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Food trucks: which ones are really good and which ones are just fads

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While I think the idea of a food truck is cool, so far I've been underwhelmed by the actual experience.

The problem I see with the food truck phenomenon is that it runs counter to what street food should be: it isn't fast and it isn't cheap.

I've been periodically checking out the trucks parked at the "Truck Stop" at Mission and First and I've usually walked away without buying anything, either because the lines are too long or because the offerings just don't seem exciting or like a good value, especially compared to the other options a few yards away. Why should I stand in line to buy curry from a truck when I can buy the same thing from Cello around the corner for no more (or possibly less), not have to stand in line and have a place to sit?

Yesterday I bought a lemongrass chicken salad from the Hiyaaa Roll truck. It was fine, but nothing exciting, and while the chicken was good, and a generous portion, paying a $2 upcharge ($9) over the sandwich for some lettuce and a bit of julienned cucumber seemed excessive.

So what I want to know is, not which trucks are good, but which trucks are in some way *better* than buying the same or similar food from a more traditional outlet. Which ones would you go back to once the novelty factor has worn off?

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  1. There is an interesting article in the EB Express this week about loncheras and luxe loncheras.

    Aside from the real loncheras, the only truck that I have a hankering for is Chairman Bao. I ate there once at Taste of Berkeley? last year? and hope I run into them again sometime soon. I can't say that I have eaten at a lot of the trucks, but I'm just not that motivated. I also like Cupkates.

    As for real loncheras, I love Taqueria Novello, the one in the lot of near Fruitvale Bart. Also I eat at one of the loncheras at the Alameda Point Antique Faire and my 8 AM bacon and egg muffin always hits the spot after my first pass at the back of the market.

    -----
    Fruitvale Bart
    3301 E 12th St, Oakland, CA

    Chairman Bao
    San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

    Cupkates
    , Berkeley, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: chocolatetartguy

      Exactly. As a nationally recognized expert on Oakland taco trucks <vbg> I'm a fan of trucks. I just don't find the new wave of "luxe loncheras" to be worth the trouble. Street food should be cheap or fast (or both). The traditional lonchera is definitely cheap and it's reasonably fast. Some of the first "luxe" trucks were serving unique food by chefs who were interested in the possibilities of serving interesting food at street food prices. But now it seems as if the majority of the trucks are people who are running trucks because they're new and trendy, not because they want to experiment with the street food concept.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I agree. Besides being good (a given), street food should be cheap and fast. I find most trucks are neither.

      2. re: chocolatetartguy

        I tend not to even buy at food trucks because of the puzzling price premium. But I agree that Chairman Bao is worth getting. Soft buns, tangy pickles, juicy meats, decent price. That said, I wish I knew their schedule -- it's a great idea for trucks to update location with tweets on the day, but I like to plan ahead more, sometimes.

        -----
        Chairman Bao
        San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: bgbc

          Off the Grid's Facebook page lists the events each week, with updates for some (not all) of the trucks. It's the best listing I've found, aside from the individual pages for trucks on Twitter.

          Most do have regularly scheduled locations.

          1. re: bgbc

            Chairman Bao posts a schedule:

            https://www.facebook.com/ChairmanBao

            -----
            Chairman Bao
            San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

        2. what's good and what are fads are in the eyes of the beholder:
          food trucks with exeptional value:
          -roli roti: porchetta sandwich (5) witness the lines
          -4505 meat: godzilla dog (5)
          -brass knuckle: snoop dog (6.50) everything but the kitchen sinks in this
          -3 sum eats : "stuffed 'shrom" burger (7) vegeterian portebella mushroom sammie
          -peter's kettle corn: tastiest out there, same price as everyone, horchata, lime flavors also

          good eats but not cheap:
          -japancurry : katsu curry
          -curry up now :tikka masala burrito
          -is it: fried chicken drumstick (2) : kwong shing deli classic
          -tom kat : singapore rice vermicelli (7) as good as any restaurant
          -taco guys: fish taco(5)
          -tru gourmet: very expensive, organic dim sum, tasty and tiny too
          -southern sandwich: interesting selection of southern comfort bbq
          -OmininjaSJ : ninja burrito(8) foot long burrito with shrimp chip sides. a lot of food, good value.
          bread kinds of numbs the tasty proteins within.
          -fivetenburger : tastiest burger out there.

          not a fan of chairman bao, cupcakes, fusion taco/burritos, most burger trucks, most banh mi trucks,

          34 Replies
          1. re: shanghaikid

            I like CurryUp Now's tikka masala burrito too, and Namu's delicious fried chicken is much less expensive than at the restaurant.

            Part of what makes the truck events good is the variety--you can have sisig, I can have Chairman Bao. And cupcakes. Downtown the value may be less apparent because there are more restaurants, so it's less of a feeling that the food has come to you.

            Does Peter's Kettle Corn come to the Sunday Stonestown Market?

            -----
            Namu
            439 Balboa Street, San Francisco, CA 94118

            Chairman Bao
            San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

            1. re: Windy

              If OTG is in your neighborhood then the food is coming to you. But if you're trekking out to Fort Mason, then it's become a "destination."

