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Jul 26, 2011 01:23 PM

The Street Foods of San Francisco

In August I'll be visiting the Bay Area for a week, including the Saturday of the latest San Francisco Street Food Festival:

I'll be making a day of it at the festival, in part to rendezvous with friends and family. Given that I've eaten a lot of street food in New York (and Southeast Asia, too), which mobile vendors should be highest on my to-eat list?

I also plan to spend time hunting down street food elsewhere in the Bay Area, tacos in Fruitvale especially. Any and all chowish recommendations welcome. Thanks in advance.

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  1. I was just in SF last week and REALLY enjoyed Off the Grid - an assembly of food trucks that moves from spot to spot. Check here for their schedule:

    Good mix of ethnic foods...and cupcakes!!

    Off the Grid
    Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

    1. I'd like to give a fair warning to your visit to the SF Street Food festival. I went to the inaugural festival and really only managed to get one item... a fancy sausage dog that is comparable to what I find in a ballpark. I didn't go to the 2nd one because I was fearful of the ridiculous lines again, but it could have been organized better. But perhaps only by a little bit.

      This festival takes place in a residential area part of the Mission. I thought the space was narrow and there was little to no seating area... You can try a resident's front steps I suppose. Each vendor will serve 1-2 items plus a drink. I'd expect each vendor to have a 30 min wait at least. Much like SF in general, it is very crowded.

      Majority of the vendors listed aren't your typical street food variety like how you've eaten in SE Asia. I'd call more than half of them 'fancy'... more comparable to the NY food trucks.

      I have enjoyed the following though:
      RoliRoti's famed prochetta sandwich
      Estrella's pupasas
      Anda's piroshkis
      Global Soul's salmon taco (if they have it)
      Namu's Korean tacos
      Three Twins mint confetti ice cream
      Bi-Rite's salted caramel ice cream

      A lot of these are also restaurants serving a "street food" type of dish. If you don't get to them, you can dine at their sit-down location.

      Hang out in Mission proper and you'll find really great street food style tacos in almost any taqueria ... greasy, full of parts, and simple. Taqueria Vallarta, La Taqueria, Taqueria Cancun, to name some favs. Oakland I hear has a better taco scene... haven't ventured out there though.

      Pick any of the Off the Grid's and you'll be satisfied. Fort Mason and Haight St being the one with the most trucks.

      Taqueria Cancun
      2288 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      Taqueria Vallarta
      3033 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      La Taqueria
      2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      1. Thanks for your replies, HungryLetsEat and Keesey.

        My heartfelt interest, however, is not the upscale trucks at the festival or Off the Grid, or street-food-style food at brick-and-mortar businesses. It's the often itinerant, unbranded, sometimes unlicensed vendors like those one can track down in Upper Manhattan and in the outer boroughs of New York -- especially the ones who have followers, but not on Twitter.

        Chowhounds: Is there nothing like this that can be found in San Francisco, or no farther than a BART ride away?

        Off the Grid
        Stanyan Street at Waller Street, San Francisco, CA

        5 Replies
        1. re: DaveCook

          Not really my field, but there definitely is, and someone who knows more will eventually post. Searching Fruitvale for Mexican is an excellent step. One note, even corner hot dog guys in San Francisco tend to charge restaurant prices.

          1. re: DaveCook

            There's relatively little real itinerant street food in SF because it's illegal (permits are issued only for specific hours at specific locations) and the the city's fairly strict about enforcement. Hence the Off the Grid type events on private property.

            In the Mission there are people who go from bar to bar selling tamales, and late in the evening people grilling Mexican bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the street. Occasionally I've seen them in other neighborhoods. There's a guy who sells tamales at Beer Revolution in Oakland.

            I've never seen itinerant vendors in Fruitvale. The neighborhood is so packed with cheap Mexican restaurants that they probably get the cops called on them right away.

            Beer Revolution
            464 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

            Off the Grid
            Stanyan Street at Waller Street, San Francisco, CA

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              There used to be the illegal churro cart(s) in Fruitvale, but they seem to have been driven out by the (inferior) legal ones -- the only ones I know of now are in Richmond. Are all the tamale carts in Fruitvale legal?

              Except for the Latino districts the Bay Area doesn't have much of an itinerant street food culture -- maybe the population density (lower than Manhattan or Asian cities) doesn't support it.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                all the (present) tamales carts in the fruitvle have names, addresses and phone numbers on them. these match to to existing businesses in the fruitvale area like lupitas, horchata cafe, etc.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                PizzaHacker got nailed a few days ago (last weekend?) by the SF department of public safety.

                They're out there, but one wouldn't discuss them here, and they do have a short shelf life.