The Great American Food and Music Festival
The Great American Food & Music Festival (6/13/09), Mountain View, CA

If you made it to the Great American Food & Music Festival this weekend, you may still be grumbling, “You mean the not so great American no-Food Festival”…

Katz’s Deli, New York Pastrami on Rye

The first time event was just not prepared for the hordes of hungry festival-goers, eyes glowing red from want of a Katz’s Pastrami and other best of the best eats from around the country.

With an influx of over 15,000 patrons descending upon the festival, chaos ensued as systems crashed, credit cards were rendered useless, and lines upon lines multiplied.


…and more lines

Passive-aggressive behavior escalated to aggressive-aggressive revolts as people waited an hour plus just to get into the Shoreline Amphitheatre, waited to add money to wristbands so they could purchase food, and then waited some more to actually get close to that glorious food.

Junior’s Cheesecake

Propane griddles failed, food ran out, and disgruntled folks stood in lines for hours on end. Yes hours (that’s plural). Those Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings were mighty tasty, but were they worth 3 hours of standing in line?

Grievance aside, once you managed to get to some food, it was delicious.

A burger from Bobby

Coupled with some big cold beers, beautiful weather, some green grass to sit on, and a little entertainment, the day ended up being a fun day in the sun.

Great American Food & Music Fest, Serious Eats stage

Not to mention, the opportunity to get up close and personal with the talented chefs and proprietors who make some of the best food around the country. And of course, Food Network celeb chefs galore: Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Anne Burrell, and Aida Mollenkamp.

Highlights of the festival:

Pinks Famous Hot Dogs
Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs

Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs from LA were my favorite item of the day. A meaty dog with that great snap when you bite into it, topped with chili, cheese, kraut, mustard, catsup, relish, and onions. A sloppy, amazing, delicious mess.

SF Weekly Burger Challenge
SF Weekly Burger Challenge

Bay Area favorites, BurgerMeister, Pearl’s Phatburgers, Bistro Burger, and Mo’s Grill duked it out for the title of Best Burger.

Bistro Burger’s rich, creamy Paris Burger, with brie and sautéed mushrooms, impressed even grill master Bobby with its crazy juiciness.

Pearls Hawaiian Burger
SF Weekly’s Best Burger Winner: Pearl’s Hawaiian Burger

But, it was no match for Pearl’s Hawaiian Burger, with sliced pineapple, bacon, teriyaki sauce, jack and mayo, which took first with its sweet, spicy, exotic burger o’ love.

Rockstar Performance from Guy Fieri
Rockstar Performance from Guy Fieri

Must give props to Guy, he rocked the crowd with a highly entertaining blowout performance complete with loud rock n’roll, gratuitous hot chicks on stage, big machinery, power tools, and pyrotechnics.

All in all, a day that was admittedly frustrating, but not without some bright spots. If the people don’t lynch them first, here’s hoping that producers of The Great American Food & Music Festival can learn from mistakes and come back with a better, more organized, less stressful event next year.

Baby likes Brisket
Baby likes Brisket

We’re rooting for you to work out the kinks because we know that bringing together America’s best is no easy feat. Looking forward to next year!

The Great American Food & Music Festival 15 June,2009Stephanie Hua

  • Haggie

    Anyone stupid enough to attend a “food festival” that is hosted by Bobby Flay AND Guy Fieri deserves exactly what they get.

    The only event they should host is a “Battle of the Talentless Douchebags”.

  • ludwigk

    I was so excited for this event, but I could not have been more let down. It was a constant scavenger hunt for some actual food, and I spent several hours uncomfortably hungry before I actually got anything to eat. Bobby Flay? Musical guests? Sorry, I was standing in line ALL DAY, and missed every single event that occurred. I could hear wafts of distorted Big Bad VooDoo Daddy, but their set was about 1/3 the amount of time it took to get pastrami. *sigh*

  • teamku

    A complete fiasco. The pictures of the food look great. Too bad I never tasted it. I was stuck in hour long line after line, only to find they ran out of food.

  • Cameron

    You have got to be kidding me. Did Bobby Flay hand-feed you a burger, or maybe something else? I guess that the moral of this story is to treat the press well.

    Unmitigated disaster is too nice a phrase for this botched mess. I’m sure that the food was good, BUT NOBODY COULD GET ANY.

  • Melissa Flores

    I’m not sure the long lines and crowds were worth it, but the festival served one purpose for me – it made me realize that local restaurants can rival that Texas brisket and New York cheesecake anyday – with a much shorter wait!

  • My son purchased these tickets for me for Mothers Day. I have watched food tv for years. Have cooked since I was very young & throw every holiday for 5 children & spouses & now 4 grandchildren. Up to events that have served 35 people or a party for 150.I have never been so disappointed in my life. Forget the $’s for parking & tickets but I won’t wait in line for over 3 hours for anything! I left sadned that my son’s gift was such a “cluster F**K as he put it but doubt I will ever attemp an event at shoreline ever!!! As far as Bobbi Flay hosting- what a sad day for food network!!We left & went out to eat 4 hours later!I would honestly love to participate in putting this together if it ever happens again!!! Kathy

  • marsanon

    yeah i agree with cameron. i guess when you are part of the media, you get a day that “ended up being a fun day in the sun.” — the rest of us stood in line for HOURS and got NOTHING except frustration and hunger. it was a complete EPIC FAIL.

    good to know the demo’s and music were fun. we wouldn’t know, since we spent the entire day waiting in line for.. did i mention? NOTHING!

    thanks for the food pics. nice to know what we completely missed out on.

  • cameron & marsanon: regarding press treatment, admittedly, i was lucky enough to bypass the insane line to get into the venue, and was able to score front seats for the burger contest (without which I would not have been able to provide you with such lovely foodporn — ahem, btw cameron, that was the only kind of porn going on).

