Eat the Street / Foodies. Chowhounds. Gluttons. Those who live to satisfy their palates are rejoicing about the success of the Eat the Street food truck rally. Organized by Poni Askew, founder of the Street Grindz website, the rally (now poised for its third rendition) has exceeded all expectations. Not bad for a venture that started off as a a website and Twitter account to keep track of the growing number of food trucks and food vendors on the island.
Askew and her husband, Brandon, never thought their hobby would turn into a full-time venture but the gastronomic stars aligned for the first Eat the Street when the Gogi truck owner’s landlord agreed to let organizers use one of his lots for the rally.
“We figured 500 folks at the most…we had 1,200 to 1,500 people the first night,” says Askew. “The first thing that we learned was that we needed a bigger space. That was hands-down our first lesson.”
For the second rally, she made sure to include more amenties, such as portable bathrooms, tables and chairs.
Entertainment website Nonstop Honolulu and Kamehameha Schools joined Street Grindz to organize the second Eat the Street. Nonstop Honolulu is the media sponsor, which works out because it takes care of the pre-event publicity and post-event coverage. Kamehameha Schools not only provides the larger space in Kakaako, but also offers discounts for most of the vendors with its Malama Card.
Eat the Street enjoys a diverse range of food vendors, from old-time eateries such as Elena’s (you know you love that pork adobo fried rice omelette) to newer trucks such as the high-end grilled-cheese sandwich truck, Melt (disclosure: Honolulu Weekly Food Editor Martha Cheng is a co-founder of Melt).
While not all food trucks sell out at Eat the Street, the long lines at popular trucks have attendees eating food from one truck while waiting in line for treats such as steak melts and snickerdoodle cupcakes. From popsicles to tacos, Eat the Street offers a dizzying array of delights.
While Hawaii is no stranger to Styrofoam take-out boxes and disposable plateware and cutlery, the sight of thousands of people tossing their garbage out in one spot is frightening.
“I just watched Styrofoam and plastic bags go into the garbage…I’m a member of Kanu Hawaii, so we try to be sustainable,” says Askew.
For the second Eat the Street, she partnered with local sustainability consulting company Tr3ees, which has worked with Kokua Fest to reduce the waste produced at the event. A Tr3ees station was set up to help people sort out their waste into compostable items, recyclable items, and items destined for the landfill.
“It’s an expense, but for me it’s very worth it,” says Askew of involving Tr3ees with Eat the Street.
While each Eat the Street vendor is an independent business and decides whether or not to use compostable or recyclable items, having compostable plateware and cutlery “eventually will become a mandate to be part of our event,” says Askew.
She and Tr3ees are aiming to make Eat the Street a no-waste event where zero of the items disposed of at the event end up in a landfill.
Third time around
There are 31 vendors scheduled for the latest Eat the Street –up from 23 vendors at the second rally.
Among the eateries joining the Eat the Street fleet are North Shore’s Cholo’s and Hank’s Haute Dogs. Hank Adaniya of Hank’s is the first chef to kick off Eat the Street’s new Chef Street Food series. Each month, a higher-end eatery that doesn’t have a food truck or street vendor outlet will offer street food specials exclusively for Eat the Street.
Askew hopes the Edition hotel will be the next featured guest in the series.
Another special aspect of the latest Eat the Street is that it serves as a fundraiser for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Many vendors will offer Japanese-themed specials, and event goers can donate to other relief efforts as well.
And what’s an eating ambience without a little entertainment? Lightsleepers, the well-known local hip-hop collective, will be doing live art, with the hope of selling the finished pieces to contribute to the fundraiser.
“We won’t do themed Eat the Streets too often,” says Askew. So she emphasizes the importance of this week’s event in supporting Japan relief efforts.
However, “we’re working on our own foundation,” says Askew. She cites Chef Sean Priester’s regular efforts to feed the hungry with his food truck as a model for what the proposed Eat the Street Foundation could do with its participating vendors.
Eating, sustainability and charity. Not that eaters need a cause to flock to this amazing gathering of food vendors, but if there ever was something worthy on which to attach our cravings, the latest rendition Eat the Street is a good bet.