Have you ever wanted to get food from a food truck, but were too scared that your pants weren’t tight enough, your fedora not awkward enough, your scraggly mustache not hideous-looking enough? I mean, you bought yourself a vest so you could fit in, but as you nervously smoothed the front with your hands, did you worry that it wasn’t threadbare enough, or the buttons not ironically gaudy enough?
Did you ever want to get yummy, cheap street food without wilting under the stare of a hundred hipsters judging you?
So I went to Off the Grid, which is a weekly gathering of SF food trucks at Fort Mason. (It also happens around the city on other nights but this is by far the biggest with 30+ vendors.) I was apprehensive about it being too scene-y, but I figured it would take a lot of energy to ride a fixie all the way from the Mission to the Marina, and hipsters seem to take it as a point of pride that they have no muscle tone whatsoever, so I hoped I would be safe.
And I was.
As R2 and I approached the lights in the middle of the Fort Mason parking lot, we saw a giant circle, the border comprised of food trucks and tents with two gaps – the entrance and exit, respectively. As we stepped into that hallowed circle, I nearly fainted with joy.
Here were young people, old people, family people, weird people… and instead of calculated boredom or angst, there was only eagerness and howling hunger.
We attempted to do a lap to be organized about our dining plan, but halfway around the circle we gave up and went for the shortest line, which was for Red Truck. We picked up Chinese fried chicken with hot sauce for a piddling $2, and it seemed like as soon as we gave our name to the guy another guy was yelling our name with our chicken. In my state of extreme hunger and excitement I totally forgot to take a picture, but visually it looked a lot like fried chicken with hot sauce. It tasted a lot like heaven. It had a complex peppery flavor that I might even describe as “weird” but with the Sriracha it burst into flames of complex, crunchy, fatty, spicy goodness.
Riding high on that triumph, we next went to a vendor whose name I am regrettably missing. It was Argentinean if I remember correctly, but maybe it wasn’t. (So sue me. I was in a joy daze).
Don’t judge me! I HAD to use flash or it would have been hopelessly blurry! Anyway, I think it captures the spirit of OTG – off center, exposed in multiple ways, and delicious-looking. I get scared when the thing containing the innards is neither soft nor crunchy but somewhere in between, but this glorious green thing, whatever it was, was appropriately and pleasingly chewy to stand up to the tomato and carnitas. As a texture-eater, I found this little pocket to be totally delightful, and one of my favorites of the night.
While R2 waited in line for it, I danced on over to the Onigilly stand, which was selling rice balls filled with salmon or hijiki, which is a super salty/sweet preparation of seaweed. I got one of each, duh, and ran back to R2. Rice isn’t a slurpable foodstuff, but that’s what it felt like I was doing. Putting rice up to my mouth and inhaling, basically. It’s been ages since I’ve eaten hijiki so I was cuddled up in a nice nostalgia bubble.
See, this is what happens when you attempt to take a food photo at night without flash. Of course, it doesn’t help that it’s almost all eaten and being grabbed out of my hands by a greedy R2.
I didn’t begrudge him this grubby behavior. Because this was the Chicken Tikka Masala burrito from the Curry Up Now truck that we had been lusting after from the beginning. We were in that superbly annoying situation where the line was outrageous, and yet once we were in it NO ONE got in line after us. But all of that was forgotten once we had the huge, hot thing in our hands. Oh God. I mean I can’t. It’s…just…so JUICY! and … taste so good! I’m sure this burrito will keep me up at nights, crying, once I move to New Jersey.
Finally, we ended the night at Chairman Bao‘s truck. We got one Red Sesame Chicken bao with scallions and bok choy and one pulled pork bao with Savoy cabbage and preserved mustard seeds. Poor things. Nothing could possibly follow the transcendent curry burrito, and we were stuffed to boot. I can say that the chicken one was a flavor esploshun and the proportions were absolutely perfect in both baos.
The whole shebang is catered by quality alcohol purveyors like Alembic. Not that you needed any help in reaching a giggly, high, staggering, I-LUF-YOU-GUUUUYS state. If you are my stalker, you are in luck, as you will find me at OTG every Friday from now on.
Off The Grid
Fridays at Fort Mason
Just drive to the northernmost part of the city, you’ll find it.