upper waypoint

This Fall Marks the Return of the In-Person Food Festival

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A crowded room of people in orange aprons and chef's hats, all preparing kimchi on the table in front of them.
A kimchi-making workshop at the 2019 edition of the Chuseok Festival in San Francisco. This year, the event will once again be held in person at the Presidio. (Mark Shigenaga)

Find more of KQED’s picks for the best Fall 2022 events here.

For the food enthusiast, fall in the Bay Area means bacon-wrapped hot dogs, pumpkin pie eating contests and ungodly quantities of garlic noodles scarfed out of a little paper tray. In other words, it’s peak food festival season—or at least it was until the past two years, when COVID safety concerns cancelled most of these gatherings outright and forced others to shrink themselves down into Zoom- and takeout-friendly form.

It’s a sign of how far we’ve come, then, that most of the biggest and most beloved fall food festivals and other food-related events are back in full force—and fully in person—this year. Make no mistake: We’re still in a pandemic, and it’s important to be mindful of other festival-goers’ safety and comfort level. (Don’t let anyone shame you for wearing a mask!) But if you’ve been looking forward to standing in a line with a couple dozen other lumpia lovers or vegan ice cream aficionados, we’ve got some great options for you.

A big aluminum tray of Greek pastitsio, the top cooked to golden brown.
Big trays of bubbling-hot, golden-brown pastitsio are one of the savory attractions at the annual Belmont Greek Festival. (Emmy Denton)

Belmont Greek Festival

Church of the Holy Cross, Belmont
Sept. 3–4, noon–10pm

Michelin-starred restaurants are fine and all, but real connoisseurs of cuisine know that some of the most memorable eating happens not on white tablecloth but at the church (or mosque or temple) festival—the kind of paper-plate, bring-your-own-Tupperware affair where Uncle and Grandma trot out their most sacred family recipes. Hence the enduring popularity of the Belmont Greek Festival, which this year celebrates both its 50th anniversary and its first year back in person since the start of the pandemic.

Sponsored

Hosted by the Church of the Holy Cross, the fully volunteer-staffed festival is returning with a full slate of live music and traditional dancing (“Opa!”), but like any church festival worth its salt, food will be front and center—big, gut-busting plates of spanakopita, gyros and lasagna-like beef pastitsio, which visitors can enjoy on the church’s outdoor “platia,” made to resemble a bustling village square in Greece. Be sure to save room for dessert: It’d be a shame to leave without a taste of baklava or, the crowning glory of any big Greek celebration, the honey-drenched fried dough balls known as loukoumades. —L.T.

A man and woman in face masks squirt sauce on a paper tray of fried cauliflower. Their shirts read "Plant N Soul."
Plant N Soul staff squirt sauce onto fried cauliflower. The vegan pizza pop-up will be one of more than 50 vendors at this year’s Bizerkeley vegan food festival. (Courtesy of Bizerkeley Food Festival)

Bizerkeley Food Festival

2727 Milvia Street, Berkeley
Sept. 4, 11am–5pm

When Erika Hazel launched the Bizerkeley Food Festival, she wanted to make people more aware of just how diverse the Bay Area’s vegan food scene is—it’s not just “rabbit food,” after all. This Labor Day weekend, she’s continuing that mission with an event that will feature over 50 vegan vendors—more than double its 2021 debut.

“​​The purpose of the Bizerkeley Food Festival is to promote and uplift small businesses, POC businesses and women-owned businesses that are 100% plant-based/vegan while raising necessary funds for the Berkeley municipal animal shelter,” Hazel says.

The community-centered event has quickly become the premier vegan festival in the Bay. Held in the Sports Basement parking lot, this year’s edition will feature local favorites like Vegan Hood Chefs, Kubé Nice Cream, and Liquified Juicery serving a wide array of vegan treats—everything from jambalaya and barbecue sliders to full-fat coconut ice cream. All food and beverages will be sold a la carte. As Hazel notes, a portion of the ticket proceeds will benefit the Friends of Berkeley Animal Care Services. —A.C.

Black and white author headshot for Bryant Terry, posing in sunglasses.
Bryant Terry wants to provide mentorship opportunities for aspiring BIPOC food creatives. That’s the inspiration behind the Black Food Summit, which he’s organizing in collaboration with the Museum of the African Diaspora. (Adrian Octavius Walker)

Black Food Summit

Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; TomKat Ranch, Pescadero
Sept. 9–10

When Bryant Terry started 4 Color Books, his new imprint that’s focused on BIPOC artists, writers and chefs, the Oakland-based chef and food activist wanted to help create an ecosystem in which Black and other BIPOC creatives would be able to thrive. Where were all of the talented Black cookbook authors, food stylists and food photographers, and why weren’t they landing the most coveted gigs from the prestige magazines and publishing houses? Were they getting the mentorship opportunities they needed?