              One of these days I'll have to try Chairman Bao, but so far I've resisted standing in a long line to pay three bucks for a pork bun.

              -----
              Chairman Bao
              San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                There wasn't a line at Chairman Bao in the Haight between 5 and 6. I had a pork belly on an open bun that was very good.

                My comment about the trucks coming to you was the origin of several of them, in parking lots in otherwise industrial areas near Oracle or Virgin in Burlingame. Little Green Cyclo is a more exciting offering in an area that's far from the bahn mi shops of the Tenderloin.

                -----
                Chairman Bao
                San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                Little Green Cyclo
                San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  The Chairman Bao lines at the Civic Center OTG aren't usually that bad, that's where I've had them.

                  -----
                  Chairman Bao
                  San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Does the Chairman come to the East Bay anymore?

                    I did have to wait a bit, but what you are getting for $3 is no ordinary cha sieu bow. I had one with duck, one with pork belly and something else and all were very good and fair-sized.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      chairmao bao comes to emeryville sometimes. not sure which day. either mon or tues.

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        Answering my own question. OTG is coming to Golden Gate Fields across the freeway starting this Saturday and running thru mid September. Chairman Bao is slated to participate.

                        I assume they will set up in the lot, but if not there is a $6 charge to enter the track. Have not been there in a long, long time, so not sure if there is a parking fee. You can, however, have lunch and play the ponies.

                        -----
                        Chairman Bao
                        San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          got an email from off the gird. parking will be $4 and $6 to enter GGF. i assume ofg will take place inside GGF.

                          1. re: shanghaikid

                            According to the TV ads, on some weekend days hotdogs, sodas and beer are a buck. I did not know there was room enough to park trucks inside GGF, but I was last there pre 1980.

                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                              http://www.goldengatefields.com/event...

                              $1 days are Sundays

                              1. re: kc72

                                Thanks for researching. I notice Chairman Bao not mentioned. See no Chairman Bao, hear no Chairman Bao, eat no Chairman Bao. I guess the Trib was wrong.

                                So who likes food truck food enough to pay $10 to get access to the trucks, unless you were going to the races anyway.

                                I think I will go ahead and go to the Chez Panisse/Openrestaurant birthday food event at the University Art Museum instead.

                                -----
                                Chairman Bao
                                San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                  Chairman Bao is listed on the OTG site

                                  http://offthegridsf.com/goldengatefields

                                  -----
                                  Chairman Bao
                                  San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                  1. re: kc72

                                    i saw that too so i rechecked my emailed entittled "your extensive guide to ...."
                                    and chairman bao wasn't on the list. only 23 trucks listed.

                                    your guess is as good as mine.

                                    1. re: shanghaikid

                                      http://www.7x7.com/eat-drink/grid-bri...

                                  2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                    OTG website says it's a rotating list of vendors over the 4 weeks. The GGF link is just for the 1st week so CMB may make an appearance later in the series.

                                    It also says admission to the races is $6 so it sounds like not required to get to the trucks.

                                    > We know you'll come for the food, but remember to stay for the HORSE RACES!
                                    > Admission to the races: $6, children 17 & under free

                                    1. re: drewskiSF

                                      i spoke to a otg rep at sf food festival. my impression is the trucks are inside ggf and you need to pay $6 to get into ggf to get to the food trucks.

                                      don't forget about the $4 for parking.

                                2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                  I've been to GGF $1 Sundays. If you want to kill some time and it's warm outside it can be nice time but the hot dog and beer are a waste of time/calories. It's a boiled Oscar Meyer and Bud in a tiny cup. You can do better at 7-11.

                                  There's also taco truck at the Gilman St. entrance, on non-GGF land. I've eaten there a couple of times. It was good but non-memorable either way.

                                  p.s. when I read about the Taco Truck with fish tacos I think oh boy...until I read the price. In LA you can get giant Baja fish tacos for a $1 (daily special).

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    During the week, there is a lonchera setting up outside the Oakland GO that sells 1.75 fish tacos that are well worth the price. It's cheaper than flying to LA. They also have shrimp at the same price point. The regular tacos are 1.25.

                                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                      Are they Baja fish tacos? I've been to the truck at GO, it's a good solid place but the Sinaloa truck at 23rd and International is better for grilled fish tacos ($1.50 ea.) and ceviche tostadas. These are as good as LA...but I haven't found Baja tacos up here as good or at the price of LA.

                                      1. re: ML8000

                                        Not familiar with Baja fish tacos. There is a stand at the Temescal Sunday Farmer's Market that sells fish tacos for 1.75. It might be associated with the Mexican restaurant catty corner from Bake Sale Bette on Telegraph.

                                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                          We got a taco from the Taco Guys Friday and it's not a Baja-style taco. It was big (two small pieces of breaded fried fish) and good with pickled onions and slaw. And yes, it was $5, as were all their other tacos.

                                        2. re: ML8000

                                          I haven't tried them yet, but there's supposed to be a lady at the Jack London Square Sunday farmers market who makes good (but pricey) fried fish tacos.

