HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Best Bay Area Street Food

What is your favorite Bay Area street food? Criteria includes food that is affordable, representative of local communities, uses quality, source verified ingredients and can be prepared quickly. We're talking "slow" fast food. Healthy gets bonus points. Help narrow the list of vendors at Eat Real-- an event to be held in Oakland, July 2009.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. These should get you started for street food:


    They won't meet the other criteria (verifible) but few street food places will. There's a handful that will meet those criteria and they will be at local farmers markets.

    1. Genuine street food except when it's in a parking lot.(Temescal DMV)
      Andy and Cindy Thai

      1. Legal?

        Does catching a glimpse of FUD hot dogs at a Mexican hot dog vendor count as source verified?

        I guess "Let's Be Frank" at the Warming Hut. Haven't had them there, but if the frank I bought from a butcher is any indication, cross that off the list as delicious ... hey ... what about that? Why isn't delicious in your criteria.

        IIRC, the kimchee dog vendor in Golden Gate park uses good ingredients

        You will find yuppie street food in yuppie neighborhoods and that is almost all that will be found as quality, source verified ingredients. It is not like you're going to see the organic taco truck cruising the streets. And healthy? If this is what Eat Real is looking for, well, they are only eating real for a narrow group of people. Haven't noticed any corner salad cards pushing little gem lettuce and Dirty Girl tomatoes.

        Drop healthy, qualified and source-verified and there are lots of worth places ... that represent all neighborhoods.

        1. My answer was on the border of not being civil. The words 'slow food' associated with street vendors was ... annoying. Everything I've seen about the Slow Food movement in this area is annoying. They are preaching to the choir AFAIK. So to dispel my perhaps mistaken perception that this is just about telling people who already eat source-verified food where they already eat ... could you elaborate a bit about this event?

          Who is your target audiance? What type of point are you trying to make? Do you already have some vendors on the list as an example of what you are shooting for?

          The OP just seems to cover vendors at relatively upscale farmers markets. I just don't personclly consider that real street eats. It seems to narrow the demographic to those people who eat at those markets anyway. Still, if that is what you are going for, I can give a list of favorite vendors.

          The nature of street food is inexpensive food by people who don't have the means to open their own restaurants. The people who frequent those are more often people on limited budgets looking to get filled and a few discriminating people who recognize delicious despite the plate it comes on and where it is served. However, given the way the economy is tanking, who knows, there may soon be furative street vendors scurrying around the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley or the Embarcadero in SF offering tamales made with olive oil using Niman Ranch meat.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            "The OP just seems to cover vendors at relatively upscale farmers markets."

            "It is not like you're going to see the organic taco truck cruising the streets. And healthy? If this is what Eat Real is looking for, well, they are only eating real for a narrow group of people. Haven't noticed any corner salad cards pushing little gem lettuce and Dirty Girl tomatoes."

            She said it better than I could, but my sentiments exactly.

            1. re: Atomica

              Too many years slogging around the globe with a backpack taught me that the way you "source verify" street food is to get a good look at the person selling it. Does he look healthy? Verified. Something a bit off? Move along.

          2. Here's a photo of the El Caches taco truck parked at the Windsor farmers market
            If you click on the Places link for El Caches below, you'll find links to threads where it's discussed. The folks that own it used to sell tamales in front of the Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa and were able to graduate to a full-blown catering truck. Granted, I've not seen it cruising the streets, but besides Windsor, it's also at the Saturday morning market in Santa Rosa. For the Windsor market, it has an additional menu with items made with organic, locally grown market produce, such as squash blossoms. I've not noticed this when it's in Santa Rosa, other than the organic bottled salsas it sells. I can't say that it's the "best", but it might be one to consider.

            Whenever the question of "healthy" comes up, you have to ask compared to what. The traditional Mexican diet is actually quite healthy, and you may want to seek out a vendor who makes tacos al vapor. Here's the quote I used in a presentation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year about Salinas (not in the Bay Area) street food. Dr. Wibbelsman is an authority on teenage obesity and appeared in the episode of "Check Please Bay Area" that featured San Francisco's El Tonayense's truck:

            “Think about the obesity epidemic in the United States, and everybody doing the fast food burgers and fries. Good heavens, you could get a meal at the [El Tonayense taco] truck, it will be cheaper and more healthy! . . . again, this is a new look at Mexican cuisine, and it certainly is fresh and wholesome. I think it is important that people really embrace this type of cuisine rather than going to some of the fried fast food chains.” ~ Charles Wibbelsman, M. D., Chief of Adolescent Medicine for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, California

            El Caches
            946 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I seconds the thumb's up for "El Caches." This is a hard working family that prepares great food made from fresh ingredients, and the food is nearly criminally CHEAP.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Wow, what an pretentious, awful sounding event but at least I'll know where the gourmonster swarm will be that day.

                1. re: larochelle

                  Am I missing something or is there no list of actual vendors and participants on that site. If i'm spending $50 - $150 for street food ... and I don't think I spent that much total for real street food in 2008 ... I would like to at least know who will be there.

                  1. re: larochelle

                    Wow! I must have misread the meaning of "pretentious". This sounds like it costs $20 and is made up of farmers' market stalls and fast food vendors like taco trucks, Vietnamese snacks, etc.

                    I must have missed something.

                    Oh, I think I get it. The posters were referring to another "festival"...their responses were right below Melanie's link to an Oakland even next August that sounded great to me.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      Where exactly are you seeing $20. I see $50 - $150

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    The press release names Anya Fernald as the "Festival's founder". She was also the director of last year's Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco.

                    Here's the press release:

                    Here's some chowhound discussion about the Slow Food Nation event:

                    Anya, in a magazine for people who drive cars:

                    And an older article from SFGate might shed some more light on the people involved:

                    Overall, it looks as though SFN, though having some definite design issues, was a pretty large-scale event executed well. So it might be too early to totally write off this street food event, silly as it may seem.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I'm still not seeing anything anywhere that says what vendors are participating.

                          1. re: rworange

                            For events like this, I wouldn't expect a list of vendors until a month ahead, if that. August is a long ways off.

                            I'm aware of another project outside the bay area to bring healthy, fair, local, organic sustainable ingredients to the existing, delicious and real street food culture. It takes a lot of work, starting earlier this year with planting rotations to convince farmers to grow the things that vendors use, handholding, working on introductions trying to create viable partnerships between farmers and vendors and understanding what their economic pressures and logistical issues are. Those efforts are truly extending the reach, and not just preaching to the converted.

                            Knowing what's involved there, I've gotta believe that similar efforts must be required if the Oakland backers want to have vendors with real street cred and not just some chefs outfitted with wheels tweeting for the day. All that takes a lot of time, sweat, and luck.