Now Terry is using his platform as MoAD’s chef-in-residence to help grow that pipeline: In September, he’ll host a two-day Black Food Summit that will inspire—and teach practical skills to—anyone looking to publish a cookbook or carve out a career in food media. The summit will function, among other things, as one of the food world’s most exciting gatherings of Black talent, with nationally prominent writers like Nicole Taylor (of the Juneteenth cookbook Watermelon & Red Birds) and Osayi Endolyn (the New York Times, Food & Wine and more) on hand for a full day of panel discussions on topics such as storytelling, design and how to navigate the publishing world. On the second day, the summit will move to Pescadero’s TomKat Ranch for a day of restful rejuvenation and hands-on activities (some of which may involve horses).

It all culminates with a big, celebratory dinner out on the ranch, cooked by some of the Bay Area’s most accomplished chefs, including Matt Horn (Horn BBQ) and Fernay McPherson (Minnie Bells). Participants can buy a ticket for just one day or for the whole two-day summit. There’s also a livestream option for the Friday events at MoAD. —L.T.

A plate of napa cabbage kimchi.
This year’s Chuseok Festival will celebrate traditional Korean foods such as kimchi, but it’ll also offer a wide range of fusion and Korean American diasporic dishes. (Mark Shigenaga)

Chuseok Festival

Presidio Main Parade Lawn, San Francisco
Sept. 10, 11am–5pm

Ever since the event’s splashy 2019 debut, the organizers of the Bay Area Chuseok Festival have been chomping at the bit to bring the Korean harvest festival back to its in-person, deliciously food-focused glory after a couple of Zoom-centric editions during the peak of the pandemic. Eun-Joo Chang of San Francisco’s Korean Center, Inc., which organizes the event, describes Chuseok as the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving. Hosted at the Presidio, this year’s festival is expected to be bigger and better than ever—a larger outdoor space; more family-friendly entertainment, from K-pop to traditional crafts; and, of course, a whole host of food and beverage vendors.

Not all of the food will be strictly Korean, though most of the featured businesses have at least one Korean chef or co-owner. So, while there will be traditional items such as Korean barbecue and makgeolli, there also might be bulgogi-topped pizza and Korean-Mexican fusion. Oakland’s Noodle Belly will be on hand serving its signature garlic noodles; SF-based Dokkabier will be on hand to pour its lineup of Asian-inspired microbrews.

For those who like to get their hands dirty, San Francisco’s Korean consulate and the Korean food conglomerate and kimchi brand Jong Ga Foods will co-host K-Food, an event-within-event happening at the same time. The centerpiece: a hands-on cooking demonstration in which participants make their own ssamjang, the spicy-sweet condiment traditionally eaten with Korean barbecue. —L.T.

Four oysters, elaborately topped with shrimp, cheese and spices, on a grill.
Saucey Oysters & BBQ specializes in elaborately topped grilled oysters. The Sacramento-based pop-up will be one of the 30-plus food vendors on hand at the California Soul Food Cookout. (Courtesy of Saucey Oysters & BBQ)

California Soul Food Cookout

Alameda County Fairgrounds, Pleasanton
Sept. 17–18, 1–11pm

For concert goers who love soul food, the California Soul Food Cookout & Festival promises the best of both worlds. Going on its 12th year, the two-day event features a mix of family activities, gospel music, R&B, food trucks and comedy—with a portion of the proceeds going towards Bay Area charities to aid houseless individuals and domestic violence victims.

On the food side, the festival’s 2022 edition will be hosted by Chef Milly, known for his stints as a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen—and for dishes like his signature Crabby Cheese Fries (topped with lump crab meat and Old Bay seasoning). Other vendors will include Hayward-based Filipino fusion pop-up Mekeni’s Kitchen, Sacramento-based grilled oyster specialist Saucey Oysters & BBQ and the Filipino barbecue stand Gim Belly. The 30-plus diverse, mostly POC food makers were chosen by the organizers to represent the Bay Area’s cultural vibrancy.

If you come to California Soul for the food, you’ll stay for the grooves: Musical headliners include gospel and R&B stars like Musiq Soulchild, Angie Stone, Mario Hodge and Fred Hammond. There will also be a job fair and career expo sponsored by the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce and Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce. —A.C.

