I cannot tell you how excited I was to visit Eat Street Barcelona for the first time! I'd read all about it, seen the pictures, and was pumped for “food trucks serving high quality food.” I was imagining a big, San Francisco-like warehouse filled to the brim with creative dishes, fresh ingredients, and long lines. My cousin and I got to Nau Bostik around 4PM and had a few hours to eat our faces off. As we approached the venue we heard music pumping, saw the graffitied building poking over the raised parking lot, and hurried our pace. We raced right up to the entrance only to realize there was a line. There was a long line. We followed it down the stretching sidewalk. Then we followed it around the corner and halfway down the next street. “No worries” we assured ourselves, the line will move quickly. As we shuffled along for the next hour my hopes were slowly being dashed. I was surrounded by beards, panama hats, round sunglasses, and bell bottoms that I didn't know were back in style, and all I could think was that I hoped we would get to eat something before we had to leave.
With 45 minutes to spare, close to two hours after arriving, our turn finally came! Hooray! It'll all be worth it once we eat some incredible food!
As our stomachs attempted to not eat themselves while outside the promised land, my cousin had said, “I know they won't have it, but I would be so excited for a pulled pork sandwich right now!” Once inside we did a quick runaround to get a lay of the land and low and behold Cloudstreet had exactly what we were looking for. We hopped in yet another line and ordered “dos animales” and our food was in our stomachs almost as soon as it was in our hands. In between bites and breaths I asked, “What do you think?” “It's a little dry, but I'm starving.” She was right (on both accounts). Alright, not a home run, but it was food and we were hungry (to say the least). On to the next.
Grasshopper was our second victim and we hoped they would warm our bodies and fill our bellies with their steaming bowls of ramen. It did the trick, but I was left wanting. I love a good bowl of ramen, and I'd give Grasshopper a second chance to impress, but unfortunately I'd leave the review at bland. Now I know that most Spaniards would tell me I've deadened my taste buds by constantly smothering my meals in sauces and spices, but I'd argue that these sauces and spices enhance, rather than mask, my meal's flavors and that both should be used liberally when appropriate.
Interestingly, my favorite stops were the two with the shortest lines. Butipa's bravas were pretty close to perfect. I'd argue they needed more sauce as our last few were just regular old fried potatoes, but the differentiating factor for bravas is the sauce and theirs was delicious: slightly spicy, creamy, and well textured. Reflecting on it, maybe the very faint idea of spiciness was reason for their lack of line. Whatever it was, I was a fan and I hope they're back. Also delicious as well as intriguing was The Milk & Coffee who shared their Velopresso bicycle-powered coffee shop with Eat Street. Somehow by 7PM they were only able to serve single shots, or cortados, which I can't imagine was good for business, but I'd definitely head back for more.
So the food was fine, the wait was atrocious, the venue was cool (though obviously not nearly big enough) and the overall experience was pretty meh. What could Eat Street do better? Well, let me tell you, we came up with some pretty great ideas while waiting in line:
- Make the event paid. There are loads of options here, but here are a couple:
- Everyone could pay a small fee and reserve an entrance time frame online (a la Parc Guell). All Eat Street would have to know is an estimate of how long the average visitor stays.
- Allow VIP access. After two hours in line I realized my threshold is 20€. If at 4PM I could have parted with 20€ in exchange for immediate access to the venue, it would have been a no brainer.
- Get a bigger venue. I know this is a little “duh” and maybe they're trying, but it had to be said. I think a greater variety and quantity of food trucks would be appreciated as well.
- Sell the tokens used to pay for food while people wait in the entrance line and let people sell the coins back once they're back outside of the gates. The long line was about capacity, right? Get everyone in and out of the venue 10 minutes quicker by dealing with money exchange while outside of the venue's gates. As a pleasant side effect, this would also open up a whole other warehouse for more trucks - and more capacity! Win-win-win!
Do I realize I sound like a total snob? Do I realize that there are probably a whole host of other logistical issues the event staff was dealing with day of? Do I realize that people are getting sick and tired of listening to me gripe about Spain's lack of spices and sauces? Yes. Absolutely. And I'm not writing Eat Street Barcelona off yet. Maybe I'll be back on March 12th or maybe I'll wait a couple of months to let the logistics continue to evolve. I'll let you know.