Is It Any Good?

Korean cuisine…in Night Market form. In Koreatown…where else?

Damn, I’m starting to get good at this. If there’s a way for me to be a professional Food Festival visitor, I really need to find a way to get paid for doing this.

Don’t tell ’em I’d do it for free. (Wink!)

Still, it pains me to criticize what I saw at what I believe is the first even K-Town Night Market.

Now, let’s be clear. This was (probably) their first rodeo. There are always going to be bumps that first time, but…damn, what bumps they were.

No matter what you think about a Night Market, about the DJs or the Bands or the stuff being sold…all that is window dressing for what people really want, to stuff some really good, really affordable, really good food in their faces.

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Any time a Food Festival makes this difficult, is a fail.

Any time a Food Festival visitor asks a variant of the question, “Is this the…”, that too is a fail.

The place was organized to a point, but need another couple of bits of polish to make it work right.

Right off the top, Parking. I think the Planners had a good plan for Parking, in that they identified early on where you should go and how much it would cost you. (There are other details about this, we’ll get to later in the Parking section.)

But once you stepped out of the pre-assigned Parking, you had no idea where to go. Yeah, sure you could follow the stream of people, but a little guidance would have helped.

All of the sudden, I round a corner a block from where the entrance is, there is a line, a loooong line.

My instinct is to get in lines for popular events just because…odds are that’s where you’re going to wind up anyway.

Mind you, I had no idea what this line was for.

Turns out it was for Security.

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Yeah, would have helped to know this in advance.

In fact, too many times people were left wondering. What’s this for? What are we doing?

There isn’t this level of Security at the 626 Night Market or the Ramen Yokocho Festival.

Then again, the 626 Night Market isn’t Downtown, is it?

The problem was, we all had no idea there was going to be this kind of backlog heading in. So right now, there’s one line to get into Parking. There’s another line to get into the damn festival, and we haven’t mentioned the lines to get food.

Worse, the line to get frisked by Security was broken up by one of the Parking Structures. Fortunately, the Festival had people in place to help out.

Still, people were using this break to cut in line. I saw a couple of cases with my own eyes.

Finally, you get in, and…believe it or not it gets worse.

Either the events organizers did not lay things out very well, or they did not expect this number of people to arrive. While the Robert F. Kennedy Community School is a very central location to hold a K-Town Night Market, a Festival can only be as successful as the ability of the surrounding environment to handle it. And this part of downtown is stressed to capacity on a light day. Imagine dropping a few thousand more people and more cars into it.

So, the neighborhood can barely handle the traffic. The school, can barely handle this amount of people.

Then, on top of that, the Organizers made what I think was a rookie mistake: They jammed the Food all into one corner of the Festival.

Yeah, it looks good on a map, but on the group…trust me…doing that completely sucks.  Why?  Because all of the sudden, virtually every single person going to the Festival is jammed up into that one area. Good luck getting food. Good luck getting in the right line for the food you want. Good luck if that line isn’t already snaking around the block.

And if by some miracle you do get food. Good luck getting it out of there in one piece without spilling it on someone. (Though the crowd was very friendly, and everyone was working hard not to make a mess of someone else’s meal). But forget about sitting down and eating it. Because if you survive getting it out of the food area, you got to cross through a wall of Commercial vendors and T-Shirt sellers before you get to the area that has the already full up seating.

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Not…good.

The Food Truck Area was even worse. I gave up on it immediately since there were literally a half dozen lines stretching for a block away from the Trucks. I couldn’t tell what line was what, and I’m not sure the people in line themselves knew. At the Ramen Festival, they sent out volunteers to hold up signs saying, in effect “SUCH AND SUCH RESTAURANT”. That what a customer knew what was the end of the line, and would get in it, seeing what they wanted. Makes sense. This was just a mess.

The good news is, I don’t think I’m telling the Organizers anything they don’t already know. Next years will be better. They’ll make a few adjustments. They’ll organize things a little differently.

All I want to see done is a more efficient way to get screened by Security and get into the Festival. (Though I may have to bite the bullet on that one, since they’re Downtown.)

I want the some seating and the Food closer together.

I want the Food Area opened up a bit so people can move around.

I want a method (for long lines) to know what line I’m getting in.

The K-Town Night Market was a mess this go around, but I still liked the idea, and still plan to go to the next one. Next time’ll be better.

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IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Be prepared going in. There are a lot of lines…everywhere for everything. The first one you’ll get in is for Security. They didn’t tell you in advance, so I will. This is still K-Town. It ain’t the suburbs. It’s not a rough part of town, but it’s not crystal clean either, so guess what?…you’re going to get searched. Ladies in one line (for 2014), Men in the other. There will be a pat down, and a search of your bags. I was let in so fast, it made me wonder as to the effectiveness of search, but what do I know. I just wanted in and I wanted to eat.

The lines for food…at least during the Inaugural 2014 go ‘round were a mess. No idea where anything starts or anything finishes.

Oh, and if you want to read safety tips for a Food Festival like this, you can read the one we prepared for the 626 Night Market.  Most of it applies.

 

PARKING: Deceptively good, at least at the structure I chose off Mariposa.

For some reason, both the patrons and the ticket takers were both convinced that the Structure was almost all full up. Yet if you went up to the roof of said structure, it was virtually almost all empty. You could park there, easily. You could get out…easily.

Parking is supposed to be $5, but I managed to screw that up. Basically, the Structure off Mariposa has a fancy-pants, newfangled Machine to process Parking Fees. Instead of a stamp (like everyone else has), it’s a barcode that is put under a scanner. You get two tickets when you come in…a white card and a blue card.

I will say, the two Festival Volunteers warned be about this in advance, so they did their due diligence. Problem was, they warned me about something that I had no experience with, so I had no idea what they were talking about. They literally said, use the blue card first, and I had no idea what the @#$% they were talking about.

So when I go to pay at the automated machine, I used only the white card…not being familiar with how this machine works, and paid $8 bucks.

My fault. Totally my fault, but next time, the Festival Organizers should just collect the money upfront and get it over with. Spare us the technical manual with the new machine.

 

The festival was on Friday April 18th from 4pm to 12am and on Saturday April 19th from 2pm to 12am.

 

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Ktown Night Market
Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools
701 S. Catalina Street
Los Angeles, CA  90005