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By Spence Spellman in San Francisco—
Like it or not, street food in America has seen a recent boom and is here to stay. While it may not be easy to open up your own restaurant, many entrepreneurs have jumped at the chance of launching their own food truck. Things like Facebook, Twitter and mobile applications have only accelerated this growth by announcing locations and menu items.
Street food couldn’t be anymore popular than it is in San Francisco, which has its own weekly street food event every Friday night called “Off the Grid at Ft. Mason,” featuring 20-30 of the city’s best vendors. This year, the event leads up to the annual San Francisco Street Food Festival on August 20. The festival is hosted by La Cocina, San Francisco’s first incubator kitchen, which supports low-income food entrepreneurs.
To help you navigate San Francisco’s delicious street food scene, I’ve put together this guide to my favorite food trucks in San Francisco.
If you’re like me and have spent an extended amount of time in the south, then you may be particular about your barbecue. That’s where Southern Sandwich comes in. The beef brisket and Carolina pulled pork sandwiches are the house favorites. If you’re really hungry, add an order of mac ‘n cheese and hushpuppies. Southern Sandwich is primarily a lunch truck, as you won’t find it at “Off the Grid’s” evening events, but you’ll find it during the week at various locations, such as the Civic Center.
Seoul on Wheels
Seoul on Wheels is one of San Francisco’s most popular trucks, with hungry clients waiting up to 30 minutes on busy Friday nights at Fort Mason. While their Korean barbecue tacos are one of the most popular items, I recommend the spicy barbecue pork on a sandwich roll. Arrive early if you don’t want to stand in line.
The Taco Guys
While The Taco Guys are a crowd favorite on Friday nights at Ft. Mason, you’ll also find them throughout the Bay Area for lunch and dinner. Although they feature all of the classic tacos, they’re best known for their fish tacos. The Maui fish taco is highlighted by a generous portion of fried wahoo fish, along with shredded lettuce, pickled radishes, mayo and cilantro. For an extra kick, wash it down with their spicy lemonade.
These dumplings are a far cry from anything you’ve ordered from Chinese take-out. Most importantly, they are much bigger. Dumplings come in threes, although you can mix and match, choosing from chicken cilantro, pork chive, or vegetable. Add some soy sauce and hot sauce for some extra flavor. You can find Happy Dumplings on Friday evenings at Ft. Mason and Saturday mornings at Stonestown Farmers Market.
If you’re looking for a California burrito fix, Senor Sisig is the place to get it. The significant difference here is that french fries are added to it. If you can’t take french fries in your burrito, Senor Sisig offers nachos and several other types of burritos. Their cart can be found during the week throughout San Francisco for lunch and dinner.
It’s not easy finding a good burger food truck in San Francisco, but Fivetenburger seems to have nailed it. The truck is parked around the Bay Area during the week, typically around lunchtime. While you can order up one of their grass-fed burgers almost any way you want, I recommend going all the way and adding bacon and/or a fried egg. Add an order of garlic fries and you’ll likely fall into a food coma.
Chaac-Mool is a shining beacon of light for La Cocina’s incubator program. Originally running Chaac-Mool out of their home several years ago, this family-owned vendor now has one of the most recognizable food carts in San Francisco, serving up one of the city’s most extensive menus. If you want it, then they probably have it, from tamales to gorditas to nachos, tacos and tostadas. They operate a cart most days in the Mission at Dolores Park and Friday evenings at Ft. Mason.
El Porteno Empanadas
El Porteno Empanadas is a “no-frills” food cart in San Francisco. Simply step up to the cart and choose a type of empanada: Chicken, beef, prosciutto and cheese, or vegetarian. While you may need to order a couple of these to get full at lunch, they are a great snack item on the go. For something sweet, order a couple Alfajores de Dulce de Leche, which are Argentine cookies filled with milk caramel.
Cupkates is one of a few of San Francisco’s dessert trucks. I like Cupkates because I can eat it there or grab a couple to take home with me (although, let’s be honest, they never make it all the way home). A surprising option is the salted caramel chocolate cupcake, which has an interesting medley of flavors. My favorite, however, is the red velvet. Cupkates is one of the Bay Area’s most active food trucks, often found in a couple different locations every day.
Crème Brûlée Cart
This cart speaks for itself. After an evening of picking and choosing from San Francisco’s best street food at Ft. Mason on Friday nights, the Crème Brûlée cart serves up a good nightcap. While vanilla bean is a favorite, I can’t turn down the Nutella and fresh strawberry crème brûlée. Bon appetit!
Your favorite food truck?
Do you have a San Fran food truck to add to our list? Have you been to any of those listed here? Tell us about it in our comments section.