Close your eyes, relax and let us take you on a journey. You’re on a beautiful waterfront pier, with smooth wooden planks under your feet, waves softly splashing in the background and the sun shining on your face. You’re enjoying the calm when you smell a faint hint of barbecue sauce. Intrigued, you follow. As the smell grows stronger, the hum of live music begins to fill the air. Suddenly, you see rows and rows of colorful tents, each crowded with tons of people, all smiling and laughing as they eat the most beautiful, delicious food you’ve ever seen. Someone walks by you with a cone of dripping ice cream, then another with a perfectly flaky empanada, then someone else with a steaming cup of coffee and another and another until your head begins to spin and your mouth begins to water. Have you stumbled across an undiscovered culinary paradise? Is this food heaven? Yes, and it’s called the Eat Real Festival.
For the past six years, Oakland has been hosting the Eat Real Festival, a food festival in celebration of affordable, sustainable, locally produced and delicious food. The event connects community consumers directly with chefs, farmers and producers to promote the importance of fresh food and supporting local businesses. All the food is priced from $1 to $8, and the entirety of the profits are given to the Food Craft Institute, a nonprofit that advocates traditional food craft and development of small businesses. The three-day event featured a wide variety of food trucks and carts that were sectioned off into different categories, ranging from the “Palm Plaza,” which included the “Beer Shed” and “Fermentation” sections, to “the Lot,” which centered around “meat and butchery.”
On Sept. 20, we went to explore the Eat Real Fest ourselves. The festival was at Jack London Square, which is only half a mile from the 12th Street Oakland BART station. The food was, of course, mind-blowing, in addition to being well within a college student’s budget. There was something for everybody: Asian, Mexican, Italian, along with plenty of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. The Eat Real Fest didn’t slack on drinks either. For those who are 21 or older, the festival offered beer tasting, but they also had plenty of EANABs — “Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages,” which is their own term — such as local teas, coffees and cold-pressed juices. For those looking to learn, the event also offered free workshops, such as a pickling party, DIY dough mix-off and bloody brunch, to just name a few. We spent Saturday afternoon exploring the different tents, trying anything and everything that caught our eye. Here were a few of our favorites:
1. Waffle stuffed with mozzarella and pesto from Suite Foods
A perfect mix of sweet and savory, this was undoubtedly the winner of the afternoon. They also offered a maple-bacon waffle and a traditional waffle stuffed with a poached egg. Who knew there was a way to eat waffles for every meal?
2. Pork belly fries from Bacon Bacon
This food truck offered a twist on bacon for every course: appetizers, sides, main dishes and even desserts.
3. Carrot juice with lemon, orange and cucumber from Oakland Juice & Co.
After those fries, it was time for a detoxifying juice. Though many may be skeptical about the carrots, the bitterness was perfectly balanced by the lemon, creating a sweet, clean drink.
Some other things we loved — but ate so quickly that we didn’t have a chance to snap pictures — were the housemade kombucha, peanut-butter chocolate mochi, mango sticky-rice popsicles and Vietnamese spring rolls. The Eat Real Festival was an amazing way to explore local food vendors and eat some delicious, healthy stuff. We’ll definitely be back next year — and we hope to see some UC Berkeley students too!
Contact Agnes Zhu at [email protected].