Food bloggers dwell in hyperbole. We proclaim this the best, that the worst; we love this, we hate that, and so on.
And yet, I’m willing to bet that 85 percent of the unfortunate souls who attended the Parked Food Truck Fest on Sunday would agree with me that it was without a doubt, one of the most abysmally organized events ever.
Am I exaggerating? I don’t think I am. Can a food event be considered a success when the majority of people leave on an empty stomach? You’re supposed to eat at these things, right?
But let’s backtrack. What was The Parked Food Truck Fest? It was a promising idea: a gathering of the city’s best food trucks on Governors Island. Wander around, sample from the various trucks, fill up your belly, go home. Everyone’s happy. Right?
Danielle’s and my first inkling that we were in for an afternoon of futility came when we arrived at the Governors Island ferry terminal, and spied an interminable line of people snaking back almost a half mile along FDR Drive.
This thing was long. DMV + Disney World Space Mountain long. But, being that it was a gorgeous Sunday, if we had to stand in line a bit — even though we had both skipped lunch in anticipation and were already starving — then so be it.
Ferries to Governors Island leave on the half hour, and to be fair, the line moved more quickly than expected, about an hour’s wait. The ferry ride itself takes about five minutes. We arrived on the island, picked up an event flyer and immediately made a beeline towards the food truck area — along with thousands of other lemmings, like zombies from a B-horror movie.
Danielle was looking over the flyer. “There aren’t as many food trucks as I thought there’d be,” she pointed out. We saw something like 14 trucks listed. Some quick computing in my head: 14 trucks, tens of thousands of people (the final count was 17,000)… uh oh. I’m no mathematician, but to paraphrase Milton from Office Space, “The people to food ratio is too big.”
Welcome to the tenth circle of food truck hell.
14 trucks (seemed more like 10, but who’s counting) arranged around a grassy green in a large circle, with hordes of hungry people forming winding, criss-crossing lines. We made a lap around to survey the situation.
The Jamaican Dutchy line was monstrous. The Rickshaw Dumpling line too, was epic. There was no sign of the taco trucks, nor the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck, our first choice. (Apparently they were there, but I swear, neither Danielle nor I saw them). My heart sank. And my stomach continued eating itself.
We spotted a hot dog truck (not part of the festival, just a random hot dog truck) near the fringes of the green. Danielle suggested we get a few dogs to tide us over. Evidently, everyone else had the same idea, since the hot dog line was not much shorter than the food truck lines.
Getting vaguely desperate now, we braced ourselves and settled into the Jamaican Dutchy line. Which… did not… move… at all. In 20 minutes we inched forward about eight feet — and that was only because people were giving up and abandoning the line.
Meanwhile, a buzz was filtering through the crowd that the trucks were running out of food. This was confirmed when people began drifting away from the Indian food truck, and the vendor pulled the window cover down to indicate that he was closed.
Now we were left with a decision: stay on the Jamaican Dutchy line and face the very real prospect of waiting for another hour and having them run out of food, or get off the island, forget this ever happened Memento-style and go to an actual restaurant. The third option was to gnaw off my own arm.
We decided to get off the island. Only, so did everyone else, all of whom had come to the realization that this event was a complete disaster, and were queuing up for the ferry. Comments in the crowd ranged from “We’re never getting off this island,” to “I can’t believe there’s no food” and “This is the worst fucking event ever.”
At this point, I was mildly panicked — the hunger I was feeling was no joke now (it was after 4pm), and I was becoming light-headed. Danielle was feeling the same. We had seen a cafe on the island when we were first got off the ferry; Danielle held our place in the ferry line, while I went to investigate.
I called her from the cafe: “There’s still a line, but it’s not terrible.”
Down she came to join me on yet another line (are you sensing a pattern?), where we watched people walk out of the cafe with wraps, muffins and bagels. Looked promising. But then the pace slowed and the inevitable happened — a woman stepped out with this update:
“They’re out of food, but they’re not telling anybody.”
What was going on?? Were we on a culinary version of Punk’d, with Ashton Kutcher about to run out and tell us it was all a joke and that, haha, there was in fact plenty to eat?
“Let’s just go,” Danielle and I said to each other.
Back to the ferry line, where we were stood wilting like un-watered flowers. I pulled up Yelp on my phone to find the nearest restaurant for when we got back to Manhattan. A couple of Japanese restaurants came up. That settled it, after this debacle, we were treating ourselves to sushi. Hell, we’d earned it.
A not-too-terrible wait, another ferry trip, and we were back in Manhattan. We made the ten minute walk to Ise Japanese Restaurant in the Financial District, which… was closed. On to the next restaurant, Koodo Sushi, which didn’t seem to exist — there was a Starbucks where the restaurant should have been. This was becoming a cruel joke.
But then, there it was, like an oasis in the desert. (On a different street from where Google Maps directed us.)
“It’s open!” I yelped with joy.
The Koodo staff looked surprised to see us, as if they had just opened for dinner service. The hostess took us to a back table, turned on several lights, cranked up a floor fan and disappeared into the kitchen — I think to tell the cooks that there were customers.
I’m calling the rest of this story “Danielle & Doug Go To Koodo Sushi,” because if you’ve seen the denouement of the movie, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, you’ll understand the moment. If it’s possible to make love to your food, we did. I wanted to marry it.
We shared everything. Like Age tofu.
Pork and cabbage gyoza.
Sushi rolls — spicy scallop and spicy crunchy yellowtail.
And dessert — red bean ice cream.
Tempura green tea ice cream.
(Danielle and I have a feeling the staff saw the desperation in our eyes, felt sorry for us and gave us extra food. The chicken katsu came with two large pieces of chicken – usually there’s just one — and the tempura ice cream was the size of my head.)
Rapturous, rapturous enjoyment of this meal. My brain began functioning again. My stomach untangled itself from its knots. I could once again speak in complete sentences. Food will do that to you.
In the end, the absurdity of the previous five hours was worth it. I’m not sure if I dreamt the Parked Food Truck Fest in a nightmare, or if it actually happened. To those people who did in fact consume food there, I applaud you. To the other 16,700 people, I hope your day eventually turned out as well as ours. And by that, I mean I hope you got off that damn island.
Koodo Sushi Corp
55 Liberty St.
New York, NY