Food Truck Rodeo Review – Off the Grid
Working to Reset San Francisco is pretty hungry work, so we follow Food Truck comings and goings very closely.
That’s why we went en masse to the Food Truck Rodeo the other night. Our reviews are below this preamble…
The Brief Preamble on Grub 2.0 - Web 2.0 Meets Gov 2.0
Beyond the hunger for change and beyond creating actual hunger for the City’s best fish tacos – there are other reasons we’ve become so interested in this movement.
First – it is a model of how Web 2.0 technology is enabling real world changes. These mobile entrepreneurs can succeed on the ground because we can follow them so easily in the virtual ether – on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare and numerous other Web 2.0 tools. That’s a model for how Web 2.0 might make a better government. The same technology that allows us to find our favorite bao in a flash can be used by the City to find and fix a pothole before it breaks an axel on a Muni bus or swallows another bicycle.
And second – this Food Truck movement is in great respects a Web 2.0 response to a Government 1.0 world. Many, maybe even most, of the Food Truck chefs would like to have a restaurant that doesn’t need to roll around. But they are stymied by a maze of regulations and enormous costs – including very significant fees levied by the City.
In a world in which we need to fuel our economy by promoting a culture of entrepreneurs, this is exactly the “startup” spirit that will lead our city back to fiscal health. So it isn’t just the digital economy we promote here at Reset. We love the delicious economy, too.
Check out more pictures of the Reset SF Team at Off Grid on our Flickr stream - click here.
At the emphatic recommendation of an owner of the Southern Sandwich food truck, my evening started with the Prawns and Roses tacos from Brass Knuckle. The tacos were the perfect proportion of prawns wrapped and fried in a shell of shredded phyllo dough, topped with a cilantro crème, shredded cabbage, and green onion – all for $3.50 a piece.
The Brass Knuckle Notorious P.I.G. sandwich is a rosemary waffle wrapped around slices of roast pork and ham with Swiss and a delectable garlic sauce. The fries the sandwich came with were unremarkable, and the sandwich itself could have easily stood on its own.
Approaching 3-Sum Eats, it is key to brace oneself to “Get Sauced, Tossed & Sandwiched.” The internal pep talk, though, did not fully prepare me for a brisket sandwich (the Tsingtao Braised Brisket Sandwich) that rivals many of those I’ve eaten in Texas. Perfectly messy for food-on-the-go: a brisket sandwich, and paired with a watermelon-ginger-basil lemonade, made for a beyond-satisfying meal.
Chairman Bao, a favorite of the Bay Area, features a steamed pulled pork bun with Savoy cabbage and preserved mustard seeds. The filling and bread were delicious, but it is less of a bun, and more of a taco. In the end, it was well worth the fifteen-minute line and the five-minute wait.
While waiting at 3-Sum Eats, another food truck regular let me know about the deconstructed samosa at Curry Up Now – a bowl of chickpeas, chicken, pickled onions, cucumber, tomato, cilantro, mint chutney, and miniature samosas. I was less impressed with it than if they had just put the effort into making a samosa with an excellent filling.
Tacos and Tots
Off the Grid’s Food Truck Rodeo was something unlike I have ever seen before. The first place I ate from was called Kung Fu Tacos and I must say it was amazing. I ordered a Nun Chuk Chicken Taco as well as a Mu Shu Vegetable Taco. These Asian-inspired tacos had so much flavor that I probably could have eaten about 10 of them. Between the catchy-titled food and the delectable taste of it, this truck is definitely one to try. The next place I ate at was Little Green Cyclo. They had these amazing sweet potato tots, that was like putting a little pillow of sweetness into my mouth and made me feel like I was five years old again. These tots are definitely a treat adults and kids can both enjoy. The food truck rodeo is something everyone in and out of the city needs to experience at least once in his or her lifetime.
It was family tradition to go into the city and get pork buns from a Chinese restaurant in China Town while growing up. It has been at least a year since I last had one, so when I was at "Off the Grid" on Upper Haight and saw a food truck with pork buns on the menu, I freaked out. The Chairman Bao food truck has both steamed and cooked pork buns, along with a variety of sides and drinks. When I first ordered my Steamed Tender Pork Belly, I assumed it would be big and round, like the pork buns I am used to getting. Instead, when I opened my white cardboard container, I saw a little taco looking piece of food. Was I taken aback by the size? Yes. Was my mind blown by the taste? Also yes. Chairman Bao was hands down the best food I had at Off the Grid. I highly recommend getting one of each pork buns. Heck, get four of each. You won’t regret it.
