Even as some mobile food businesses transition to opening brick-and-mortar restaurants, the continued success of Off the Grid, noted organizer of massive food-truck gatherings in the Bay Area, offers convincing proof that the dining public has yet to tire of gourmet street food — at least as consumed while sitting on folding chairs in a tent-lined parking lot or street enclosure, surrounded by ten or twelve (or as many as 39!) trucks and a throng of fellow bao and fusion-taco lovers.
Now, Off the Grid founder Matt Cohen is looking to tap into one of the East Bay’s juiciest markets for food lovers — Uptown Oakland. Updating an initial report by Diablo Dish, Cohen confirmed that Off the Grid’s newest event will be located near the Fox Theater, on the stretch of William Street between Telegraph Avenue and Rashida Muhammad Street that’s adjacent to the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park.
ETA: Bites in Uptown is canceled for tonight, Friday, March 7. Hester only notes, by way of explanation, that "due to circumstances beyond our control, (red tape, bureaucracy, scarcity mentality, lack of solidarity), Bites In Uptown has been cancelled tonight." Stay tuned to see if the situation is resolved in time for next month's First Friday festivities.
Food trucks have long been a prominent feature of Oakland First Fridays, even in the popular street festival’s earlier, more loosely organized incarnations. But, as they say, variety is the spice of life, and next week a major player is launching a new food truck event, adding as many as eight mobile food vendors to an already booming First Friday street food scene.
Bites in Uptown will set up shop in a private parking lot at 478 25th Street, outside a currently unused warehouse, from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, March 7 — and, if all goes well, on every First Friday thereafter. The monthly food truck gathering will be curated by events coordinator Karen Hester, who also organizes Bites Off Broadway, a similar event.
LIBA Falafel, one of the Bay Area’s longest-established “new school” gourmet food trucks, has announced that it will open its first brick-and-mortar restaurant location in Uptown Oakland, at 380 17th Street. Owner Gail Lillian, who founded the business four years ago, said she’s in the process of raising funds for the Uptown project but expects the restaurant to open by the summer of 2014.
The LIBA food truck will also continue to operate.
The Bay Area is home to food trucks that specialize in Eritrean-Irish fusion cuisine, Hong Kong-style egg tarts and curry fish balls, and tacos of every conceivable ethnic origin, among countless others. So it’s somewhat amazing to consider that Oakland resident Kenny Stuckey’s new venture, Kenny’s Heart & Soul, may become the first soul food truck in the Bay Area.
While there’s a mobile soul food trailer in San Francisco and a handful of trucks that serve soul-food fusion concepts — i.e., gussied-up twists on Southern-style grits or chicken and waffles — Stuckey said he wasn’t aware of any truck that specializes in “strictly soul food.”
My favorite street food discovery so far this year didn’t take place during a rollicking First Friday street party or at one of the East Bay’s many formalized convocations of gourmet food trucks, and it certainly wasn’t served on a porcelain plate at some sit-down restaurant.
Instead, on a recent Wednesday, fresh off a tip from the eagle-eyed grub seekers over at Chowhound, I found myself standing in front of a tiny shack of a food stand set up on a trailer in a barren West Berkeley lot. Daniel’s Caribbean Kitchen shares the lot with a small pottery shop called Jered’s Pottery (2720 San Pablo Ave.). It’s an unassuming little spot, but if you like Trinidadian food, you should head over as soon as possible.
The Oakland-based food truck Vesta Flatbread has announced that its last day of service will be April 13. If you’ve ever been curious about the truck’s seasonal, Mediterranean-style flatbread sandwiches, next Saturday’s Grand Lake Farmers’ Market (from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) will be your last chance — for a while, anyway — to check them out.
Co-owner Traci Prendergast said that she and her partners, Jenya Chernoff and Aron Ford, have sold the truck and “will be hibernating” while they search for a permanent brick-and-mortar location for the business.
On a sunny Friday afternoon in Oakland, at the corner of Webster and 2nd, Elmy Kader hands over a Styrofoam box through the Royal Egyptian Cuisine food truck’s pass-through window and says, “Here’s something special from me to you. When you go back to the office and open it, you’ll see.”
The customer had ordered Kader’s gyro, which is one of the better versions you’ll find in this city. But the personal touches — that extra “something special” — are what make each meal at Royal Egyptian more memorable than your standard food truck dining experience.
Last Friday night was the second week for the street-food extravaganza Off the Grid’s first foray into Oakland, at the Oakland Museum of California. Given how long food-truck aficionados have been waiting for an event of this magnitude to hit downtown Oakland on a regular basis, these first two weeks have come and gone with relatively little pomp and circumstance — but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been a success.
I had a chance to swing by this past Friday. A few quick takeaways: