Foodies and gourmands alike flocked to Jack London Square this weekend for the fourth annual Eat Real Festival. The event, from Friday to Sunday, showcased street foods from around the globe, locally sourced wines and crafted microbrews, with an emphasis on sustainable and regional ingredients.
Among the dozens of vendors who traveled to the festival from the Bay Area—including those from Birmingham, Half Moon Bay, Napa and beyond—to dole out bite-sized plates, steaming bowls and transportable treats for $5 or less, were El Porteño Empanadas, Chop Bar, 4505 Meats, Hodo Soy, Señor Sisig and Sam’s ChowderMobile.
“We enjoy the work,” said Charlie Rome as he chopped lamb for The Whole Beast, a San Francisco-based catering company that prides itself on an artisanal philosophy in which the whole animal is cooked and prepared without waste. “The organizers are really great, they make it easy for us to be here. It’s always crowded, always a good consumer group.”
To wash it all down, libations from nearly 20 breweries like San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery and Oakland’s own Linden Street Brewery, were on tap for $5 a mason jar. Cocktails and wines sourced from the East Bay Vintners Alliance also rounded out the bar.
Wares from Company Jam, House Kombucha and Farmhouse Culture were sold at the festival’s Craft Marketplace. Those too full to continue eating could watch master butchers compete to break down pigs and steers the fastest, learn the ins and outs of urban gardening and backyard animal husbandry in Oakland, or try their hands at DIY pizza-making, sausage-crafting and gluten-free baking demonstrations.
Funds from Eat Real benefit the Food Craft Institute, an Oakland-based non-profit that works to improve small and medium-sized food businesses. Since Eat Real began in 2009, it has generated over $1.5 million in revenues for participating vendors and has attracted more than 500,000 people, according to the Food Craft Institute’s website. Volunteer manager Charlotte Tanaka, who has worked for Eat Real since its inception, said the festival has remained volunteer-based so that admission can continue to be free. About 450 volunteers were on hand this weekend, she said.
“I love seeing their faces light up, seeing them have a good time and asking, ‘When can I do this again?’ It makes me feel like we’re doing something right,” Tanaka said. “People get what we’re doing, they like what we’re doing. It’s a community of common values.”