I first became aware of the burgeoning food truck movement from a New York Times article in 2009 about Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ Korean taco truck in Los Angeles, CA that was causing a sensation with its fusion of Korean barbecue and Mexican tacos. I had to go down to LA that summer and check it out. I found the location of the truck, in an industrial park south of LA, on their website. There was an hour-long line and a news crew filming the scene. They had Korean barbecue (pork, chicken, kalbi) tacos and sliders that were delicious.
It seemed shortly thereafter that the food truck movement in the Bay Area really exploded. In 2010 the Off the Grid group began organizing a food truck event on Friday nights at Fort Mason in San Francisco, where around 30 trucks gather from 5-10 pm. It’s great fun to be able to try so many different trucks.
Off the Grid now holds a host of other gatherings in San Francisco and other locations in the Bay Area during other days of the week. The downside of Fort Mason is that the lines are often long, it gets cold on Friday nights in the City, and there are not that many dedicated facilities (tables, bathrooms). In 2012 the new StrEAT Food Park opened in the SoMa (South of Market) neighborhood, on 11th street near US101. It’s loosely modeled after the food truck “pods” found in Portland, OR. There are clean bathrooms, indoor and outdoor seating areas, sometimes a bartender, and up to ten trucks for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Another place to find food trucks is at various Farmer’s Markets in the Bay Area. The Ferry Terminal Farmer’s Market on Saturday has the Roli Roti truck, which has chickens roasting on rotisserie grills with their juices dripping onto roast potatoes below. Roli Roti also serves one of my favorite food truck items, the porchetta sandwich. They take pork loin, herbs, and spices and roll it in pork belly and roast it on the rotisserie. Slices of juicy meat and crackling skin are served with sweet onion marmalade, greens, and a crusty roll. Roli Roti also comes to other Farmer’s Markets and locations, but they only sell porchetta at the Ferry Terminal, unfortunately.
I am a big fan of all of the new food trucks. It’s a great way for aspiring chefs and entrepeneurs to start their own food businesses. Some, like Mission Street Food, have parlayed their success into actual restaurants. The trucks take advantage of social media, announcing their locations on Twitter and Facebook. They have been featured nationally on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. There is a great variety of food being served: Indian, barbecue, seafood, creme brulee, cookies, Belgian waffles, Japanese, French. Sometimes, the food from the food trucks can be a bit overwhelming. A couple of examples: waffle fries drowned in chicken tikka masala and melted cheese; a sandwich of panko-crusted fried chicken, pulled pork, cheese, bacon, a fried egg, and slaw on a brioche bun. Not subtle, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s so much variety out there now that there is something for everyone.
Update May 2013: Just went to the Picnic at the Presidio food truck event sponsored by Off the Grid. I think it’s a really great setting. Link here.