Food Truck’in: San Fran Style

S.F.'s "Señor Sisig" Food Truck, which serves Filipino-inspired tacos and & other items
S.F.'s "Señor Sisig" Food Truck, which serves Filipino-inspired tacos and & other items

BY REDGIE CINCO | Business Insight Malaya

SAN FRANCISCO – is a delightful city in Northern California known for its laid back life style and a vibrant, burgeoning art scene as well. It is one of the most visited cities in the world what with its famous attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit tower, Alcatraz, even the distinction of having the “crookedest” street in all of America in Lombard Street. However, aside from its must see attractions, which appeals to all, for sure, one emerging attraction comes highly recommended by the locals: Food Trucking.

Food Trucks are found all over the United States. New York for that matter have food trucks in areas like Queens and Brooklyn, against the more known food carts selling Sabrett’s hotdogs, pretzels, souvlaki in Manhattan. Over in New Jersey, Rutgers University has long been known for their “grease trucks” which interestingly features a “Phat Philipino” sandwich. The concept is not necessarily limited to the United States, of course. One could say that this is a glorified version of perhaps, Burger Machine and fishball stands in the Philippines, the hawker markets of Singapore, or even the pho stalls of Vietnam. The difference is that food trucks are mobile and can be brought in and out from one location to another. In San Francisco, in fact, food trucking is not only an attraction but an event in itself.

Matt Cohen - Creator of "Off The Grid"

Off the Grid is a congregation of various food truck venturists who organize numerous food trucking events throughout San Francisco. Not surprising is the fact that native San Franciscans actually do follow them whenever and wherever the event is staged. Off the grid even has a web page so people would be able to know where they will be on a particular day. Their website typically describes what food trucking and Off The Grid is all about:

“Off the Grid is a roaming mobile food extravaganza that travels to different locations daily to serve delicious food, with a free side of amazing music, craft and soul. We’re bringing all your favourite gourmet food vendors together to create a market you’ve never seen before.”

The penultimate weekend staging of Off the Grid Food Trucking event was held on Nov. 12, 2010 at Fort Mason Center in Marina District in San Francisco. Gathered were at least 20 food trucks offering various gourmet street food preparations like gyros, burgers, tacos, burritos, ramen, among others. The trucks are parked into a circular formation reminiscent of the old western wagons travelling cross country in order to have a better strategic position against Native Americans then. There are specialty food trucks offering coffee, cupcakes and as a source of pride, Filipino food.

Senor Sisig is a collaboration between Japanese American Evan Kidera and Filipino, Gil Payumo. Together they concocted a menu of tacos, burritos, nachos and rice plates with sisig as the main meaty ingredient. While relatively new in the food trucking business, they envision their menu to expand and include other sisig variants such as chicken, beef, bangus and tofu. Additionally, adobo, lumpia and the ubiquitous tapsilog and its other silog siblings will be featured on the menu in the near future.

Hafa SF Food Truck - Owned/Operator Chef William Pilz

Another Filipino-inspired outing is Hapa SF. Owned and operated by Chef William Pilz, Hafa SF, primarily a Filipino Taco Truck, offers modern organic Filipino food. Four basic Filipino classics are the stars of the show, adobo, pancit, lumpia, and sisig. However, Pilz take on the Filipino classics above sort of border on the “fusion” type of cooking, which obviously is very noticeable to every true-blooded Filipino soul. But, nonetheless, nobody seems to be complaining.

Truthfully, the sisig served SF is nowhere near the prestige of the sisig (especially Aling Lucing’s) served in the Philippines for obvious reasons, but just the fact that Filipinos in SF have infiltrated a little slice of the pavement cuisine in the United States definitely leaves a sweet taste in the mouth.

Other food trucks include Chairman Bao Bun Truck, siopao buns, shu mai, and other dimsum favourites alongside other Chinese rice plate specialties like roasted pork, chicken and beef. Takorea Truck which features spicy Korean noodle soups and rice plates has also been a part of the food trucking event since its inception. Curry Up Now, for that matter, offers an interesting mix of Indian inspired cuisine. Mexican taco trucks (arguably the pioneer of the food truck phenomenon) also abound as they offer tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas and the like. In fact, taco trucks are sometimes referred to as a roach coach, for reasons we don’t need to expound on. Also, represented are Japanese ramen trucks and American style burgers, sandwiches, etc.

Although San Francisco may not lay claim to being the pioneer of the food trucking event, Off the Grid certainly has innovated this pavement cuisine food concept into a much anticipated, much followed, and much attended side attraction to the City of San Francisco.