2011 Food Truckalypse and the Mid-Summer Streety Awards

When I announced a few months ago that I was taking on a challenge of eating from every food truck in San Francisco this summer, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. The execution has been at times sheer delight and at other times trial and error. Take for example the first week, when after one particular night, I said I would never eat from more than 8 food vendors in one day. Fast forward to a month later at the San Francisco Street Food Fest Media Preview, when I tried food from 40 vendors and restaurants…in one evening, including a larvae taco. Yes, that larvae, the one that turns into a butterfly. With a little over a month to go, I’ve tried nearly 50 different street vendors all total. Nonetheless, this has been a smashing hit, as it’s opened up opportunities for interviews, mentions by the Food Network, and published articles. If you have an iPhone, you can download Urbandig, recently featured by TechCrunch, and of which I wrote a San Francisco food truck tour for. As I’ve passed the midway point of the summer, I wanted to provide a short guide to the street food scene in San Francisco and give out a few awards.

You may have noticed that while street food is often just another part of culture in many countries around the world, it has taken some time to take off in the U.S. However, it’s catching on quickly and not just in San Francisco. Portland, for example, has over 400 food trucks and New York City has a popular event that is in its 7th year, the Vendy Awards, which show off the Big Apple’s best street food every fall on Governor’s Island. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, about street food in America. When I asked him what the draw was, he responded by saying: “It speaks to the roots of restaurants. So many great restaurants started as a push cart. It’s accessible and a level playing field. Because it’s a moving truck, there’s something about knowing where it is that makes you in. It’s like you have the password to the speakeasy.” Living in a digital age of Facebook and Twitter has made it easier than ever to track your favorite street food vendors.

The term “Off the Grid” is what you need to familiarize yourself with in San Francisco. Off the Grid is San Francisco’s efforts to better organize street food vendors. The main event takes place on Friday nights, when 20-30 food trucks and carts gather at Ft. Mason in the Marina district for live music and fresh street food made to order. There are also smaller events that take place at lunch and dinner throughout the bay area, which typically range from 3-10 vendors.

Whether you go to the lunch/dinner events during the week or the main event on Friday night, I highly recommend arriving early. Arriving late typically means shorter lines, but you may not be left with many food options. Korean BBQ, cupcakes, and crème brûlée often go quick. If you see one food truck that has a line of 30 people and the one beside it with two, then that should tell you something. On Friday nights, you may have to wait for as long as 30 minutes. If you’re with a group of people, consider having each person stand in a different line and then meet up after you’ve all gotten your food to share.

On Friday evenings, I’ll usually take a couple laps around to all the vendors and see what people are eating before I start waiting in line. As you might imagine, the beer/wine line is often one of the longest, so grab your adult beverage first thing, and then start making your way around to the food vendors. Many people make an entire evening of Friday night. You’ll even find some people tailgating. I recommend ordering a few different items and then heading for one of the picnic tables just outside of the event. Some of the locations during the week have seating available, but this isn’t always the case.

Mid-Summer Streety Awards

Most filling: Señor Sisig, California burrito.

Hangover cure: Fivetenburger, Grassfed burger all the way with garlic fries.

Best appetizer: Happy Dumplings, dumplings.

Most unusual: Don Bugito, larvae taco.

Most likely to return to: The Taco Guys, fish tacos.

Best dessert: Crème Brûlée Cart, Strawberry and Nutella crème brûlée


Thanks to Adam Richman and Visa for taking time for an interview. Visa didn’t pay me, give me anything, or even ask me to write about them, but I want to thank them for taking the time to speak with me for their Memory Mapper application, which allows you to create memories of your trips. When you create a memory through the end of August, you’ll be entered to win $100.

18 Comments on “2011 Food Truckalypse and the Mid-Summer Streety Awards

  1. *sigh* I get hungry just reading your stories about the great street food in SF. We really need to get our act together in Toronto. Street weenies just don’t cut it for me ! Hmmmm… fish tacos :)

    • I think it’ll get there. It’s growing like crazy in North America and it’s just a matter of time!

    • What?! I had no idea. I could kill some spicy shrimp. November is Hawaii!

  2. Great post. My family and I definitely need to make a date to tour and dine from these trucks, especially The Taco Guys. I’ve been hearing about them since the beginning because my hairdresser is married to Taco Guy Justin. Gonna get off the grid!

    • Highly recommend. They have some events in the East Bay also. They have a dinner event in Berkeley on Wednesday nights. I would recommend getting there between 5-6. It’s smaller, but I think they still have 6-10 trucks.

  3. I now desperately want to come back to SF, just to stuff my face. I love unique foods, and the novelty of getting gourmet stuff from the street! Hell, who am I kidding, I like hot dog carts too.

    • Well come back to SF and I’ll give you a little food truck tour. I won’t even charge. There’s some real gems. I just found out they’re doing a breakfast for dinner event Saturday night with the brunch truck, bacon truck, and a few others.

    • You get colored sihtrs, and at the end try to beat a bunny that stole ice cream at the beginning. Hahaha I know it sounds stupid, just trying to find a childhood favorite.

  4. Just came here after watching MasterChef Australia and now I wanna go find a food truck! Some street food are so good, you can eat till you get sick…lol

    • I should catch some of that. There are some great new shows on that are highlighting street food. It’s definitely growing here in the U.S.

  5. Yumm, this sounds so good. Gonna be in SF on Tuesday, 9/20 and Wed. 9/21. Can you tell me where I can get some of the Taco Guys or other favorite of yours on those days? Stmped about where they usually are or how to find them. Thanks.

    • Hello Barbara. Mid-week can vary for the Taco Guys. You may want to check out their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-TACO-GUYS/257824054004?ref=ts) Mon/Tues and see if they’ve posted where they’re going to be, as it changes daily/weekly. Otherwise, I would recommend going to the Off The Grid lunch event on Wednesday at 5th and Minna, which is just behind the San Francisco Chronicle building, and from 11-2. A couple of my favorites will be there, including Bacon Bacon, Liba Falafel, Chairman Bao (Steamed buns), and Senor Sisig (Burritos). Enjoy!

  6. Pingback: Tasting San Francisco: Off the Grid

  7. Oooh what an awesome challenge! Reading this article made me miss the food trucks in LA so much!

    My boyfriend and I are also both a little jealous you got to meet Adam ;)

    Nice article!

    • Thanks! I’ve really been taken with food trucks. Even when I’m traveling abroad I often eat from street food vendors. And I think California is one of the best places for it!

  8. Pingback: 2011 Food Truckalypse and How I Lost Weight Eating From Food Trucks

  9. Pingback: A Field Guide to a Travel Show

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>