A tip of the hat to Spud Hilton who wrote an article in the SF Chronicle about this six block extravaganza on Thursday nights with about 120 vendors (link to original article at the end).
Theres two long blocks of food vendors, two blocks of farmers market and two blocks of arts, crafts and booths for every political, social and religious organization in the country. I think all 130 candidates for California governor had a booth. Maybe thats a slight exaggeration.
On each block a different band entertains the crowds with rock, pop, folk and ethnic music. There are strolling jugglers, puppeteers and balloon vendors for the children which adds even more color to this festive event.
People sit on the street curbs eating piles of ribs and other goodies. Being a bright bulb, I wore a white shirt to the BBQ, the stained remains of which I offered to the parking gods who smiled at me. I found a place almost next to one of the more popular stands, so I hauled my find back to the car to eat. And I do mean haul. The beef ribs were close to those huge Fred Flintstone type ribs that tip the car over.
My strategy was to find the BBQ stand with the longest line and ask the waiting hordes what was best. My choice was F. McLintocks BarbQ. The lines were long, but organized and moved fast. I bought a cup of the award winning lemonade to ease the wait.
A huge black cauldron of hot coals was filled with roasting corn on the cob. If you asked for butter, it was slathered on with a brush from a bucket of melted butter.
For $6 the combo plate had generous and perfectly BBQd beef ribs, a pork munchie which turned out to be huge, juicy, meaty pork ribs, and a choice of chicken kebobs or tri-tip. I chose the tri-tip which was my least favorite meat, but the serving was generous with 12 cubes of tri-tip on a skewer. There were free cups of chow-chow made of sweet onions and bell peppers. Tables covered with red and white checkered table cloths groaned under condiments for your meat.
The ample meal filled me so I could only gaze longingly at the festival of food which wasnt limited to BBQ. On the Spot was offering tri-tip burritos.
The stands offering sushi or wraps like Oasis Mediterranean Wraps were less crowded. Mondeo was selling ahi wasabi and mushu chicken. I think most of the ethnic foods were represented.
For $5 Mothers Tavern was offering the following sandwiches: shredded pork, tri-tip, Italian sausage, and shredded chicken. Their beef ribs were $2. They sold garlic bread (1.50), like all of the other 9 BBQ stands.
SLO brewing was also selling beef ribs for $2 in addition to BBQ turkey legs ($4) and Rays linguicia on a stick ($2).
Pot pies seem to be popular in SLO where they were sold at a few stands. Zpie was charging $2.50 for their very substantial gourmet pot pies.
Linns of SLO was selling fruit pies, pot pies and desserts. The House of Bread had a selection of, well, bread. (Darn!. I forgot to try them. They seem to be opening chains around the country that were being trashed on Chowhound. NOW I think of it. I was in a meat trance).
Dog Fathers was selling hot dogs you cant refuse.
While most of the prepared food is in a two block stretch, there are a few BBQ stands at the end of the farmers market section. Mos smokehouse BBQ had a sign that they were the SLO cook-off winner 8 years in a row. They had shredded pork with slaw and tri-tip with salsa. Louisas BBQ was also at the end (or beginning of the farmers market). Buena Tavolo was selling tirami so (their spelling).
Ive only touched on a few of the food vendors. And each of the vendors Ive mentioned had many more items than I noted. There was ice cream, kettle corn, cotton candy, etc. etc.
I was envious of their farmers market. I had the best nectarines ever . EVER... at Regier family farm. The Artic Pride white nectarines were sugar sweet and juicy. HOWEVER, a night time farmers market isnt a good thing. Even though the stands were lighted, its hard to judge the fruit in the dark. By accident, I picked out a few nectarines that needed a few days ripening.
Cal Poly had a stand of produce called Fruit Science. It sounded scary. I probably would have asked what this involved but the guys at the stand were trying to impress a few of the coeds and were otherwise occupied.
There were some delicious garlic roasted peanuts in their shell. Fordens of SLO was selling almonds roasted in water with sugar and cinnamon. No oil was involved in the roasting process.
A small unnamed vendor was selling roasted and raw almonds. He was one of the only vendors not offering samples. Im sorry I didnt think to buy a few bags roasted and raw. He was offering two varieties of almonds nonpareil and woodcolony. I never realized there WERE different varieties of almonds. He said nonparieil were the most common type of almond and the woodcolony were rare. When I asked how raw almonds were used, he said that they are for cooking so that you dont overcook almonds in a recipe.
Willow Creek Ranch sells an elegant olive oil. Stotleys Bee Farm (BEE HAPPY), had a nice selection of honey.
A vendor selling sweet white tuberoses, perfumed the entire block with their seductive smell. In fact the whole six blocks were scented as shoppers who bought the flowers strolled along the other areas offering passing whiffs of tuberoses. It was the perfect summer evening, where you long to linger out doors in the comfortable warm, but not too hot, evening. The type of night where, after a picnic with the relatives, you would relax on the veranda and watch the fireflies while gazing at the stars. The SLO BBQ and market had the feeling of a family picnic.
Held every Thursday except Thanksgiving and when it rains. The BBQ is on Friday Thanksgiving week. The BBQ is from 6pm to 9pm, but get there early. Ive never seen any event shut down so quickly. By 9pm the vendors are gone. The vendors set up at 5:30, at 6 the food is available and the produce stands open at 6:30.
Heres the Chronicle link.