3raba Fest, and the Riyadh Food Truck Phenom

As you might have noticed, Saudi Arabia is a-changin! One of the most noticeable change is the staging of events here and there, almost every weekend, in Riyadh and we have the General Entertainment Authority to thank for that. A few years ago, we won’t see food truck festivals, carnivals, theater presentations, etc. being done here. However, I still think that they should come up with English versions of their event ads because not all residents of Saudi Arabia, or Riyadh for this matter, can read Arabic. Unless their events are exclusive for Arabs and people who can read Arabic only. Most expats can’t read Arabic and I would hate to think that they are excluding us from their events lol. There is a need to ask and ask for event details! Nevertheless, I’m thankful for our colleague Amal because she translates events announcements for us. Some of the event organizers also provide English posters for their events. Thank you!

The 3raba Festival

The 3raba Festival

One of the events that piqued my interest was the 3raba Festival which was held last February 23, 24, and 25 at the Land and Space Aviation in Banban, Riyadh. I was mostly interested in the air show and the food truck festival. There were comedy shows too but those being in Arabic, obviously, I will not understand. I might be laughing for the wrong reasons, haha! Anyway, the event was organized by Luxury Events KSA, along with the GEA. Tickets were at SR 150 for regular and SR 350 for VIP. This is, again, one of the reasons why we rarely go to Riyadh events… the tickets are expensive! I mean why charge so much? It’s okay to pay such steep prices for events if we get worthy things in return, like maybe dinner or souvenirs? For this event, guests are basically paying for the air show and the comedy show. Mind you, the air show can be watched outside the venue. So anyone who parks their car near the Land and Space Aviation can actually have free “seats” to the air show. As for the comedy show, if you can’t understand Arabic, there goes your SR 150! We also had to pay for food truck food, some of which charge exorbitant prices for average food.

So anyway, yes, I bought 2 tickets at SR 150 each just to satisfy my curiosity. The online booking website didn’t accept my credit card payment (not sure why because my card is working perfectly, too perfectly for this shopaholic) so I had to go to Danube Hypermarket in Panorama Mall to purchase them. There’s a small booth near the entrance manned by a guy. Basically, he got my name, email address and mobile number and registered it in his event app. I paid SR 300 and after a while, I received a text message and an email the details of my tickets. They give a QR code for this. All we had to do was drive to Banban on Thursday afternoon. It was the start of a weekend and what do you know? Traffic on all streets of Riyadh! I thought we wouldn’t catch the air show which is one of the reasons why I parted with my money. They said it will start at 3:00 PM. By that time we were still in King Fahd Road stuck in the eternal traffic.

The only sign leading to the event grounds.

The only sign leading to the event grounds.

We arrived at the venue at around 4:00 PM only to find out that guests were being held in the entrance gate for reasons we don’t know. The air show has started with a small plane circling the area. So, we were watching the air show while lined up at the entrance gate! I paid for this slot in the gate, people! Haha! I couldn’t take a video of the exhibition the plane was doing because that was the time the line started moving and we had to show our digital tickets to the ladies manning the entrance and they had to put sticker bracelets in our wrists. When we entered, we were able to watch two more planes doing acrobatics in the sky. By the time the plane flying the 3raba banner went up the sky, the sun was setting.

Welcome to the 3raba Festival!

Welcome to the 3raba Festival!

3raba 12

I like the venue of this food truck festival because the space is bigger and wider. Food trucks lined up the outer edges of the venue while colorful tires and wooden tables and chairs were positioned in the middle so guests can eat and drink. There were food stalls (not trucks) in the middle lane. There were bouncy castles for kids and also a shooting range for adults. There were hundred of cleaners and ushers in place sweeping trash into their garbage bags and guiding visitors. I appreciate that they have them because the venue stayed clean and organized. We arrived early so we get to enjoy the venue with just few people. By the time we left, there were more people coming.

Food trucks galore!

Food trucks galore!

