Off The Grid: a friday night affair in San Francisco
Very high quality and gourmet street food carts , tents and food trucks have been appearing all over America and I have embraced this new food movement since the beginning, following certain well-known LA trucks parked at strategic spots . I am not talking about the “roach coaches” of dubious reputation that are found at most big public congregations, but those of the chefs that prefer to cook and serve out of a truck instead of dealing with the costs and limitations of a brick and mortar location. Incidentally I am also a huge fan of badass Eddie Huang and his anarchic internet food show on Vice called Fresh Off The Boat.
Eddie is an Asian American restaurateur, chef, food personality and former lawyer. In this one particular episode he introduces us to the real art of street cooking and “guerrilla grilling” and invites us to share a Vietnamese sea food meal put together by two young girls on the sidewalks of the Mission district….it is pretty rock’n roll. To quote Eddie «food is the gateway into any culture”.
This past friday evening I went to an amazing street food event at Fort Mason in San Francisco called Off The Grid. Off the Grid is the largest network of gourmet mobile food markets anywhere in America. They work with hundreds of vendors each week in dozens of locations around the Bay Area creating vital community spaces and supporting small businesses. I counted a selection of around 40 vendors, between trucks, tents and carts.
Mexican, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Greek, Indian, Peruvian, Filipino, American… with names like Bacon Bacon, Belly Burgers, Crablab , El Sur, Got Curry ? , Hella Vegan Eats, Grillaz Gone Wild, Hongry Kong, Kenny’s Heart and Soul, Kung Fu Tacos, Me so Hungry, Naked Chorizo, No Worries, the Jeepney Guy ………serving everything you can dream off like Indian burritos, philippino shredded pork adobo on rice, lobster cake sandwich , peruvian yuca chips and fish balls, salted caramel creme brûlée, fried lechón, meatballs, pizza, bacon, fried chicken, hand-made ramen and noodles, donuts ,crepes, spun sugar… I cannot even remember everything that I saw and that I wanted to taste… We ended up eating way too many things because it was impossible to resist but I must say that every single thing we ate was of amazing quality and much much better that anything you can find at some reputed or hyped restaurants.
Maybe because Off The Grid opens the way to many young chefs and cooks who otherwise could not afford to have a restaurant and this simple street formula allows them to make their cooking available to anyone, anywhere, selecting a few items that they excel at and sourcing the best of California produce which in my opinion is now the best in the world because of the huge variety it offers, catering to the mixed population and cultures that inhabit it. Northern California in particular is home to a very large Asian and Central and South American population and well as Middle Eastern and East Asian so at every produce market you find an abundance of produce for everyone, produce that you just never see in the markets in Europe.
Anyway, if you are in San Francisco or the Bay Area between march and october, I really recommend going to the Off The Grid on a friday night at Fort Mason, it starts at 5 pm and goes on until 11 pm. There is live music, a great DJ , good crowd , lots of seating space and heaters as well as a few bars selling a selection of wines and artisanal beers . Bring warm clothes because it gets chilly when the sun goes down but do try to get there early enough to see the sunset over the bay and the Golden Bridge.
Do check out here the list of vendors , you will be amazed. *All photo credit : fashionsphinx.com