    However, i did wait for hours in line for food just like everyone else. Waited in the wings/pastrami line for 3.5 hours to get to the front, and then another 2 hrs after they said they ran out of pastrami, only to be told we could only buy 1 measly plate of wings. A total clusterfck and frustrating, and failness.

    i was fortunate enough to be granted a media pass but would be asking for a refund if i had to pay the entrance fee. (Have you asked for a refund?)

  • Melissa: cheers to that! we do have it good here. imagine how much happier folks would have been if the magic curry cart showed up to feed people lined up outside.

  • Kathyrn: ugh that breaks my heart. what a sweet boy you have. for what it’s worth, SE seems to be taking to heart any constructive criticism for future planning, you should send your thoughts to them. I sent a list of 13 points myself.

  • I was there all day, from 8am – 11pm, working on the music half of the festival. And for our part, I think it was a good day. The sound and tech crews were professional and friendly, and I think the music performances were almost flawless. Ok, one glitch with a band who didn’t all fit on the small stage. But for such a large event, people truly did a fantastic job from the planning stages to the end.

    I do hope Serious Eats and all involved give the food half some further consideration and try again.

  • tim

    It was a mess. I waited in line for 2:15 and was still 1 hour away from the window when I gave up. I too was looking forward to this event and the Shoreline is hardly an amatuer at these things. The facility is not made to have 15,000 in the food areas at one time. One rumor was they expected 5,000 and did not plan for 15,000. They fail on many levels and will have to prove a great deal before I would go again.

  • Anthony

    EPIC DISASTER!!! For the media to present the food like that is to rub all attendees noses in it. Once again, NOBODY GOT ANY FOOD!!! Instead, you paid money for the great experience of California “fun in the sun” day to see how long one could tollerate hunger before breaking down and giving in. It’s a food fest. There is a reason why everyone comes hungry…to go home full! I was there for a total of 6 hrs but gave into hunger. At least I got my money back. Count me OUT next year!

  • homegrownfilms

    Oh come on! I guess the media DID have a completely different experience than the rest of us. For more on the truth of this failed event, check out these rants.

  • steve sando

    What a contrast to the Cochon 555 event! That event was well run, the crowd was VERY well-fed and it was incredibly fun.
    Serving a lot of people good food well seems to be impossible, especially with an ambitious menu. Even Slow Food was heavily criticized for their techniques in delivering the goods. Maybe smaller events, like smaller food production, are what deliver.

    I also wonder why no one has questioned the wisdom of East Coasters coming here and telling us what good food is. I have been to New York and I look forward to deli food and maybe even a a cheesecake but I would be fine without them ever again. But take my padron pepper? My Zuni chicken? My taco truck? That would be a problem.

  • Barbara

    My husband is a huge cooking & cooking channel fan and I love music, so I thought the festival sounded like great fun for both of us. Yes, it was incrdibly disorganized and the lines for food were outrageous. We got around it by getting there early; now I understand there was a long wait just to get into the dang thing. We got around the long lines by grabbing a pastrami sandwich immediately for me, a peanut butter & jelly a little later for him; not much wait there. Forget getting a cheeseburger, filled up on cheesecake; again-not a bad line, til later in the evening, then finally after the line went away got our cheeseburgers & french fries around 6 ot 7 PM. Whew-but that took stategy! And it shouldn’t have!
    And-thought the music was great and well-selected for the general age group there. But, there again, by the time Little Feat came on stage, most everyone had gone home by then. They were and are incredible musicians so that was kinda pathetic that virtually no one was there to see & hear them. The upshot, we got to move down from our cheap seats to 4th row from the stage!
    Hope they do a better job organizing next year. Example, there were some people, a very few, who appeared to be looking at an agenda they got somewhere (where???), but the majority of us had no idea of when the cooking shows or musical group’s times were, until they yelled it out on stage, like 30 minutes until VooDoo Devils.
    Maybe the organizers should look at food fests like Taste of Chicago-theyv’e been feeding thousands of happy Chicagoans for years now.
    Guess we’ll never know if they get better at it next year, ’cause I don’t think we’d go back,…

  • Perhaps this will finally keep Ed Levine from opening his underinformed but constantly yapping and criticizing mouth for awhile. It’s not as easy as it looks, is it Ed?

  • I really wanted to go. I guess I didn’t miss much. I remember the very first food fest. I went to was that way and I haven’t given another one a try yet. ~Amanda

  • Cat

    Ah, it wasn’t that bad. It mellowed out
    after 4 pm. Technological screw ups happen.
    I’m sure next year they’ll have
    worked out the kinks.
    I showed up later in the afternoon
    and had a great time.
    Although, they ran out of ice cream!

  • While I recognize this event was a complete disaster, somehow me and a friend still had our own fun. Even when nine months pregnant and literal hours away from going into labor.

    Now I can tell my son that a magical Katz pastrami sandwich brought him into this world 12 days ahead of schedule. It’s a perfect birth story for a foodie-led life.

  • congrats, Stephanie!! i can only imagine the headlines if you had gone into labor right on that katz’s line. hoooray magic baby-birthing pastrami! it’s a good omen for the little guy 🙂


Stephanie Hua

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and there is no room in life for non-fat cheese and crappy chocolate. Also, a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.

Stephanie has been known to choose her company based on how much they can pack it down. Ability to endure cramped quarters, sketchy back alleys, and uncharted paths to seek out that special dish is also a plus in her book. If you fit the criteria, drop a note. You’ll probably get along just fine.

Stephanie’s writing and photography have been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Serious Eats, and Sundance Channel. Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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