More food trucks

More food trucks

My husband and I just ate. Yup, apart from the air show, that’s what we came for: to review what some of Riyadh’s food trucks are offering. I like the concept of food trucks and we’re fortunate that the food truck scene is booming in Riyadh, almost to a point of “too many food truck festivals happening, folks!” Before the trend goes out of fashion, I want to review as many food trucks as possible ( I doubt I’ll be able to make a list of the best ones though because they’re just too many!). Basically, a food truck is a vehicle equipped to cook and sell food from burgers to ice cream to sushi to coffee and desserts to cooked viands and rice, etc.! Every thing you can think of cooking and selling in a convenient, easy, and portable manner! It’s easy to see why entrepreneurs love food trucks. Building one is not that easy but very doable, no monthly rent payments, and you can bring the “restaurant” any where, any time! It’s cost efficient and getting more popular by the minute. Food trucks is Riyadh’s equivalent to a street food scene.

Not only food trucks but also food stalls in the area.

Not only food trucks but also food stalls in the area.

Here are the food we tried in the food trucks at the 3raba Festival. Please don’t judge, we came hungry! Haha!

Sushi Mia offers Dynamite Shrimps and maki rolls.

Sushi Mia offers Dynamite Shrimps and maki rolls.

Sushi Mia. Being fans of Japanese food, the first thing I wanted to eat is of course, sushi and maki. When I saw Sushi Mia, I knew in my heart it’s the one I wanted to eat. I approached the Sushi Mia food truck and was welcomed by two ladies manning the truck. That’s amazing for me because the food trucks I tried before (in King Fahd Library Park and somewhere near Burj Rafal) were manned by men. One of the ladies told me that their specialty is Dynamite Shrimps but I opted for their California Maki. The price was a staggering SR 58 but my mind reasoned out that there were eight pieces of maki so it might be worth it.

California Maki, SR 58 (!!!)

California Maki, SR 58 (!!!)

Verdict: Not worth it at all. Look at these poor maki rolls in this plate. There were pieces of crab sticks, cucumber and avocado topped with a spicy may sauce. They were tiny, cut uneven, and don’t look appetizing. It doesn’t taste anything extra ordinary too.  I waited 15 minutes for these, people! Never again. Their Dynamite Shrimps might be delicious, who knows? For this maki, 2 out of 5 stars.

Sushi Mia / sushi.mia@hotmail.com / IG: @sushi.mia

Van Burger. There were A LOT of food trucks in the event that were serving burgers. I mean, why would they all want to be in the same place at the same time? Customers will be divided among the 5-7 burger trucks in 3raba. Anyway, they signed up for it all right. If I have to go through all the food trucks selling burgers, I will never make up my mind on time so we picked the one nearest to our table… Van Burger. Their food truck is so cute. Their beef and chicken burger are SR 15 each.

Beef Burger, SR 15

Beef Burger, SR 15

Verdict: It’s a good thing we weren’t expecting a lot from this burger. It arrived looking plain with a thin sliver of lettuce, an average bun, and a thick beef patty. It was okay, nothing special. The patty was a bit hard but has a nice beefy flavor over all. Its sauce also lent a nice tang to the burger. For this burger, 2.5 out of 5.

Van Burger / IG: @van_burger

Yummy Potato. We’re not yet done! Haha! We wanted to try as many food truck food as much as our stomachs can take. Haha! We saw Yummy Potato and because we’re fans of any thing potatoes, we decided to try their baked potato. When it comes to baked potatoes, I want the simpler the better and Yummy Potato has few toppings anyway so that’s okay for me. Cheese was mixed with the baked potato and I chose to top it with beans, corn and ranch dressing. Other ingredients you can choose from are olives and jalapeno peppers. That’s it!

Baked potato, SR 20

Baked potato, SR 20

Verdict: For such a simple fare, it’s a bit expensive but I enjoyed it anyway. The potato wasn’t as warm as I like it to be and the cheese wasn’t melting. I like the combination of the toppings I chose (but that’s just me: I love corn!). For this baked potato, 3 out of 5 stars.

