The trucks are parked, the crowd is hungry and the aroma is intoxicating. Welcome to Off the Grid, not to be confused with The Grid. The San Francisco Bay Area is fortunate enough to host twenty-three weekly markets, comprised of 150 mobile food vendors that feed foodies from far and wide decadent dishes that service every taste bud.
The “mobile food extravaganza,” as they are referred to on their Facebook page, was founded in June 2010. I experienced my first Off The Grid market in August 2012, four blocks away from UC Berkeley’s campus. While the food may have caught my attention, it was the occasion that kept me coming back. Meeting up with friends while sampling new menus over live music in the middle of the street had an allure I could not resist.
Markets pop up in various spots around the Bay Area: whether that be a suburban neighborhood, an alleyway, the historic Fort Mason Center or in front of San Francisco City Hall. The trucks bring large numbers of people to areas they may have not ventured to otherwise, while consumers taste gourmet food that was once unknown to them. And yes, I do mean gourmet.
Off the Grid relies primarily on social media marketing for their publicity. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook to stay updated with the menus. If you’re in an urban area, chances are there’s a market nearby.
The success of Off the Grid is a sign that the food service industry is changing. I don’t think my parents would have ever defined lunch as standing in a line of twenty people clamoring for Filipino burritos served out of an automobile. Yet that’s what I do on a regular basis, and it’s delicious.
It’s all part of the urban experience: sharing space, mobility, community building and opportunity. San Francisco vendors are now encouraged to start a mobile business. There’s even an instruction manual that teaches you how to open your own food truck.
We’re always moving in the city – in and out of our apartment, to the office, down the street and back. Why can’t we let our food do the same?
Credits: Images by Robert Poole. Data linked to sources.