San Mateo, CA: Foodies Gobble Up Newest Attraction for Mobile Eats

On the grid: Mobile food trucks provide an alternative for people in need of a quick bite. Examiner file photo

By Niko Kyriakou | Examiner

On the grid: Mobile food trucks provide an alternative for people in need of a quick bite. Examiner file photo

Off the Grid’s first food-truck event on the Peninsula is going gangbusters after only a month.

The San Mateo Transit Center is transformed into a community feast of mobile vendors and foodies every Monday night, with eight gourmet trucks gathering in the parking lot near the San Mateo Caltrain station on First Avenue to serve more than 2,000 people, said Off the Grid founder Matt Cohen, who first popularized food truck events in San Francisco.

“It’s our first location that’s really built on the idea of commuters coming from Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley area getting off and grabbing a bite before going back home,” Cohen said.

Mama’s Empanadas, The Wow Truck, Golden Boy Pizza, Little Green Cyclo, Chairman Bao and other well-known Bay Area food trucks have participated in the event. All food is served on recyclable or compostable materials, said Cohen, who charges trucks a $50 fee and 10 percent of sales to participate.

“We have experienced the energy around [Off the Grid] at their San Francisco locations, and we thought it would be a good idea to create a weekly, alcohol-free event here to bring some new people to the downtown,” said San Mateo Downtown Association Director Rob Edwards, who helped the group obtain permits from the city. For those looking to wash down their eats with a little booze, alcohol is available at the nearby Melting Pot.

Visitors to the eat-out are spilling over, boosting business at nearby restaurants, said Edwards, and lines at the crowded event are often 15 to 20 minutes long.

“Turnout is pretty good, surprisingly, because San Mateo already has a lot of food establishments,” said Monica Wong, co-owner of Little Green Cyclo.

Wheeled restaurants, which Off the Grid helped popularize in San Francisco and the East Bay, are quickly laying tracks around the Peninsula.

Every day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., some four to eight gourmet food carts gather on Walmart’s property at 8000 Marina Blvd. in Brisbane to serve employees in the corporate park area, Wong said. Other carts gather for lunch near Genentech in South San Francisco, and also in Menlo Park and every other Monday night in East Palo Alto, she said.