Some observations of the Richmond Food Cart Derby

My family and I made the trek down to try the Richmond Food Cart Derby. It was not an incredible success but it wasn’t a Hindenburg style disaster either. I got to try some new beers and the two hungry ones in my party got some food. From the majority of comments on this article my experience was better than most. Judging by the size of the crowd, RVA wants this type of event, with just a  little tweaking and think it could be a premier event for the 17th Street Market. We need events like this at the 17th Street Market to make it relevant in the eyes of Richmonders.

Since I am well versed in eating, drinking, and festivaling here are my 2 cents on how to make next year’s event better. 

  • Make sure all cart attendees have the correct permits. Rooster CartRVA Vegan and Station 2 were there but couldn’t sell due to permitting issues with the city.
  • More volunteers and some way of identifying said volunteers. I never knew who was running the event or in charge of anything.
  • Only 4 people were checking IDs and giving out bracelets and taking money for tickets. Unfortunately they were not very good at any one of those steps.
  • Take advantage of the streets. When we got down there around 12 the streets were still open and cars where trying to drive down a street crowded with lines of people. After the streets were closed off it was the only way to get around.
  • Tables. Eating and drinking is much easier when you can sit.
  • If you say an event is starting at 11 it should start at 11. The second line for getting wristbands and beer tickets didn’t open up until around 12:30 p.m. and many vendors still weren’t ready to serve people at 12.
  • The 17th Street Market is a maze of pillars, the carts need to be set up in such a way that the lines don’t completely kill traffic flow. Perhaps putting carts in the street is the answer.
  • For crucial lines like ID and beer tickets use ropes or barriers so you don’t a cluster of 20 people in no clear order.
  • Be clear on how the ticket system works. There was much confusion on which tickets you used for pints and which for tastings.
  • Focus should be on beer and food. When you first walked towards the market you were greeted with someone selling dresses. I didn’t come for clothes I came for beer and food.

I don’t want to be too negative so here are some great things I saw/did.

  • The beer lines when I was there (roughly 12 -2) were always manageable and the folks managing the beer were great to talk  with.
  • Midnight Brewery has good beer, me likey.
  • The crowd was diverse and at least from what I saw dealing with the lines like rational humans.
  • People that got frustrated with lines turned to the local restaurant scene and I’m sure found some new places. Hopefully they’ll be back.
  • The Follicles of the James ‘Stache & Beard League have truly impressive facial hair.
  • I saw food I want to try and will hunt it down. I’m looking at you Sausage Craft.
  • Loved seeing that many people down there.

This was the first attempt I’m sure lots of lessons were learned and hope the Derby comes back next year.


  1. #1 • pjpink •

    Fantastic observations. You are definitely on the mark. If you want Sausage Craft sausage head over to the South of the James Market in Forest Hill Park Saturdays from 8 – Noon.

  2. #2 • JD •

    Excellent critique. I’m not sure how many people the event organizers expected to attend the event but the 17th Street Market was packed and the food cart lines were way too long.

    One thing is certain: RVA is hungry for food carts! The event organizers should keep this fact in mind when planning future events.

  3. #3 • Brad •

    Fair and accurate observations, thanks for giving us at Sausage Craft a shout out. Like pjpink said, find us at our new side venture “Salt Pork” at the SOJ market on Saturdays…and at Hardywood this summer when they’re selling pints for some cooked goodies to nom upon. Thanks!
    Brad at Sausage Craft

  4. #4 • Mark •

    One other note:

    There were a number of vendors listed in the promo articles that were not there when I stopped by around 11:30-noon. I didn’t see Papa Ningo, Mobile Munchies, Kenn-Tico’s, Chef Kelly’s Taqueria, or Olio.

    I might have missed/overlooked them but, if so, this is a problem in its own right. If they weren’t there, then it speaks to the need to ensure promised participants actually will be able to be present.

  5. #5 • Richard.H •

    Good point Mark. I didn’t even think to check the promised list against those that actually showed.

  6. #6 • Mark •

    I loved the idea, and was bummed that Rooster Cart and RVA Vegan ran into license issues. But I suspect a lot of the concerns re: food running out, long lines, etc might have been eased if there had been more vendors.

    I’m looking forward to the next iteration!

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