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Decline in the food truck craze?

I may be the lone person that hasn't had the Off The Grid experience but coincidentally they are now practically in my back yard (Sunnyvale) on Thursday nights. IYO does it live up to the hype, or has it lost it's appeal? Long lines are not my idea of fun.

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  1. i fail to see how long lines=decline in the food truck craze.
    true, lines are shorter in areas where food trucks have around for years.
    btw, some food trucks have gone brick & mortar (the chariman, koja kitchen, brass knuckles, to name a few).

    4 Replies
    1. re: shanghaikid

      The comment was in reference to not liking to stand in lines for possibly mediocre food.

      1. re: letsindulge

        seldom see long lines for mediocre food. usually such lines are for established trucks like the koja kitchen, the chairman or a new truck on the scene.

        usually the truck with the short or no lines is the one serving the mediocre food.

          1. re: shanghaikid

            I was at one of the food truck places last month on 2nd St under the bridge, and the long lines were at the place serving pizza. People were waiting 10 minutes to place an order and 10 more to get it. Didn't seem to work for the weekday lunch hour. The other places seemed pretty efficient.

      2. I think the initial hype is gone but the practically and reality has set in and are likely to stay.

        As you mention, it's not just SF proper any longer but everywhere. There's parks (Antioch) re-designed to facilitate them. Also in LA, where food trucks make way more sense given geography, it seems to me they provide a real service, especially for lunch and not having to get in a car.

        In places like Antioch or Sunnyvale it's a very inexpensive way for locals to get something different for not a lot of $$$ and get outside...and very little cost to local government. So hype is down but I think they'll be around.

        6 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          It's great for those that had their start in food trucks, now having the opportunity to open a b & m location. It's happened the other way around as well. :)

          1. re: ML8000

            Where is the Antioch food truck park?

            1. re: dunstable

              Seriously, where is this Antioch food truck park? Is it not open yet, or is it just in the planning stages, or what? I'd eat there every day if it were open.

              1. re: dunstable

                Dunstable, sorry for the late reply. A few years back there was a decent write up about using redevelopment dollars wisely in Antioch. The gist: they redesigned a downtown park to accommodate food trucks, via parking slots, more public restrooms, etc. Seemed like a win-win and good use of food trucks. I recall it was a weekend deal, not daily. Any way, this could have been 7 years ago because I can't find the article now...unfortunately things change. One thing that has changed is umbrella management, like OTG or the SOMA deal.

                1. re: ML8000

                  pooh. oh well, thanks for looking.

            2. I wouldn't be surprised if it is declining. I recently went to the one on over on Stanyan after not visiting for a year. All the trucks looked shiny new and expensive and the everything I sampled was very mediocre. Looked like it went corporate.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sfchris

                I don't know about the craze overall, but I think the "craze" is on the downside of the peak among chowhounds.

                In the beginning, it seemed like an exciting way for creative people to do something interesting or experimental. But as you noted, once it got popular, it started being corporate and driven by the desire to cash in rather than the desire to do something innovative.

                To me, the issue isn't that the food is mediocre, it's that it's often no better or cheaper than food I don't have to stand in long lines for in what is often a not very appealing atmosphere. While at times it they be a good option, food trucks are no longer something I'm particularly interested in seeking out.

              2. I will give my local OTG a try sometime soon. Meanwhile...


                1. As with most fads and trends, i think food trucks, at least in large metro areas like the bay area, are regressing to a stable level of supply and demand. in the case of the bay area, that level isnt zero or whatever it was at the peak of the food truck faze, but somewhere in between. I think the trucks that have been around since the beginning (e.g. chairman, senor sisig) will stick around - and new trucks will pop up to be used by those trying to enter the business - likely to get into a brick and mortar. As long as OtG is around, trucks will still have a presence.

                  the fad nowadays seem to be pop-ups at brick and mortars.

                  1. I have been going to OTG for wel. over 3 years at lunchtime in the SF Civic Center a few times a month. Yes, lines are long - I have to get there before noon. There are some really great trucks that have been around for a long time (Curry Up, Chairman, Liba, Sisig...they are not that cheap and usually not super healthy - but delicious.

                    1. "Nobody goes (to food trucks) anymore. It's too crowded"

                      1 Reply
                      1. Recent OTG experiences in Menlo Park have been positive. The lines are no longer excessive, the food choices are decent. Of course, Menlo Park has quite a few restaurant space vacancies (Su Hong*, Menlo Hub, BBC, that italian place near the train station) and so few choices it's getting unbearable.

                        * Su Hong Menlo Park, not to be confused with Su Hong To Go (still as ugly as ever) or Su Hong Palo Alto. Of those, the only one we miss is BBC, but three large spaces right in that area and no one filling it - clearly the result of a poorly informed dining public.

                        ( Basically, downtown, we have Shiok!, Left Bank (nice enough but tedious more than once or twice a month), Barrone (excellent but again tiresome), Fey (disappointing), a whole slew of italian places (the ex-polish-place, two others), Carrapacio, LB steaks (yet another burger at the bar), a couple of plausible japanese places like Naomi, that one chain pizza place, and Refuge (hate the energy and noise), the weird tapas place, and that one mexican place I always forget. No indian, no chinese, no thai, no upscale american, no middle eastern of any sort.)

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Not to forget the option of Iberia (I still hear Señor Relinqué's ads on KCBS radio). I remember some years ago, some CHers had various chips on their shoulders about the place, with complaints none which I'd experienced in several visits, but it remains true that Iberia is a destination draw for some people to come to downtown MP for lively Spanish main courses, and has offered Spanish tapas far longer than a few other and less authentic peninsula "tapas" restaurants.

