Dallas’ First Filipino Food Festival Drew Diners by the Thousands

On Sunday, a crowd of hungry Dallasites arrived at the Four Corners Brewing Company to dine at the city’s first Filipino Food Festival. The providers – almost all of them were young startups and part-time workers with day jobs – were the focus of a triumphant victory celebration for Filipino cuisine, which is making a rapid entry into the mainstream of Dallas.

Originally I wanted to use this article to talk about all the delicious food I tried at the festival and to recommend all the different vendors. But the real story is different. The crowd was too big. Filipino food is too popular. It seemed like everyone was there in town.

The demand was overwhelming.

We arrived punctually at 12:00 noon, the official start time of the festival, and found that there were queues in the taprooms and outdoor seating areas of Four Corners. At 12:05 p.m. I joined my first line – for Not Your Lola’s, one of the city’s most popular pop-up food companies – with beer in hand. The beer was ready when I was at the top half an hour later.

Members of the crowd told me that other lines were even longer. When we surrendered around 2 p.m., the wait for a bowl of pasta took 50 minutes. Another patron told me he’d been waiting at another booth for over an hour.

“You probably didn’t expect this,” I said to a bartender.

His answer was filled with the sadness that comes from ignored wisdom.

“I expected that,” he said. “Nobody else did it. I told them, but they weren’t listening. “

More than 16,000 Facebook users clicked the “Interested” button in the festival’s list of events. I think a surprising number of them actually left.

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Two bites of Not Your Lola alongside two Four Corners beers. (Dear Four Corners, if you’re reading this leave the brown ale around for a while.)

Brian Reinhart

So yeah: This article was originally about the delicious food we ate at the Filipino Food Festival in Dallas. But the two dishes I ordered from Not Your Lola’s – pork belly slices braised in coconut milk and heat-blasted for ultra-crispy skin, and a calming vegan cup of steamed mung beans, mushrooms, and spices – turned out to be the only Filipino dishes Food i ate.

After queuing for the relatively short queue for spectacular black sesame ice cream from Stephen Smith (owner of the wonderful but now closed Betty Ringer ice cream parlor in West Dallas), I pondered what festivals like this mean for the future of Dallas food.

Our Filipino stationary restaurant scene is very traditional right now. One of the chefs at the festival had told me privately last year that many local restaurants serve the kind of food that grandmothers cook for their families.

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But the creativity of a new generation of chefs and cooks is in abundance here. Demand is also more important.

As a wave of small, innovative new Asian restaurants emerges across Dallas – places like Ka-Tip Thai Street Food, Khao Noodle Shop, Cafemandu, and Salaryman – it’s not just critics who respond with enthusiasm. These restaurateurs, almost all newcomers to the business, find their audience. They are some of our grocery store’s greatest success stories in recent times.

In other words, it was difficult not to look around at the Filipino Food Festival in Dallas – the huge, sprawling crowd patiently waiting in long lines, in many cases doing their best Filipino fashions – and believing that this city had a hungry market has for a lot more food like this, permanently. Chef Randall Braud, formerly of Not Your Lola, already has a permanent restaurant concept.

I just hope the lines get a little shorter when the men and women behind our Filipino food movement all open their own full-time kitchens.

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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer’s food critic since spring 2016. He also writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for Observer and MusicWeb International.

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