Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A First Look at Oakland’s Off the Grid

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 2:00 PM

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:

1) Given that it was also a First Friday, I expected a madhouse, but the lines were surprisingly reasonable at around 6 p.m. — maybe four or five people deep at a few trucks, and several others that didn’t have any line at all.

2) My wife observed that everyone standing ahead of her in line (to order at Le Truc) seemed “really, really happy” — abnormally so, for people waiting in line.

3) Off the Grid proprietor Matt Cohen wasn’t kidding when he said the Friday-night events would be kid-friendly: There was a dance instructor who led a group of mostly under-five-year-olds in a spirited Lindy Hop session. There was a crafts table where kids could make and decorate their very own hand puppet. There were dogs to pet and plenty of room to run around. There were actual bathrooms!

A view of the dance floor, with the semi-indoor area (where beer, wine, and coffee were sold) visible in the background.
  • Luke Tsai
  • A view of the dance floor, with the semi-indoor area (where beer, wine, and coffee were sold) visible in the background.
4) The Express’ resident liquor guru Ellen Cushing was also in attendance, and though she wasn’t overly impressed with the booze offerings (“There should be a law against charging $10 for wine in a plastic cup,” she noted), she agreed with my overall assessment of the event: “Pretty awesome” — especially given the lack of food options in that part of downtown Oakland after dark.

5) On the other hand, the Blue Oak Cafe table (where the beer and wine were sold) was also selling pour-over drip coffee — $3 a cup, which is par for the course.

6) There were twelve food trucks in attendance, including a few I hadn’t seen before. Here’s what I tried. From An the Go: garlic noodles (pretty tasty) and (not very) crispy Vietnamese spring rolls. From Le Truc: a turkey meatball sub with spicy tomato sauce and the “New School Fries,” which vaguely reminded me of the new Burger King fries — but not in a bad way. And from Pacific Puffs: a couple different cream-puff offerings, which were good but somewhat pricey at $3.25 a pop.

While none of it blew my mind, the food was all tasty enough — and since the trucks rotate every week, there's always something new to try.

Off the Grid: Lake Merritt @OMCA takes place on Fridays, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The food trucks line up on 10th Street, between Oak and Fallon — that block is closed off to traffic during those hours.

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