                          ETA: Haven't been back recently, but I'd characterize my Iberia experiences as relaxed, pleasant, and reasonably priced for this market. (And it was a particularly interesting place the night of December 31, 1999. In the former location -- Menlo Park being the "new" Iberia to its regulars.)

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            Yes, I was rushed when I was writing and left out Ibera. It makes the list less than once a year, despite being fairly close to my house. It was retried recently and I found it no different than previous visits.

                          2. re: bbulkow

                            Food truck wise, OTG in Menlo Park is on top of the food trucks at the Willows Market every Monday.

                            In terms of brick and mortars, did the Turkish restaurant on El Camino (Sultana ?) go under? There's still Iberia across from the train station for your authentic Spanish experience (slow, unpleasant, and overpriced). We miss Gambardella's (the italian place near the train station) because it was good for after work events what with decent food and a full bar.

                            1. re: 512window

                              Correct. OTG has more trucks than Willows (almost 2x more), stays open an hour later, has music, and enough chairs. OTOH, Willows has picknick tables.

                              I don't remember the status of Sultana, but yelp has it going strong. In a single visit I just wasn't enthused - food was bland and meat heavy, atmosphere was brightly lit and under decorated, although honestly it probably deserves another look. Give me New Kapodocia and Paradise Kebab in RWC when I'm in the mood for turkish.

                              Things were better in MP when BBC was open, that great afghan place with the wood oven was open, and Jesse Cool's place was open, and the polish place. Just comparing the vacancy level of Menlo Park of existing, built-out spaces, including Gambardella's space which is arguably the least cursed of the bunch, in the midst of a boom, shows a strange action at work - the rare new entrants are Market Whatever by the Barrone people, and Refuge.

                              I blame the Menlo Park dining public.

                            2. re: bbulkow

                              Su Hong Menlo Park's website says its closed for remodeling. Are you saying it's closed for good and vacant?

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Like Menlo Hub and BBC, the period for "remodelling" is far longer than any sensible remodel, and there is no construction action that is apparent - nor has there been in years.

                              2. re: bbulkow

                                OTG menlo park update.

                                CRAZY crowd last night. Arrived at about 7:30 and lines were 20 to 30 people deep at each truck, hard to walk around and even see the different trucks. Lots of my favorites - Chairman, Heyaaaa, but didn't even wade in.

                                I do usually arrive later - like 8:30 - maybe it's always like this. Really, if this is the usual, I see why people think it's not very fun.

                              3. When is the last time someone posted here about a food truck as a destination? Mostly the posts I see are from tourists who want trucks qua trucks.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I'm thinking that maybe the Westbrae Biergarten will be the "future" of food trucks. I'm much more likely to go there (not to mention the convenience to home) where I know a truck will be there for a couple of weeks, I can sit at a table, I can get an adult beverage, etc. than somewhere that I'll be eating on a sidewalk after waiting in line, juggling my food, spending as much as I'd spend in a similar sit down place, and either waiting for my dining companions to get their food from other trucks, or eating mine when it is cold (or vice versa). OTG has become the truck mafia and their cut has made it difficult to make a living slinging even higher priced delicious hash out of a truck.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    My posts about Menlo OTG have not been a post of a tourist who wants trucks.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      The posts I find are about the scene, hours, which trucks are there, OTG vs. Willows. Still trucks qua trucks.

                                      What I'm not seeing are recommendations of trucks in discussions of "where's the best ____________"?

                                      The only recent such mention I can recall was by Melanie Wong regarding lobster rolls, and the truck had since been abandoned in favor of a restaurant.

                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Someone included the mochimisu from Koja Kitchen in the "best bites" thread for 2013. I agree. I'm now convinced that adding a layer of chocolate mochi always makes tiramisu tastier. I have been known to stock up.

                                    3. "Somewhere that I'll be eating on a sidewalk after waiting in line, juggling my food, spending as much as I'd spend in a similar sit down place, and either waiting for my dining companions to get their food from other trucks, or eating mine when it is cold (or vice versa)".

                                      Pretty much my feelings in a nutshell.

                                      1. I regularly attend the El Cerrito OTG and it's just as robust as ever. The prices and lines are indeed a drag though!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ltsering

                                          What's the upside that makes it worth waiting in line and paying high prices? Are there dishes that are better than in regular restaurants?

                                        2. It's no longer a craze, it's a standard part of the food fabric in the Bay Area.

                                          Off the Grid not has a schedule of nightly and daily, organized events, with multiple operations running at the same time. Lines aren't as much of a problem. The trucks are running on more consistent schedules. Most of them serve steady menus now. You're not chasing a Twitter feed.

                                          New trucks pop up all the time. It's more difficult than ever to keep track. The blogs just got bored covering all the fly by night operations, or every time someone added another truck to their fleet.

                                          An increasing number of trucks are now retail brick and mortar operations. There are also less of the self empowered food trucks that opted for a truck because it was within their means, and more of the standard restaurant owner types that views trucks as higher profit, getting into it.

                                          We shouldn't mistake general grips for the gourmet food trucks (value, lack of seating) with a decline. There's been no decline, it just doesn't represent the latest trend, or an inspiring movement. You have tv shows based around food trucks, for goodness sakes, but are they only relevant if they're hip? Less hype, but plenty of activity.

                                          Few of them serve food I'd order in a sit down restaurant though.

                                          1. Seems like someone jumped the shark.

                                            "Food truck for dogs coming to San Francisco"


                                            1. I want to add that lately, I've been attending Off The Grid or the trucks in SOMA and have been shocked at the lack of crowds or lines...