                                          -----
                                          Jack London Square
                                          70 Washington St # 207, Oakland, CA

                                          1. re: abstractpoet

                                            Cholita Linda

                                            2 for something like $7-8. basic, but really well executed with fried tilapia, cabbage, and some salsa & crema.

                                            -----
                                            Cholita Linda
                                            No fixed address, Oakland, CA

                                            1. re: drewskiSF

                                              They were the ones I saw at Temescal. Maybe I got the price wrong but I thought they were "only" 1.75 a pop.

                                            2. re: abstractpoet

                                              I tried them. They were okay but over-priced and small.

                                              Instead of lament like a NYer and bagels, I just wait until I go to L.A.. Bigger, better, on average $2.00...and there's once place that has a Tuesday special for $1 ea, about twice the size of CL, if not larger.

                                      2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                        Worst hot dog ever.

                                        Speaking of Sundays, though, has anyone been to the food carts outside the church on Gilman? They seem to be there around 1PM Sunday. I'm always on the way somewhere else.

                                  2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                    just looked at chairman bao's schedule for week of 8/29th. no emeryville appearances.
                                    just a maybe for ggf on saturday.

                                  3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    They aren't pork buns in cha shao bao sense, but modeled after Taiwanese gua bao, a la David Chang, Eddie Huag et al.

                                    http://is.gd/HCZtXX

                                  4. re: Windy

                                    windy:

                                    peter's kettle corn goes to many places like otg fort mason, oaktown flea market. haven't seen them listed as a vendor at stonestown. did not see them earlier in the year when i went.

                                    1. re: shanghaikid

                                      Thanks shanghaikid.

                                      I saw them today at the Mission Community Market, and I'm pretty sure they're the same people I remembered (favorably) from Stonestown.

                                      -----
                                      Mission Community Market
                                      E 22nd St, Oakland, CA

                                      1. re: shanghaikid

                                        We got Peter's kettle corn at Ft. Mason, and while I balked at the price ($5 for a small bag), it was great, and they overfilled it. Had to fight with the four-year-old, who wanted to "hold" it.

                                        We also enjoyed all the weird drinks from the various trucks: mango lassis, chicha morada, canteloupe lemonade. These were $2-3 each, so comparable to takeout or restaurant prices.

                                        1. re: Windy

                                          hmm. a $2 premium over their regular price. probably goes to cover part of the 10% that goes to otg and the rest goes to staff expenses......
                                          wonder if other vendors have pricing upticks here?

                                          1. re: shanghaikid

                                            Markup is noticeable for all vendors at the farmers' markets. For example the same vendors charge considerably more at Ferry Plaza and Marin than at Alemany and Civic Center/Heart of the City.

                                      2. re: Windy

                                        I second CurryUp Now! Their chicken tikka masala burritos are mouthwatering, flavorful, and spicy.

                                    2. I like Spencer on the Go. The prices are modest compared with the restaurant and you can eat in Terroir, which provides seats, tables, roof, and wine.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Cosign on Spencer on the Go; and I liked the Pizza Hacker that showed up 'round that same area for the same reason--Terroir is a congenial place to gather, drink and eat whatever you bought outside.

                                        In general, I'm annoyed at being charged crazy $$ in order to eat on a sidewalk--I thought the purpose of the truck phenomenon was to keep overhead low, but that hasn't been passed along to customers.

                                        1. re: pane

                                          This is the thing that drives me crazy about the trucks -- if I'm going to pay restaurant prices, I may as well go to an actual restaurant where I can sit at a table and have a drink. I do really like JapaCurry, partly because it's something that's hard to find around here and also because it's really good, the FiveTenBurger truck has one of the best burgers around, and at a good price in comparison to other gourmet type burgers, and I did like the Curry Up Now truck, though I don't know what the lines are usually like.

                                          -----
                                          Curry Up Now truck
                                          Shaw Rd, South San Francisco, CA

                                          JapaCurry
                                          San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                          1. re: pane

                                            Spencer on the Go was one of the trucks I was thinking that really did seem to be doing something creative in turning French food into street food.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Some of Spencer on the Go's dishes are too messy to really work as street food.

                                        2. we get food trucks at my work every day (and there are hardly any other food options).

                                          Curry Up Now always has an insane line. I think their food is really good and filling, but I don't go there on a regular basis.

                                          Japacurry is one of my favorites. I don't think there are that many Japanese curry places to begin with, and I like their version a bit. They don't come often and I get curry from them every time they do.

                                          51st state was my other favorite. their brunswick stew was outstanding and my co-workers swear by the Mochika chicken. Unfortunately, they've decided to stop being a food truck.

                                          Chairman Bao also draws long lines and is consistently good.

                                          I think hiyaaa, little green cyclo, Seoul on wheels are all good, but I wouldn't travel to any of them.

                                          -----
                                          Chairman Bao
                                          San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                          17 Replies
                                          1. re: margieco

                                            Oh, I'm sad to hear about 51st State. I really liked the things I had from there.