A smiling woman shows off a dish of sautéed mushrooms.
During her Shifting the Lens residency, Chef Shenarri Freeman will serve an elaborate tasting menu of vegan soul food dishes. (Courtesy of J Vineyards & Winery)

Shifting the Lens with Chef Shenarri Freeman

J Vineyards & Winery, Healdsburg
Sept. 29–Oct. 9

Preeti Mistry was tired of hearing people say there wasn’t any point in pairing wine with Indian food—and that the richly spiced foods found throughout, say, South Asia, West Africa or the Caribbean were best just washed down with beer. So, the chef decided to change the conversation. Shifting the Lens, Mistry’s summer-long residency series J Winery in Healdsburg, reexamines wine pairing in the context of cuisines that are often excluded from the fine dining discourse here in the United States: Chinese food, Indian food, soul food. Each residency features a talented BIPOC woman guest chef.

Starting Sept. 29, Shifting the Lens will close out its first year with a residency by Shenarri “Greens” Freeman, a New York City-based wellness advocate and the chef of the vegan soul food restaurant Cadence. Over the course of two weeks, Thursday to Sunday, guests can book a two-hour, five-plus-course, fully plant-based tasting menu ($200) that comes with a thoughtful wine pairing for each dish. For those who want a little extra face time with the chef, a special VIP dinner on Oct. 1 will include a Q&A session. —L.T.

A cup of halo halo, with layers of bright purple ube ice cream, flan and sweet beans.
Turontastic’s halo-halo, from last year’s edition of Undiscovered SF. (Photography by Albert Law: www.porkbellystudio.com)

Undiscovered SF Festival

SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco
Oct. 22, noon–6pm

This year, the Undiscovered SF Festival asks the age-old question: If San Francisco had its very own Filipino theme park, what would that look like? Would mobile DJ crews usher each visitor in through ube-purple turnstiles? Would there be a lumpia-themed rollercoaster or a karaoke-themed merry-go-round? Most importantly: What would there be to eat?

Undiscovered SF 2022 will offer visitors the opportunity to see one possible vision for such a theme park come to life—though rollercoaster enthusiasts might have to wait for a future edition. Though the event’s earliest incarnations were set up as a Filipino night market, during the pandemic Undiscovered SF evolved into a daytime event spread across multiple indoor and outdoor venues in the SOMA Pilipinas cultural district. This year’s version promises to be the largest one yet, with a rollicking main stage set up at Parks at 5M, the neighborhood’s brand new outdoor park; a kaleidoscope of crafts and streetwear vendors; art exhibitions; and more than 20 food vendors (including local legends like Lumpia Company and Sarap Shop). —L.T.

A marigold-covered altar for Día de los Muertos on a street corner in Fruitvale.
A marigold-covered altar for the ancestors at Oakland’s Día de los Muertos festival in Fruitvale. (Courtesy of the Unity Council)

Día de los Muertos Festival

Fruitvale District, Oakland
Oct. 30, 10am–5pm

You can’t celebrate fall in the Bay Area without attending a Día de los Muertos event—and, if you’re around Oakland, there’s no better place to do it than in Fruitvale. The cultural gathering has become one of the highlights of October, signaling the peak of “spooky szn,” autumnal changes and, of course, festival goodies. Now in its 27th year, Fruitvale’s Día de los Muertos event will return fully in person this Oct. 30 with a day of Aztec dancing, altar exhibits, live music and a more-than-you-can-eat offering of food.

According to the Oakland Unity Council, which organizes the event, “The festival will resume in-person activities, highlighting the ofrendas, Danza Azteca, and low-riders which are all vital elements of the celebration. Our goal for the 2022 festival is to create a physical space where people can safely gather and hone in art and culture as tools for community healing.”

Sponsored

With a themed-focus on honoring essential workers, this year’s celebration is meant to express a strong sense of gratitude to the food workers, cooks and purveyors of Latinx-focused meals. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the street vendors that the Día event is known for will be back in full force. From street-style elote dripping with sour cream, cheese and powdered chile, to classic Fruitvale staples like tacos, burritos and tortas, you can’t go wrong with a celebratory afternoon of comida in one of the Bay Area’s most vibrant communities. —A.C.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
The Best Filipino Restaurant in the Bay Area Isn’t a Restaurant at All105-Year-Old Great-Grandma Receives Master's 83 Years After Leaving StanfordMC Hammer ‘Will Beat Yo' Ass’—and Other Hard Tales of the MTV-Friendly RapperWant to Fly With Your Dog? Bring Money.‘Under Paris’ Is a Seine-Sational French Shark MovieSun Ra and Kronos Quartet Collide in the SpacewaysJuneteenth Celebrations in San Francisco and Around the BayYour Favorite Local Band Member Is Serving You Pizza in the Outer Richmond‘Treasure’ Could Have Gone Terribly WrongA New Art Installation Blooms on the Presidio Tunnel Tops