'd rather see some places try and perhaps fail, than not try at all. After getting word of the "Urban Picnic" being thrown by the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, I penciled it in for my Friday lunch spot.

I showed up at 12 on the dot and there was a moderate crowd (appeared to mainly be GSU students) gathered outside of Sweet Auburn Curb Market. 4 food trucks were curbed next to the market and a few other assorted vendors selling everything from candles to dog biscuits.
After perusing the trucks, I ran into some folks I knew and asked them what were the best offerings. They assured me they had heard good things about the house made sausage by the FarmCart. After waiting in line for a good 10 minutes and not moving, the sausages were sold out... Disappointing that within and hour of opening, the best item was completely sold out. I might have understood had the vendors been bum-rushed, but it wasn't terribly crowded. I guess they didn't anticipate much of a showing at all? With soup and salad being the only other offerings at the FarmCart, the line diminished quickly.
I guess my mind was locked into tubed-meat because I hurried over to the Good Food truck for what they referred to as the "Poodle." The Poodle involved a french toast bun and a hot dog topped with maple apple slaw. Honestly, it worked. It wasn't astounding but it was better than my initial kitschy impression. Given the choice between a Nathan's frank and the Poodle, I'd have to yield to the classic. But for Atlanta street food, not a bad showing Good Food.
My next stop, was Souper Jennie's truck. Souper Jennie is kind of an Atlanta/Buckhead staple and extremely popular with the lunch crowd. Honestly, I've never been because of their hours, location and the crowds. Additionally, I'm not crazy about soup. I sampled their tomato basil with goat cheese.
It was OK. I detected no basil or goat cheese and the soup could have been a little creamier, if anything. It was certainly more of a home-style soup and I felt it could have used some more cream (if there was any to start with) and seasoning.
My last stop at the Urban Picnic was H&M Pizza. They had a trailer hitch with an actual wood burning oven on the back of their truck. I was impressed, but suprisingly this was one of the least crowded vendors there? While waiting in line, I overheard the pizza prep guy tell the owner that the dough had dried out... I took a gander and it didn't appear too bad but when the prep guy took more flour to work the dough, I cringed a bit. Why would you add more flour to dry dough? In any case, I got one slice of the coppa and mozzarella. It was a nice touch that they threw some fresh rosemary and olive oil over the pizza right as it came out of the oven. The first thing I noticed - after walking away was this:
The second problem lied in the flour addition I mentioned earlier. The pizza was completely coated in a dense layer of flour on the bottom.
I took one bite and I was transformed into Tyrone Biggums of crackheadom:
I wish I had photos of the reactions I received by some of the locals under the bridge of Jesse-Hill Jr. Drive.
Two fatal flaws aside, the pizza was actually really good. But if that slice was delivered to me in a restaurant, I would have sent it back.
While I totally support the Atlanta Street Food movement, this fair showed some potential problems for the businesses involved. The service was slooooooooow. The product was good but I felt the pricing was on the high side. The slice of pizza was just slightly larger than a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut, yet cost me 3 bucks. The poodle was the same price and the soup was $5. Demand is an unpredictable factor, but here was a fair devoted to street food, and a lot of the food was sold out within an hour - the crowds weren't enormous either. I can't imagine the amount of disappointment in one of these food trucks posting a new location to their twitter, a customer travelling far out of their way for some grub, and the truck being sold out. I don't know how many sausages they started with, but that FarmCart's line was not moving and they sold out quick.

Atlanta is not quite metropolitan. We need more tourists, more revenue, safer and walkable streets, and even more food options. This movement could really help propel Atlanta into seeming like the big city that it actually is.
Souper Jenny on Urbanspoon

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