I ate the Korrito from Seoul on Wheels. Granted, I've eaten it before, so I knew what I was ordering and knew to expect taste-bud-perfection. The Korrito is a one-way ticket to: "I'm never eating a burrito ever again because it will never compare to the Korrito." I dream about it. In fact, I salivate when I think about it.
Imagine: Kimchi deliciousness wrapped in the most amazingly soft tortilla that is completely unique to Seoul on Wheels. Whether you choose chicken or pork, prepare yourself for a heavenly sauce that makes your eyes pop in delightful surprise and awe. How can something taste so good? It's either magic or genius. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Little Food Truck That Could
On any other day, the UN Plaza at Civic Center is not a place I would spend my afternoon hanging out with friends. But when Off the Grid rolled up and the trucks started cooking, this void public space transformed into a vibrant community venue. Basking in the sunshine and listening to groovy tunes, it was the perfect day for a San Francisco feast.
My first stop was the Little Green Cyclo. I had the chance to meet the kind, unassuming owner, Quynh Nguyen, and she served me up some slammin’ sweet potato tater tots. The real treat was the trio of dipping sauces: spicy mango ketchup, mango mint, and, my personal favorite, tamarind plum. The Truffle Oil Garlic Noodles were likewise exquisite: crunchy and greasy (in a good way).
SF has the best selection of vegetarian/vegan cuisine in the world, but upon visiting the Rib Whip, it’s clear that our city needs more Southern lovin’. Their ribs slather in tangy BBQ sauce just melted in my mouth.
After recovering from the food coma, I stumbled upon a curiously delicious food cart dishing out Onigilly [Oh-Knee-Ghee-Lee] – “the Samurai snack”. It is a traditional Japanese hand-held wrap stuffed with rice and filling (of your choice) bundled together with seaweed and sprinkled with sesame. I opted for the Spicy Shrimp – it was a weak 3 out of 10 on my spicy scale, but nevertheless very delectable. Samurai Tom Cruise would approve.
One of the (few) redeeming aspects of LA is the plethora and tasty diversity of food trucks swarming empty strip mall parking lots. However, I don’t think I’m alone when I say SF’s food trucks have got them beat. These mobile chefs cook up a storm!
Chairman Bao: Pork Belly and Daikon Steamed Bun
The pork belly was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside with the daikon slices giving a refreshing crunch. Top it off with some Sriracha, and you've got the perfect steamed bun.
Hapa SF: Chicken Adobo Plate
Hapa SF's chicken adobo plate puts a totally San Francisco organic, foodie twist on a traditional Filipino favorite! The chicken was so tender and juicy that it practically slid off the bone. The sauce was sweet. The rice sopped up the excess sauce, providing flavor with every bite even after I finished all the chicken. As you'd say in Tagalog, “Masarap!”
Onigilly: Black Seaweed Onigiri and Miso Soup
I've had a lot of experience with Japanese food of all kinds, from curries to bento boxes and various rolls of sushi, but I had never eaten a black seaweed onigiri before Onigilly. It was a nice, salty handheld snack, perfect as an appetizer-- especially because it was at the entrance to the Food Truck Rodeo. The miso soup kept me warm on that windy Thursday and the cold, rainy Friday.
Seoul on Wheels: Bulgogi Taco and Spicy Chicken Taco
Seoul on Wheels is probably my all-time favorite food truck in San Francisco. It blends two of my favorite cuisines (Mexican and Korean) into one hand-held example of food fusion goodness. Not too spicy, but definitely tender meat with a great kick of Korean spices that keeps me coming back for more.
El Porteno Empanadas: Banana and Dulce De Leche Empanada
The banana and dulce de leche empanada made for a perfect desert at the Fort Mason Off the Grid. At only $2, I was able to enjoy a wonderful, crispy yet also gooey delicacy. Warm and sweet, it was a wonderful, rainy day treat.