Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Haute Wheels Went Flat

Last week, I was so excited to go to the first ever Houston food truck festival you guys. It was called Haute Wheels, and there was a big hoo-ra-ra about it in the Houston Press. The MFE crew had already bought tickets, so Jon and I decided what better way to break my food-truck cherry AND see our friends?

I had a patient to see Saturday afternoon, so we didn't make it to the festival until around 2pm. Our friends were on the inside waiting in line as we walk up to get out tickets. (We had tried to buy tickets online, but the online venue had sold out. However, it said tickets were still available at the gate.) We maneuvered up and down packed side streets and were about to snag a spot not too far from the action. We walked up to buy our tickets...guess what...sold out.

You have to be fucking kidding me. We drove 20+ something miles for nothing. I couldn't tell you how pissed off I was, especially since our friends were just on the other side. Jon made a muted stink about how they should have posted on the website when they are completely sold out of tickets, being that troves of people were being turned away. I simply gave Lily's "You're Dead to Me Now" look.

 That's right bitch.

Now, I'm pretty rule governed (color in the lines, don't walk on the grass, contribute to the coffee collection at the office) but I was pretty pissed off at this point. On a normal day, I would have sulked my white girl butt back to the car, drove home, and pouted for the rest of the day. Not this Saturday. As Jon and I walked back to the car, I told him we should ask someone leaving the festival for their wristbands. He totally looked at me like the Inception Animals.

  Yes, we are THAT goodie-two-shoes

At first, I was hoping he would do be brave enough to ask someone, but after some observed distress, I grew my own balls and did it myself. Not only did we score 2 wrist bands, but free drink tickets, too. We snuck back to our car to reattach them with tape, hunched over secretly as if we were snorting crack behind some bushes near an elementary school playground.

We try to act cool as we walk to the front gate, but we both break out into a sweat. What if they catch us!?! Oh the public shaming that will commence! However, after much sweating, we make it through the gate entrance unmolested. Eureka!

What did we do for the next 2 hours you ask? Try lots of great grub and hang out with friends? Nope. Each set of friends stood in a different line for about 1 1/2 hours waiting to order and receive awful food. We were all going to wait in one line until we notice that the lines were not moving at all. So, we split up and gave out orders to each friend to pick up. Jon hit up drinks, I got a Korean food truck, Kail and Jules hit BBQ, and Roy hit a wrap-mobile. Sam rotated around trucks, hunted for a shady spot and short lines, and tried to keep the baby happy.

Jon made it out first and distributed overpriced booze. The $16 entry fee basically got you 2 sodas or 1 beer. He opted for the one beer. He got back to me as I waited at the "The Rolling Hunger" Truck. Apparently, it's rated as one of the Top 100 Food Trucks in Houston. After the waiting for an hour, I understand how the truck got its name. I was sooooo f-ing hungry, my stomach was rolling.

Too afraid to lose my spot and suffering from starvation-induced delirium, I managed to get this unfortunate photo only.
I chatted up the dude behind me whose wife was kind enough to bring him a snack from the truck "Zilla" while he waited in my line. Now, I was not expecting gourmet food by any stretch of the imagination. I was expecting some quirkiness and "fun" in the foods. Maybe I am just a food snob, but I wouldn't have paid $8 for this:

First Course: Penne Alfredo with pulled pork, shallots and Cheetos. Gross.
I was next to get through a line. I ordered egg roles and Korean tacos. We found out the delay was because the truck's fryer had broken down. (Apparently, this problem plagued almost all the trucks.) However, the fryer was now up and running as we placed our order. Well, after waiting another twenty minutes, we got our tacos and a refund for the egg rolls, because the fryer broke again. I was so happy to finally have some food, I squashed my pre-diabetic rage.

Tiny portions aside, it was pretty decent. However, it was definitely NOT worth waiting 1 1/2 hours. Moving on.