Yummy Potato / IG: @yummypotato1

Wings Wings. I like the sleek, black van of Wings, Wings. I’ve been waiting for them to open since we arrived at the festival so when they finally did, I asked my husband to buy! Haha! We tried their BBQ Chicken Wings and the truth? They might be the only salvation among the food truck eats we tried in this event.

BBQ Chicken Wings, SR 20

BBQ Chicken Wings, SR 20

Verdict: I love how crunchy the wings coating is despite of the BBQ sauce that’s covering it. The inside were hot and juicy. And even though the venue was a bit windy and the weather was cold, the wings remained crisp on the outside. I like how the sauce is not cloying and had just the right sweetness and tanginess to it. My husband ordered the spicy version but it wasn’t spicy at all. And they gave so little blue cheese dressing! Haha! But that’s okay, we didn’t want to waste it too. For this chicken wings, 4 out of 5 stars.

Wings Wings SA / wingswings.sa@gmail.com / IG: @wingswings.sa

Cheezious. If not burgers, food trucks usually sell sandwiches. One that got my attention was Cheezious. It’s an obvious choice because I love cheese so a warm grilled cheese sandwich is a comfort food on a cold day. They have different cheese sandwiches and we chose the Chicken Cheese Sandwich.

Grilled Chicken and Cheese Sandwich, SR 17

Grilled Chicken and Cheese Sandwich, SR 17

Verdict: It has chicken bits and cheese all right but I find this lacking in melted cheese. The bread was too crunchy for my liking and there were burnt parts that tasted bitter. The filling of chicken bits and cheese was okay but I’m more disappointed than delighted with this cheese sandwich. Put more gooey cheese please! And fill that sandwich to the brim. For this grilled cheese sandwich, 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Cheezious / IG: @cheezious_gct

4Twins Coffee & Sweet. Time for dessert! There were a few coffee and dessert trucks in the venue but I picked 4Twins because it’s the nearest truck in our table, haha. I ordered a chocolate and strawberry crepe (SR from 4Twins along with an Iced Mocha. The staff was courteous and helpful.

Crepe and Mocha Frappe, SR 20 and SR 16

Crepe and Mocha Frappe, SR 20 and SR 16

Verdict: The crepe was thin and it was sticking to the packaging. There’s nothing special to it, just your average crepe with a spread of Nutella and pieces of strawberries. I like that it’s not too sweet. The Iced Mocha has a good kick of coffee and sweetness of both white and milk chocolate drizzle. It was a bit cloying towards the end but it’s refreshingly good throughout. For this sweet combo, 3.5 out of 5 stars.

4Twins Coffee & Sweet / IG: @4twins_coffee

The Scroll Pan Ice Cream is not in a truck so technically, it wasn’t a food truck but I tried it anyway as a parting treat before we left the event. I watched the guy mix cream with pistachio sauce and corn flakes. The making of this is an exercise for him, haha. When the mixture cooled and hardened a bit, he laid it flat and began rolling them to come up with the ice cream rolls. He put some more pistachio sauce on top and voila! I have my SR 25 ice cream. Yup, SR 25 folks! I guess this is more for the novelty of making the ice cream into rolls than the taste and quantity. So I’ll pass on this pan ice cream next time. 3 out of 5 stars.

Pistachio Ice Cream Roll, Sr 25

Pistachio Ice Cream Roll, Sr 25

So there you go. I’m saddened to give low scores for some of the food trucks but what can I do? I’m just a consumer who wants good food that are worthy of my hard-earned money. I commend these food trucks and the people behind them for their creativity, resourcefulness, and willingness to pursue their passion and business. I want to try more food trucks next time. I have to commend the organizers of Riyadh events also. We know it’s not easy but you all persevere so that Saudi Arabia can change for the better. We love how you’re opening up the Kingdom, slowly but surely. We hope for more events that will cater to everyone’s tastes. We hope that you consider charging less for events that will make us spend inside anyway. Haha!

To know more of Riyadh events, check our list HERE.

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Janelle
Janelle

The Editor-in-Chief speaks 7 languages: Filipino, English, Wit, Sarcasm, Truth, Creativity, and The Pink Tarha.

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