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Future of San Francisco Street Food Festival in limbo

Minnie Bell's fried chicken, Crumble & Whisk's Cheesecake and And a Piroshki's Russian sushi
Minnie Bell's fried chicken, Crumble & Whisk's Cheesecake and And a Piroshki's Russian sushi
Jenna Broughton

Now in its sixth year, this could be the last San Francisco Street Food Festival hosted by La Cocina, a non-profit food business incubator. The annual event draws over 80,000 visitors to the Mission District, and its popularity has proven to be a challenge for the surrounding community whose streets the daylong event occupies.

La Cocina was born out of a community and into a neighborhood and it is our obligation to listen to the voices of that community and of our neighbors, and the festival has grown beyond the bounds of size and intent that are reasonable for a small space to accommodate,” said Caleb Zigas, executive director, La Cocina.

What started out a single block party in 2009 has grown into a mile long event that celebrates diversity with food from all over the world represented. This public stage has become a launching pad for many of the businesses featured including Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Onigilly and Los Cilantro, which have all gone on to open storefronts.

The festival has also been an important platform for La Cocina’s calls to reform the expensive and oft laborious process around permitting for mobile food facilities. In 2011, the city responded by lowering permit prices and opening up city space to be used by food trucks and carts.

“We’re immensely proud of the festival and all it’s meant for small food entrepreneurs in the Bay,” said Zigas. “We’ve seen so many businesses start here.”

This year’s event will feature over 80 vendors including local restaurants like A16, Boxing Room and Chino alongside burgeoning food entrepreneurs from La Cocina’s program like Anda Piroshki, Crumble & Whisk and Minnie Belle’s Soul Movement.

The event will celebrate its last hurrah on August 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Folsom Street. Admission is free, and all dishes will be priced under $10. For more information visit the event website.

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