The Truck Stops Here: Off the Grid & The SOMA StrEatfood Park
For a couple years now, the Off the Grid organization has been choreographing regularly scheduled al fresco food courts, handling the logistics and licenses required to have three-to-eight food trucks corralled in a core urban location for a few hours of lunch or dinner time revelry, creating steady income streams for mobile food entrepreneurs and bringing a sense of camaraderie to local communities. Their online calendar provides info on where and when you’re guaranteed to find eclectic meals on wheels every day of the week.
But, now, the next stage of street food evolution has arrived: There’s no need to check a calendar to get your grub on at the SOMA StrEatfood Park. Opened this summer in a heavily trafficked area South of Market, the brainchild of Carlos Muela—proprietor of first-rate Mission tapas bar Esperpento—has turned a vacant lot into a festive hub of eclectic, modestly priced eats every day of the week—at lunch and dinner. It’s also about to become a major nexus of weekend nightlife, with a third shift of trucks now taking over on Friday and Saturday nights from Midnight to 4 am. From Vietnamese bahn mi, to pulled pork mac and cheese, to burritos, to chicken schnitzel, to falafel, to fresh baked cookies, this is a cornucopia on macadam.
As many as 10 trucks a shift set up camp around StrEatfood’s clever, barn-like covered seating area complete with big screen TVs playing local sporting events, heat lamps for the cooler weather, and—this being San Francisco—free WiFi access. And—drum roll please—there are public restrooms.
The StrEatfood Park also also has outdoor seating, with clustered plantings that make it feel less like a vacant lot than an urban garden. At night, strings of tiny lights give the venue an carnival air as tail lights whiz by on the freeway above and giant billboards loom overhead. There’s a gritty, urban magic to the place that’s likely to turn it into a regular spot on the itinerary of more adventurous tourists.