How to Navigate Food Festivals



Surviving a food safari is all about preparation.Surviving a food safari is all about preparation.We're now entering serious food festival season, and many more will be rolling out across the country all summer. (This includes Bon Appetit's own Grub Crawl events in New York, Chicago, and Charleston!) As we all know, these things can be rough: long lines, high temperatures, food shortages, and so on. They can also be awesome--if you know what you're doing.

But how do you know if a line is too long? How can you tell if a reputed chef is hawking lazy leftovers or her next genius creation? When should you invest in a VIP pass? We canvassed the BA staff for their golden nuggets of wisdom, and now we have answers.

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Christine Muhlke, Executive Editor
* Years ago, while figuring out where the heck to eat in Corsica, an island with only one (very bad) restaurant guide, a chef told me, "It's easy: Look for the happy people." So as much as I hate lines, I'm usually much happier with the food that I wait for than with what I end up with at the near-empty table. It's empty for a reason. Bonus: When standing in line, you can ask people where else they've eaten that they loved. Strangers are always happy to talk about food.
* Be the loser who gets there on time. That way you can eat everything before everyone wakes up, then hit your favorites a second time.
* Educate yourself: If you're traveling out of town to eat (see: Jazzfest, Taste of Chicago), either try to go with a local or read as much local press about the participants as you can ahead of time.
* If you're a super eco dork like me, bring your own reusable silverware and refillable cup. And Wet Wipes...

Andrew Knowlton, Restaurant and Drinks Editor
* Pay the extra money to get a VIP ticket or at least a ticket that gets you in early. As Christine Muhlke says, "A little lanyard goes a long way."
* Divide and conquer: Split up the group you are with so each of you can wait in separate lines for food. Reconvene at determined spot and let the picnic begin.
* Everyone will probably be drinking beer and wine so see if the booze lines are shorter. Nothing beats a highball in the middle of the day.

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Carla Lalli Music, Food and Features Editor
* Eat a little something before you go. It will help keep the cheerfulness up while waiting in line.
* Bring your own beverages, if you're allowed.

Meryl Rothstein, Senior Associate Editor
* Don't go to places you go to in real life. In other words, do you LOVE Roberta's? Then don't go to their stand. Because you've been there before, and you already have a good idea of what the restaurant can do. One of the fun things about festivals if that they've rounded up all these places from across the city (or country, sometimes) and are bringing them to one place. Use it as an opportunity to try restaurants you normally don't get to go to.

Adam Rapoport, Editor in Chief
* Wear sunscreen.
* Drink, obviously. But also drink water.

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