Slowest line ever!
If you're a Where's Waldo fan, see if you can spot Kail in this picture somewhere. The rest of us were hiding under the only bit of shade available. This truck specialized in bacon wrapped BBQ balls. We saw some people walking around with them, and they looked fantastic. Of course, the truck was sold out by the time we got to order. I think the thing that I struggled the most with on this line was the fact that there seemed something fundamentally wrong with waiting for BBQ this long. The excuse they kept giving was they needed more time "to cook" and catch up with demand. Ummm...BBQ takes hours to cook (many people smoke over night the food they plan to serve the next day.) So, shouldn't the BBQ be cooked already? Seems like they shouldn't be smoking anything for today's consumption right now. FAIL. Two hours later we get two "brisket" sandwiches and a few ribs. To be fair, the ribs were pretty good. Not "2 hours wait" good, but definitely good for a food truck. The brisket, potato salad, and coleslaw on the other hand were down right GAWD AWFUL.

I don't look so bad until you bite into me.
Watching someone eat this sandwich was akin to watching a movie in which Neanderthals tear at freshly killed antelope with their teeth. It was so tough and chewy that we ended up throwing most of it away. I literally had a slice of meat in my mouth and had to use both hands pulling at the other end to try to get a bite-sized portion off. I was worried Jon was going to lose the crown on his front tooth. The potato salad was vinegar based, and by vinegar based I mean a bowl of vinegar with a bit of potato floating in it. I didn't bother tasting the slaw after the others advised against it.

By the end of the ordeal we were all sunburned, dehydrated, and really hungry. We drove over to Little Bigs Burgers on Montrose, got some real food, and discussed how this event could have been more successful. This is what we came up with:

1.) More food trucks. We only counted maybe 15 there at most. Some of them had stickers on them that said "Top 100 Food Trucks in Houston".  Where the hell were the other 85 trucks? Hell, even 50 would have been better.

2.) Tell the trucks that they can only sell 1-3 items from their regular menu. This would stopped people from hemmin-and-hawin' about what they should get, speed up ordering, and prevent shortages. (We had waited an hour to order the BBQ balls just to find out they were out when we went to order, then we had to spend time thinking of something else. Out of that, too? Geez, what DO you have?)

3.) Only sell tickets online and when you sell out, tell the trucks how many people to expect so they can bring the appropriate amount of food and staff. ALL the trucks had at least 2 items sold out after 2 hours of being open. They weren't expecting that that many people would come out, I can guaran-damn-tee it.

4.) Stagger entry. As with any festival, everyone is breaking down the doors to get there when the gates open. Therefore, all the trucks were overwhelmed from the get go, causing fryers to break down, generators to overheat, and lines to be excessively long. Tickets should be sold in staggered bunches such as noon entry, 2pm entry, 4pm entry, and 6pm entry. This would have alleviated the noon slam and given the trucks more time to replenish supplies and give their generators a rest.

5.) Finally, provide more shaded seating. This event was held in a vast concrete parking lot with very few shade trees. There were a few picnic tables with umbrellas, but most people sat on the ground in any shade they could find. Coupled with the long lines and expensive drinks, everyone was hot and grouchy.

So there you have it folks, another food misadventure Kersten Kolache style.


  1. We just had a food truck event here in Denver. Ours was comprised of local trucks and the trucks from The Great Food Truck Race. I was wondering if the LONG waits were due to the popularity of the event or if disorganization was just the nature of the beast, but reading your post makes me think the latter. The food was pretty good for being made on a truck but the long wait just discounted the flavor. In retrospect, I've decided that I like the old school bricks and mortar stores with waiters and tables. I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

  2. I read a couple of "reviews" of the event and they all basically agree that it was kind of a disaster -- poor planning, food shortages, no shade, and no small-sized samples so that you could get a taste of all the dishes.

    I'm glad I spent the day at home.

  3. Oh, that sounds miserable! Too bad, too, because food festivals can be so fun if well executed.


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