                                            On my list of trucks that I will track down:

                                            JapaCurry
                                            Liba Falafel
                                            The Taco Guys (very good fish tacos)
                                            Sanguchon (I had an excellent chicharrones sandwich from them recently, from the Mochica folks)

                                            And, I'm looking forward to trying the new Kasa truck.

                                            Generally, I end up at trucks often because it's fun, or because I'm with friends who want to go, but I really don't think that they're the be all and end all of flavor. And there are very few where I will deal with the line. A RoliRoti porchetta sandwich is one of my favorite things in the world, but I'll only eat it if there's a reasonable line (read: when it's raining).

                                            Also, FWIW -- The FiveTen burger I tried a few weeks ago was decent, but I would take many burgers over it any day (namely: the 4505 cheeseburger).

                                            -----
                                            Mochica
                                            937 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                            51st State
                                            , San Francisco, CA

                                            JapaCurry
                                            San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                            1. re: Fig Newton

                                              I don't think of Roli-Roti as a food truck, even though I guess technically it is, mostly because they have a stand outside the truck (plus they only do farmer's markets, they don't show up on regular streets). The best place to get Roli-Roti porchetta is at the Grand Lake farmers market, where I've never seen a really long line. They'll also sell it by the pound there, which I don't think they do at the Ferry Building.

                                              Does 4505 have a truck? I'm just aware of the booth at the farmers market. Same with Namu.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                The Roli Roti truck does show up on the street in front of Blue Bottle in Oakland, but that's only once a month (it used to be once a week, then they cut down).

                                                -----
                                                Roli Roti
                                                , Hayward, CA

                                                Blue Bottle Cafe
                                                66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                  1st Friday of the month. Never seen a long line.

                                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  ruth lafler:

                                                  4505 goes to certain events like eat real festival. while they don't have a food truck, i just put them in the same genre for convenience.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    Apropos what is actually a truck, is Little Green Cyclo a 3 wheel vehicle or an actual truck? Is the name some sort of mashup of Cyclo and The Scent of Green Papaya, both directed by the same person?

                                                    -----
                                                    Cyclo Cafe
                                                    6038 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538

                                                    Green Papaya
                                                    2016 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                                    Little Green Cyclo
                                                    San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                      Little Green Cyclo is a truck, not a cyclo.

                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Alas, the Roli-Roti truck at Saturday Grand Lake farmers market has stopped selling the porchetta sandwich (apparently prepping the pork is very labor-intensive and staff was unable to keep both Saturday trucks supplied); now just the roast chicken, potatoes, ham hocks. Only the Saturday Ferry Bldg farmers market has the porchetta now.

                                                      1. re: dordogne

                                                        Darn! The ham hocks are pretty good, though.

                                                        1. re: dordogne

                                                          Roli Roti is at the Ferry Building on Thursdays selling their porchetta sandwich.

                                                          1. re: ronnabay

                                                            Yes, but the line gets crazy long (like, 40-50 people deep, easy).

                                                      2. re: Fig Newton

                                                        I had a really excellent sandwich from Sanguchon - pork with a fried yucca slice. One of the better food truck sandwiches. Also a great purple (housemade) fruit drink. Lots of clove flavor.

                                                        I was quite disappointed with little green cyclo. There's much better banh mi around for less.

                                                        1. re: boris_qd

                                                          The purple drink is chicha morada, a Peruvian drink (available at all the Peruvian restaurants in the area) made from corn and cloves. Good stuff.

                                                          I do love that weird basil seed drink from Little Green Cyclo. And regretted not trying the spring rolls with duck last time.

                                                          -----
                                                          Little Green Cyclo
                                                          San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                          1. re: boris_qd

                                                            +1 re Little Green Cyclo - banh mi was very light on filling and not much flavor to what was there, and too expensive for what it was.

                                                            -----
                                                            Little Green Cyclo
                                                            San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                            1. re: boris_qd

                                                              Little Green Cyclo is good, but not their banh mi.

                                                              -----
                                                              Little Green Cyclo
                                                              San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                              1. re: Radical347

                                                                What IS good there?

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  The lemongrass quail salad and sweet potato fries.

                                                        2. Interesting discussion Ruth. I am a fan of the more creative food trucks, not the taco trucks (partly because I don't really eat soft tacos). But I agree with you that sometimes it doesn't seem like a value, and while I understand the whole discussion about "quality ingredients," these trucks are saving on lease costs and typically labor. So not sure they have much of the overhead argument going for them.

                                                          That said, I second Chairman Bao. What works for them are the relative price and the tasty creative menu, with changing specials. They keep it interesting.

                                                          I also like Brass Knuckles for really tasty and creative food and recently had a huuuge Cubana at 3-Sum which I thought was totally worth the money.

                                                          I go to Cupkates for the convenience because they seem to be the only dessert truck around and the price is comparable to other cupcakes around town. So mostly because it's there.

