Come and Get It!
We were just starting to feel a little behind the times in the Island City, while other cities around us flaunted their gourmet food trucks and hipster appeal. But no worries now — the city passed an ordinance in February to allow food trucks in Alameda under certain restrictions. A conditional use permit allows food trucks to park at any of five designated zones: College of Alameda and Alameda Point, South Shore Center, Marina Village and Harbor Bay shopping centers.
South Shore Center wasted no time. The center began corralling food trucks in June as a Saturday event called Off the Grid Alameda. Now, every Saturday, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., you can enjoy the flavors of eight to 10 food trucks in a pod. (A food pod is a regularly scheduled group of food trucks in the same place every week.) Food trucks will serve on a rotating basis, so if you miss the tacos or the crepes this week, they’ll be back again soon. The South Shore trucks come courtesy of Off The Grid San Francisco, which specializes in food-on-the-wheel.
A recent OTG weekend offered trucks dishing up breakfast, dessert and entrees. Nicks’ Breakfast Truck’s specialty is the Pig Lover’s Combo, a pork belly sandwich with bacon and a side of pork belly hash ($11). 510 Burgers was serving drippingly juicy sandwiches and causing friendly arguments in the long line (burgers from $6 to $10). 333 offered up a Korean-inspired burrito or quesadilla, for a delicious fusion lunch, at about $10 a plate.
The saucy blending of cultures and cuisines was confusing for some patrons, who wandered in a Lotus Eater’s dream. Hapa SF was serving up “sustainable local Filipino cuisine,” and causing long lines in the south parking lot at South Shore. Their “field to family” chicken adobo went for $7. Curry Up Now was plating deconstructed samosas for $6 and “sexy fries” — cross-cut fried potatoes topped with chicken tika masala or paneer tika masala for $8. Next door, Pacific Puffs had the corner on dessert, with fresh cream puffs coated in chocolate and piped with luscious cream, $2 each. Live entertainment in the form of a soulful singer and her guitar added to the cheerful ambience.
OTG founder Matt Cohen was on hand, as were other OTG staffers, in bright red T-shirts, making sure all went smoothly. He recommends that first-timers just “jump right in,” get in line and ask the chefs what is the most popular item on the menu. “Ask your fellow people what they are eating,” he says. “Really interesting food (will) walk right by you.”
Each truck has recycling and compost bins to help sort trash, and a thoughtful process of sustainability and eco-responsibility underlies the food frenzy. “It’s the right thing to do,” Cohen says, “in line with sourcing locally.”
Alameda’s OTG is slated for a year’s trial run at South Shore, and, one hopes, much longer.
Food trucks started to trickle into Alameda about as soon as the ordinance passed. Seen on Park Street: Sweet Treat Stop, with cupcakes and other desserts, and Mayo&Mustard, with sandwiches. Those independent vendors had a soft opening in April at their Park Street location near the bowling alley and dubbed it a huge success.
“[The customers] were excited that food trucks were finally here,” said Atsushi Masa, owner of Mayo&Mustard, which is based in South San Francisco. “We ran out of lettuce!” He said his partner, who operates Sweet Treat Stop, sold out of her wares: cakes and cookies baked fresh on
Excited Alameda customers lined up for food and told Masa, “This is a good thing! We’ve been waiting for this!” Customers also went to his Facebook page to rave about the new dining option. Masa and his partners couldn’t be happier with Alameda’s new policy. With food pods now at South Shore and on Park Street, just for starters, who says this isn’t the hippest island in the bay?