First Fridays

Dessert, next to the Grilled Cheese Truck
First Fridays
Abbot Kinney
Venice, CA 90291
Follow First Fridays on Facebook
Type: Food Truck Festival, Seasonal (Monthly) Category: Dinner, Late-Night  
Company: Date, Friends, Visitors, Family, anyone who likes to eat at places other than a table 

Cost: The right to roam Abbot Kinney is free. Food runs at general food-truck pricing - but I spent close to $30 getting a gyro, a drink, a few small desserts - (and a 4th meal at 11pm after hanging out for a while).

Quick-Rec: Bring cash and a high tolerance for delightfully awkward confrontation. 

OTC Tip: You will run in to people you know: The pals you haven't seen for a while, the randoms you hide from, and probably one or two more you can't even begin to intuit. When my friend and I went we ran in to a few friends from our college (years ago) lives, a guy she met (days prior) at a mixer, and our beach bootcamp trainer, Todd. 

Here's the thing: LA is wise to what draws a crowd. Take a narrow street notorious for being hipstamatic, open it to a drone of 50+ food trucks (ranging from those prodigy to famous restaurants such as Border Grill and Sprinkles to ones that don't own a store front like DumplingStation and Dogzillahotdogs), claim the start is right during rush hour, make parking stereotypical-LA, and there you have it - exclusivity, at it's most alluring.

In sum, First Fridays is the celebrated attempt by LA's gluttonous yuppies of all ages, shapes, and sizes to rival Berkeley's term "gourmet-ghetto" by putting it all on wheels and insisting with no other option that you eat locavorian items on paper plates while sitting on the curb and wiping your hands on your $300 pants.

As timing is everything, FF only happens once a month - on, as implied, the first Friday. In conjunction with the usual "open late" cast of restaurants and bars on Abbot Kinney, this is the one night the neighboring shops selling non-edibles keep the lights on until 10pm as well (not that anybody cares - people are at FF for the food, so such lit doorstops are used for truly nothing other than well-lit picnics) and, of utmost importance, provide enough light so that you don't have to strain your eyes to read the menus on the backs of the trains of parked food trucks.

My (first) First Friday was in April. After putting in the allotted hour to get there during peak traffic hours from Santa Monica, we snagged a parking spot about five minutes from Abbot Kinney (half the battle) and scuttled on over to see what it was all about. Starting at Abbot Kinney and S. Venice Blvd, we decided to walk down AK on one side of the street and back on the other, glance through the parking lot conglomerate, then decide what to eat.

Due to the lines, the large numbers of people on dates, parents with kids, gaggles of friends and hoards of teenagers, the walk that normally would have taken us twenty minutes took close to 45. While FF is definitely not a "quick-eat" and a poor place to go if you are already starving, I promise you will be blindingly drooling after a few minutes of breathing in grease-saturated air and checking out everyone else eating kabob, tacos, potato tornadoes, mini cupcakes, ice cream sandwiches, and every other type of food fusion that fits in the palm of your hand or can be carried on a stick.

The great thing is that everyone is nice. People don't cut in line, take your food, or bitch at you as you try to jostle by. I think if you go to FF you know what you are getting in to, and if you put in the commitment to a) get there and b) find parking, a short wait or constantly wading through crowds for food is a mere side-conversation to...

...What should you eat? Be careful - after a while, every menu starts to look like a list of x-y-z food stuffed/wrapped/fried in or in to the shape of a taco, burrito, quesadilla, or gyro. No complaints, but if you want to a clear winner I recommend eating from the Vizzi Truck (Wagyu Beef Sliders with Truffled Popcorn) since every other person has already told you about the Kogi Truck and the Grilled Cheese truck and I don't want to tread on redundancy.

Yep, they still remember me at Diddy Riese...
Being the sugar fiend and a devout lover of everything cookies and ice cream, when I saw Coolhaus (ice cream sandwich truck) my feet stopped. Also having an unparalleled love for bacon, I went for the special of salty-and-sweet and got the Candied Bacon ice cream between Maple Waffle cookies. Much to the devastation of such adult fantasies, bacon does not make everything better - and I was aptly punished. Sadly, the ice cream was a bit flabby and the cookies a margin too thin.

Then again, Coolhaus MAY just be in an up-hill battle: to this day I'm unconvinced that any sandwich will ever be a fair rival to my college love, Diddy Riese.

Now, I'd be lying if I told you that FF is all PG-13. Most people "of age" grab a bite, linger at a bar on AK (or down by the beach at such establishments as James' Beach) which are but a $5 cab ride away. Here's the key: Make sure to get back to AK around midnight, right before the last of the late-coming food trucks are about to leave (but aren't really, because they are making a killing feeding the post-bar feeding frenzies) and grab a "snack" (I had a Korean bbq quesadilla).

If at this point you are pouting because you live too far away or work too late to make a First Friday, don't cry - you can always find one of the prized food trucks by following your choice on twitter - most tweet their daily locations so you can have your very own foodfest from wheels any day, time, and place of the week.

Everyone else, you are in luck: First Fridays (May) is this Friday (5/6)! See you there.


Kevin said...

Great review. Thanks for sharing the information -- I'm heading to FF tonight, and your advice is quite helpful!

Sallie said...

Glad to help, Kevin!!! Def also look for Holy Aioli -- AMAZING sandwiches!!!!

Sara said...

Love it. We are heading to LA for the first time in 10 days and will be there on Fiday 11/4. Is FF still going on in early November?

Sallie said...

Hi Sara!

Wonderful! First Friday is so fun and YES, it will be happening in November! Definitely check it out and bring cash and an empty stomach. I recommend the Vizzi truck, Holy Aioli, the Kogi truck..and really...any/all of them....have fun!!!! Also, bring a jacket because it can get cold.

Sara said...

Thanks for the recommendation- can't wait :)

Sara said...

Oh, forgot to ask- Where is the best place to park, and what time should we get there? We're interested in Kogi truck, Vizzi truck, Holy Aioli, and Lardon trucks.

Sallie said...

Oooo let me know how the Lardon truck goes!

Let's see -- it gets busy and parking is tough round Abbot Kinney in general, but I would get there between 6 and 7 and park on Venice Blvd - we've had luck on the south side east of where abbot kinney hits venice blvd. The side streets are a good option (the ones off of venice blvd). Wear walking shoes!

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