                                                          I recently had a bad experience at Onigilly. The price for a rice ball is pretty high, and this one particular one I had was really dry, falling apart in my hand. They seem a bit faddish to me. If they expanded their menu to some teriyaki skewers or octopus balls, that might help them.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: singleguychef

                                                            This was the second time I tried CupKates, and we liked them a lot. They have a lemon ginger cupcake which is lemon frosting on gingerbread. The cupcakes are very fluffy.

                                                          2. It's all a fad in the sense that someone might prefer food trucks to permanent restaurants in the city.

                                                            Trucks have always had a purpose of feeding hungry workers (or students) in areas outside of business districts with restaurant options. Also serve a purpose in providing inexpensive food or variety. The latest tread, which started with creative late night trucks parking in night life districts also served a purpose, especially in cities without many options for late night snacking.

                                                            However, in the sense that people (mostly young adults) now seek them out in preference to restaurants, that's a fad.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: jman1

                                                              They're also a fad in that the number of trucks has mushroomed in response to the fact that they are now trendy -- people who wouldn't have been caught dead at a taco truck are flocking to places like Off the Grid and there's a show about them on Food Network. The people with the creative trucks have been joined by lots of people who are doing it simply to cash in on the trend (nothing wrong with that, I guess, except that it makes it harder to find the good ones).

                                                            2. I've tried the Kara's Cupcakes in Truck Stop and that was actually good. There isn't a discount. It is on par with what you pay at Cupcake Cove but Kara's tastes better.

                                                              An the Go - an offshoot of Thanh Long and Crustacean. They were at Truck Stop this week. They don't come often but I love the garlic noodles. You get a lot for the price. More than what you get at Perilla and Unicorn. Only downside is you have to get the noodle plus a skewer in order to have some meat in your meal. That adds up.

                                                              -----
                                                              Thanh Long
                                                              4101 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                              Perilla
                                                              510 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: asianstamp

                                                                Kara's truck sells the same stuff at the same prices as they do in their six stores, right?

                                                                Garlic noodles a la carte at Thanh Long are $9.50. What do they cost on the truck?

                                                                -----
                                                                Thanh Long
                                                                4101 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  They were $4 at the truck, which did seem like a decent value, especially when compared to the ridiculous prices they charge for them at Thanh Long and Crustacean.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    I don't know how much they sell at the stores but the cupcakes were going for $3/piece so it's the same as Cupcake Cove's.

                                                                    Yes the garlic noodles were much cheaper than Thanh Long's but not much. I paid $7.50 for a bowl packed to the gills.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Thanh Long
                                                                    4101 Judah St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                                                                    1. re: asianstamp

                                                                      Sorry to drum this thread up again, but I just tried An the Go at the Civic Center this afternoon. Noodles were indeed $7.50, and all the extras were $2.50 each. As long as they have suckers like me stopping by, they are going to make a killing. The noodles honestly were nothing special, and I went for the stir-fried veggies, which cost as much as a skewer of meat or shrimp, and were mostly broccoli and celery. $10 for that? I know nobody MADE me eat there, but I felt ripped off.

                                                                      1. re: Spenbald

                                                                        Unfortunately I think $10 is the new measuring stick for the average workday lunch instead of $5 bucks. It's pretty difficult to get a decent $5 buck lunch now a days.

                                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                                          Civic Center's not far from Saigon Sandwich and a bunch of other places where you can get lunch for well under $10.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Saigon Sandwich Shop
                                                                          560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                                2. Not to bash anyone's business but on principal, I would not buy anything from Toasty Melts. Only because I can make these myself for a fraction of the price at home.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: asianstamp

                                                                    I was craving a grilled cheese sandwich once when I was out in the city, and Off the Grid was happening at the UN Plaza. I got the simplest sandwich (might have just been 4 cheese?). Not memorable, but it was MUCH faster than 510 Burger, and it hit the spot for me.

                                                                    But I agree.. not the best value.

                                                                    1. re: acetaminophen

                                                                      was this the toasty melts truck?

                                                                      1. re: shanghaikid

                                                                        Yes, it was.

                                                                        They offer other options as well--from what I remember, there was a grilled cheese with apples, another with bacon. Tomato soup to order on the side too.

                                                                  2. I'm not in SF, so what I say may be different from what everyone else is talking about.

                                                                    My favorite is Shack Mobile, an offshoot of Old Port Lobster Shack. The food's exactly the same as the original restaurant and comes cheaper. It's still not cheap, but it's the same great chowder, bisque and Lobster Rolls. I return often.

                                                                    Other ones I'd occasionally go back for are Kara's, Chowdermobile (only for the fish & chips - don't care for their chowder or lobster roll) and Curry Up Now. I've tried a bunch of others, but for the majority I didn't go back after the first time.

                                                                    Ultimately, the problem with many of the trucks is that the food either wasn't good enough to be worth a second try (most cases), or it was decent enough but got boring due to lack of specials or menu tweaking.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Old Port Lobster Shack
                                                                    851 Veterans Blvd, Redwood City, CA 94063

                                                                    1. Roli Roti is now at the Saratoga Farmer's Market at West Valley College on Saturdays. I don't know how anyone can resist a truck who's sides rollup to become a rotisserie with rosemary potatoes roasting in the bottom. You get a whole chicken for 12 bucks and you have most of dinner ready for the whole family.

