By Frank Sabatini Jr.
After gaining considerable steam at venues along the Las Vegas strip, The Great American Foodie Fest is launching its first tour outside of Nevada as it rolls into the northwest parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium on March 27-29.
The event brings together a mix of restaurants, specialty food vendors and dozens of “celebrity” food trucks spotlighted in recent years on The Food Network, The Cooking Channel and The Travel Channel. Among those taking part are several local favorites such as Devilicious, Currywurst and Crepes Bonaparte.
They will be joined by nearly 50 other vendors of local and national origins amid a focal presence by White Castle Systems Inc., which plans on trucking in from Cleveland the ingredients for making and selling 100,000 of its iconic mini burgers during the three-day event.
The festival has been running twice annually in Las Vegas since 2012, attracting more than 50,000 attendees in October. It also features carnival rides, live entertainment and an area for beer, wine and cocktails.
“Our numbers keep growing,” says Noel Casimiro, president of Red Dragon LLC, a Las Vegas-based events group known also for organizing the Las Vegas Asian Food Festival as well as golf tournaments and family fun runs in that city.
“We love seeing on national TV all of the restaurants, specialty vendors and food trucks featured around the country. So we began bringing the best of them into one local destination, and we thought that San Diego would be a great fit for our first expansion outside of Las Vegas.”
Admission into the festival is $8 a day or $13 for a weekend pass if purchased in advance at www.greatamericanfoodiefest.com. Gate prices are $10 and $15, respectively. Once inside, attendees purchase their meals and beverages a la carte from the vendors. Food items will average between $5 and $10, Casimiro said.
The bill of fare runs a wide gamut, including Taiwanese cuisine by Taipei Street Food and surf-n-turf burgers from Chubby’s, both of San Diego, along with seafood from The Lobster Shack in Las Vegas and potatoes many ways from Tornado of Irvine.
In addition, Devilicious from Temecula will motor in with its specialty grilled cheese sandwiches featured on popular cooking shows while the Currywurst truck gives attendees a taste of its spicy German pork sausages seen also on national television.
White Castle will make a dramatic showing with a 20-by-80-foot tent housing five grills and 20 employees in addition to a food truck parked alongside.
The company’s famous two-bite burgers, slung from established grills throughout the Northeast and Midwest since 1921, are expected to draw a frenzy since they are only available to West Coast consumers in grocery-store freezer sections.
“We’ll have separate lines for people ordering 10 or less, 30 or less and another for customers buying however many they want,” says Steve Foreman, a district supervisor for White Castle. “At the events in Las Vegas, we’ve seen purchases of 300 sliders per person.”
The burgers, garnished with grilled onions and a pickle, will be sold in pairs for $2 (or $3 with cheese). For San Diegans who have never tried the sliders or moved here with a longing for them, the festival presents a rare opportunity to buy them fresh because “there are no plans to open a White Castle anywhere in Southern California,” Foreman said.
The festival will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight on March 27; noon to midnight on March 28; and noon to 8 p.m. on March 29. It will feature a main stage with non-stop entertainment that includes live DJs in between band performances. For more information, visit www.greatamericanfoodiefest.com.