A vegetarian food festival... in a city that loves its food... pretty brilliant idea, no? I was pretty excited about this event, so yesterday I headed over to the west side of Manhattan to check it out just in case there was a veggie burger or two to see...
I knew it started at 10am, and I had thought about trying to arrive early, honestly I did, but I ended up getting a bit distracted that morning, and did not arrive at the venue until 2:45. I saw a line of people as I was walking west on 18th street, and figured there was probably a bit of a line to get in but wasn't too worried - until I realized that this line, sizable though it was, was merely for people waiting to order food from The Cinnamon Snail food truck. The line to for the festival itself was coming towards the doors from the other direction... I followed it the length of 18th street to 7th Avenue, up the avenue, and then back east on 19th street where I finally saw the end of it. It was like waiting in line for a huge concert (and the last time I was in a line that long was probably indeed for a concert).
view of the line going down 7th Avenue
To make a long story short, I waited in line for just over two hours. Security guards from the building the festival was being held in came walking past the line several times and were quite rude to everyone waiting in line, telling us that the doors would be closing at 5:00 and that we would not make it in, and that we should just leave now. When I just stared blankly back at one of them (I was halfway through the line by this time, judging by how fast it was moving I guessed I would just squeeze in through the front door before 5pm) he snapped in my face "Hello? Do you understand me?"
I decided this sign was wrong, since I had gotten halfway through the line in "only" an hour by the time I reached this point... maybe it was a joke? or put up earlier when the line was moving even slower (if that was possible!)
18th Street... half a block away from the entrance! I would point it out in the photo but you still can't really see it yet...
The highlight of the whole tedious line-waiting experience was when the guys from The V-Spot started walking down the line selling vegan empanadas for $3.
Tofu with vegan cheese - it was delicious!
Finally, the line reached the door!
Some of those rude security guys guarding the entrance
Inside was absolutely packed full of people. It was extremely difficult to walk from table to table, people were pushing and crowding, eagerly grabbing at the free samples and trying to shove their way to the front of some of the displays. I didn't see anyone get into an altercation over it, but I would honestly have not been surprised to see a fight break out, it was just that crowded!
I had been a bit worried that there would be no more samples of actual FOOD left by the time I got in, after that lengthy line, but most of the people who had set up tables had thankfully brought enough samples to appease even this insanely large turnout. I tried so many things that I couldn't photograph or write down everything, but it included a lot of vegan chocolate, other desserts, healthy vegetable-based snacks, etc. Some were from companies I'd heard of before (like Earth Balance), others were smaller brands I was not familiar with, and some (like V-Spot, who had a table inside as well) were local restaurants. While most places were giving out small samples for free, others were charging a dollar or two for a small plate of vegan macaroni or a scoop of vegan ice cream.
vegan marshmallows from Sweet and Sara - I was so excited to be able to buy vegan Peeps!
I LOVED the Teese mozzarella sticks! They probably had the biggest crowd of pushiest people around their table, too, all waiting to get a sample.
And I picked up a pack of marshmallows to bring home, since I've never had the chance to buy Dandies before.
The The V-Spot guys posing for a photo!
Delicious vegan macaroni and cheese with mock-chicken from The Loving Hut
There were even samples of Coconut Bliss ice cream
The raffle tickets being drawn for prizes...
I didn't see any veggie burgers anywhere, but I wasn't too disappointed by that (they would be rather hard to serve samples of, I suppose... unless they were sliders!)
Overall, I was glad that I was able to get in and have time to sample everything. Too bad I missed the cupcake and donut eating competitions (not that I wanted to participate... just watch!). Was it worth the long wait in line? I'm not sure. The fact that it was so crowded inside, and so hard to walk around or see anything, was quite a bummer. While I loved the samples that I tried, it seemed like there still weren't really enough different products and restaurants for what turned out to be such a big festival. Clearly the organizers were taken by surprise by the huge turnout, but I'm still a little baffled as to why that came as a surprise, when the event was being promoted so extensively in the last couple weeks.... Technical/organizational difficulties aside though, it was clearly a success - its popularity pretty much guarantees that it will happen again a next year (hopefully bigger and better then!)
When I left, The Cinnamon Snail was still outside - with no line now! I've been dying to try their food for ages (but have never made it out to Hoboken to visit their truck before)... so I was really excited to purchase one of their cinnamon buns. Unfortunately, it was just really stiff and dry, like it had been sitting out all day... which I'm sure it had. I couldn't even finish it. It was probably good when fresh, alas :(
I heard other people in line raving about the sandwiches they got from the truck though, so I'll give them another chance as soon as I can.