                                                                      We tried OMINinjaSJ yesterday at the festival in Japantown SJ. How long can it take to make a fried egg to top a handful of noodles and lettuce and throw on precooked meat? Then the egg was not cooked ---as in the white was still 50% clear and gelatinous. For this you wait 40 minutes and pay 9$? Never again. I noticed that most of the customers were college age men who were chatting up the women working there. I plan on avoiding this scenario when choosing a place to eat in the future.

                                                                      The rest of the family had ordered, gotten their food, paid and eaten from the WOW Silog truck and had still had more time to get impatient and angry waiting for my order to come out of OMINinjaSJ. They loved the garlicky rice and the sausage from WOW.

                                                                      My cousin's daughter has a partnership in a truck. Apparently her share of the profits exceed his yearly salary as a surgeon.

                                                                      -----
                                                                      Roli Roti
                                                                      , Hayward, CA

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Tumkers

                                                                        My cousin's daughter has a partnership in a truck. Apparently her share of the profits exceed his yearly salary as a surgeon.

                                                                        ___

                                                                        I find that extremely unlikely, especially given the business skills of most aspiring restauranteurs and how short a period they've been in business. It sounds like Groupon math: focus on gross rather than net profits and extrapolate based on your single best day.

                                                                        1. re: Tumkers

                                                                          I'd be interested to hear about your cousin's daughter's exploits! Maybe I should quit school and start developing a food truck idea. Bet it would be difficult though, with such a saturated market already.

                                                                          1. re: Tumkers

                                                                            Wow considering how much surgeons can make, that must be some truck.

                                                                            1. re: ML8000

                                                                              I find anything in a xmas letter somewhat doubtful, but said cousin reports the kid is doing great. Their truck serves fusion burritos. They tweet their location and people show up. I won't know more until next xmas.

                                                                              I read an article a while back about a company who just gives consulting services to people who want to start a food truck. I can't find the article. Maybe it was mobimunch.com? Anyway, there are blog reports there on food trucks.

                                                                              1. re: Tumkers

                                                                                Hey if it's true, good for them.

                                                                                BTW, they have one stop do-everything food truck leasing companies in LA. They do everything from graphics and maintenance to permit pulling. You park it there as well.

                                                                              2. re: ML8000

                                                                                Los Angeles seems to have a much more truck-friendly health department / police department / regulatory climate than SF.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                  It's also about 10x larger in geography with lots of areas for food trucks and the need. If anything LA is ideally suited for food trucks. It's actually a sensible win-win solution.

                                                                                  1. re: ML8000

                                                                                    I was thinking that as well: LA is so sprawling that food trucks really make a lot of sense.

                                                                            2. Have to give a shout out to Liba Felafel -- pretty fast, quite delicious, and you get to add as much of the inventive toppings to your felafel salad ($9) or sandwich ($5 - $8) as you like at the topping bar.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Liba
                                                                              San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                                              1. My lunch was so late today that when I went to check out the Curry Up Now truck there was hardly any line.

                                                                                The good: the vaunted CTM burrito is really good, and it's a good value considering the quality of the ingredients (I fished out a chunk of the chicken to eat on its own, and it actually tasted like chicken!). I thought it might be to sloppy to eat with my hands, but it was barely manageable. Also, even late in the day they weren't out of anything (I hate when I go to a food truck and the specials are sold out).

                                                                                The bad: slow. How it can take 15 minutes to make a burrito is beyond me. While I was waiting there were only about a dozen people there in various stages of ordering/waiting, so it wasn't as if they were slammed. Also, the guy taking the orders was kind of surly and he turned up the already blaring Mexican music to an annoying level while I was waiting.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  I was out in San Ramon yesterday - Bishop Ranch 3 is having 4 to 5 trucks in on
                                                                                  Wednesdays http://www.bishopranch.com/tenant-ser...
                                                                                  Not always the same trucks - caught up with Chairman Bao - had the pork belly with pickled diacon and the red miso chicken with pickled carrots, both on steamed bao - $3.75 each.
                                                                                  Both were very good - pickles remind me of Japanese tsukemono.
                                                                                  Also had two Kara's cupcakes - $3.00 each, Kara's carrot and Meyer Lemon. Meyer lemon had a light lemon genache frosting with a lemon filling/ white cake. Carrot cupcake was a moist carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - both were just outstanding, can't wait to try some of
                                                                                  the other cupcakes. I also like the way they are package (not prepackage) - small box has a cardboard stand with holes cut so the cupcakes are stationary and don't get bumped around - of course they were only in the box until the two bao's were gone.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Chairman Bao
                                                                                  San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                    So far, Curry Up Now is the only truck I've gone back to -- the combination of delicious food, decent value and reasonable wait times makes it appealing. Today there was only a short wait to order and my food came up pretty quickly (while I was waiting a checked the other trucks: Chairman Bao and BaconBacon, both of which had insane lines -- also BaconBacon didn't appear to have a menu posted).

                                                                                    At Curry Up Now I got the Sexy Fries (waffle-cut sweet potatos fries with chicken tikka masala, cheese and onions). Delicious, and sweet potatoes are a better nutritional bang for the calorie buck than flour tortillas.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Chairman Bao
                                                                                    San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                      For the record, it's no longer the "Chairman Bao Truck," just "The Chairman Truck"

                                                                                      http://is.gd/JuyKAO

                                                                                  2. Based on just one visit, I would say that the soft serve ice cream from the Twirl and Dip truck is really good. They were parked on my regular route next to Lake Merritt one day last summer and I haven't seen them since. That may be for the best, because I'm sure it would be hard to resist getting ice cream every day if they were there. And like many of the fancy trucks, it ain't cheap. But it is organic and handmade and all that. Looks like they now have a permanent spot in GG Park.

                                                                                    I still remember that the two flavor choices were chocolate and blackberry, and I got a swirl of both and was very happy.

                                                                                    www.twirlanddip.com

                                                                                    1. Sampled quite a few new-to-me food trucks at Golden Gate Fields today. The only one that really stood out was board-favorite Chairman Bao. They are definitely doing something special.

                                                                                      I also had the chicken tikka masala fries from Curry it Up. Basically good, crazy spicy, but not all that special.

                                                                                      The savory beignets from Fins on the Hoof were good, but more like hush puppies than beignets, and a bit too doughy chewy inside.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Chairman Bao
                                                                                      San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                      1. Not actually a truck, but I really like the cannoli at the Creme Brulee guy's hand cart. LIght, not-to-sweet ricotta filling with a few chocolate chips and crispy shells. He is really a nice guy too and his mom is a hoot.

                                                                                        Another cart that I really like are the paleta carts that are rolling around town, yesterday at Alameda Point.

                                                                                        btw, at the Point, Liba's basic falafal costs $9, much more than mentioned above.

                                                                                        I try not to eat to much each month at AP, as Oakland Ctown and Gum Wah are just on the other side of the Posey Tube.

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Gum Wah
                                                                                        345 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                          re: liba's
                                                                                          in emeryville, the falafels sell at 6 & 8. at eat real festival. only a $5 version was sold.
                                                                                          there were less toppings offered at eat real.

                                                                                        2. I finally happened on Chairman Bao when there was no line (winding down at Mission/Fremont Truck Stop). I got the (last) baked pork belly bun. It was pretty tasty, although I thought it was a little unbalanced (I pulled some of the pickled daikon out and ate it separately). I think if I'd waited half an hour for it, I might have been underwhelmed, and I definitely would still have been hungry. For walk-up and buy it it was good, but not something I'd go out of my way to eat again.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Chairman Bao
                                                                                          San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

                                                                                          1. Although they are pricey, the lobster rolls from Sam's Chowdermobile... super yummy and come in 2 sizes!

                                                                                            1. I saw a report on TV last night that there was limited free parking (for the 1st 250 spots?) and free admission? for the GG Fields food truck event in Emeryville. I was not particular attention to the details.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                Golden Golden Gate Fields is in Albany, not Emeryville, and the food truck events at GGF are over for the season. You may have been hearing about some other event.

                                                                                              2. Near my workplace in Oakland's Uptown area, there's a corner spot of a building area that's featuring a different food truck every day, so really cool to have the food truck option.

                                                                                                That said, unfortunately today I tried this new one I'd never heard of called "Nick's Wheely Good Breakfast." It's breakfast sandwiches all day, and I ordered the Cubana breakfast sandwich which was pulled pork with slice of ham and fried egg. The whole sandwich was just dripping in oil. This is what I think of when I think of old-style food truck, just really greasy, unhealthy food. Luckily, there's a different truck every day so I can look forward to someone else.

                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: singleguychef

                                                                                                  There is?? I thought food trucks were more or less banned in Oakland. What corner, and what trucks have been featured there?

                                                                                                  1. re: betterbeheaven

                                                                                                    Lots of food trucks in Oakland -- there are probably 75-100 taco trucks alone. They have, however, discouraged food truck meet-ups a la Off the Grid.

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

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      Oh, right, that's silly of me to say. I was just thinking of the Downtown/Uptown areas. A recent SF Chron article stated that there are few places outside of Fruitvale where food trucks can legally operate. I know that CupKates comes weekly to Downtown Oakland though.

                                                                                                      1. re: betterbeheaven

                                                                                                        the oakland mobile food group has a group of trucks and carts that sell during lunch on Thur and Fri.

                                                                                                        Then there is bites off (used to be on) broadway in temescal every Fri dinner. They've relocated a couple of times due to complaints - but, theyve been pretty steady at the current location for the last 2 months or so.

                                                                                                        1. re: majordanby

                                                                                                          bites off broadway @studio one art center
                                                                                                          365-45th St. (street in front center)
                                                                                                          every fridays 5-9? till end of october.

                                                                                                    2. re: betterbeheaven

                                                                                                      The "truck corner" in Uptown is 21st and Webster across from the 24 Hour Fitness. For the last two weeks, seems like a different truck has shown up and now it seems like there's been a food truck every day of the week! Yippee!

                                                                                                      Today Streatery was there, and I always love their oxtail plate.

                                                                                                      I've also seen the Guerilla Grub guy (although when I got there he wasn't even ready to sell when it was almost noon), a pizza seller, and Five-10 Burgers have been there a couple of times. Also saw Vista, I think? It's never the same truck each day. I think they must have made a deal with the owner of that corner to switch out or something. But I'm happy to see the variety.

                                                                                                      1. re: singleguychef

                                                                                                        Here's a picture of what singleguychef is talking about:

                                                                                                        http://twitpic.com/70fcd8

                                                                                                        And this description is from their menu:

                                                                                                        Braised Oxtail winter vegetables and grits $9
                                                                                                        Fall-off-the-bone braised beef oxtail, young carrots, potatoes, caramelized onion and orange gravy, served over creamy grits

                                                                                                        By the way, really like the new website, Ben. Are you going to change your chowhound handle to focussnapeat?

                                                                                                        1. re: tpc

                                                                                                          Thanks TPC. I was planning to change my username to FSE to match my new blog but don't know how to do it under the profile section at Chowhound. So instead of deleting and starting new, the Single Guy lives on here. :)

                                                                                                    3. re: singleguychef

                                                                                                      i had the classic breakfast sandwich. it wasn't that tasty. hardly any taste at all.
                                                                                                      noticed the location is 21th & Webster St. any truck worth trying?

                                                                                                      1. re: shanghaikid

                                                                                                        Seoul on wheels does a reasonable spin on the whole korean-mexican fusion thing a la the awesome Kogi truck in LA. Their "korrito" is pretty tasty.

                                                                                                        Not a fan of chairman bao at all. Not in the same league as a pork bun from david chang in nyc...a poor imitation...

                                                                                                        Anyone tried the nam nam truck yet? LA truck that was high profile on the tyler florence food truck show on the Food Network last year. I heard they now have a truck up in SF...

                                                                                                        1. re: Scotty100

                                                                                                          only tried seoul's tacos which are a disappointment.
                                                                                                          not a fan of the chairman either.
                                                                                                          tried omi ningasj which may be similar to nom nom. no nom nom tasting yet.

                                                                                                      2. re: singleguychef

                                                                                                        I had the chicken apple biscuit from Nick's Wheely Good Breakfast. I was similarly unimpressed. On my first bite, a barely cooked egg yoke shattered and dripped all over my hand. I had to scrub down after eating. The biscuit was too flakey and the sausage too fatty and without much flavor. Won't try this truck again.

                                                                                                      3. I tried the JapaCurry truck today for the first time (parked on Howard near First in SF), and I thought it was both affordable and fast. Granted I went about 10 minutes before they were closing (1:35pm) and that meant they were out of all the bento boxes, but I had the veggie croquette curry and liked it a lot. I've never had Japanese curry before, and I'd say I prefer it over Indian curry. The price was right ($7.50 for the veggie) and the pumpkin croquette was especially tasty. I also liked the little pickles included (pickled daikon maybe?). I like the truck concept rather than a restaurant because I rarely eat out at work; if I go out for food at all it's to take it back and eat while I'm working. So the truck is a better option for me, and if I go during "off" hours I don't have to stand in line. I would definitely visit JapaCurry again--it was tasty, filling, affordable, and quick (for me).

                                                                                                        1. Since this has been revived ...

                                                                                                          I am thinking the fancy food trucks outside the cities might be better. There isn't the same type of customer who like playing the twitter the trendy truck game of "Where's Wagon?" IMO, when the truck becomes the destination it loses its purpose.

                                                                                                          The two Napa trucks I tried actually serve good food at good prices.

                                                                                                          Mark's the Spot as i've mentioned over and over again, makes a fried chicken sandwich that way out trumps Bakesale Betty's in its prime and their duck wings are delicious. The last sounds fancy, but it is mostly burgers, soup, salads and fries. They have a regular schedule that stops at a college one day a farmers market Saturday. The food is mainly organic and you can call ahead so you don't need to wait in line

                                                                                                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/marks-the-spo...

                                                                                                          I haven't done a real review anywhere yet for Crossroads Chicken which has a permanent place at the JV Liquor lot just down the street from Oxbow Market. Great sandwiches from a wood-fired oven, lovely salads, and fabulous creative cheesecake in cupcake size. At $3 they are better than regular old upscale cupcakes from Karas. I want to give it one more try before i write something because unfortunately the one thing i don't like is the chicken due to personal preference ... don't like brined birds, especially a Mary's brined bird.
                                                                                                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/crossroad-chi...

                                                                                                          They will be having a second truck in a few months in the fairfield area serving burgers ... Crossroads Burgers. Given I like their sandwiches so much, I'm looking forward to it.

                                                                                                          If only there was a cocktail cart or wine wagon driving down streets like a grown up ice cream truck, you might have something.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                                            "IMO, when the truck becomes the destination it loses its purpose." Exactly!