Thursday, May 19, 2011

Off the Grid: Upper Haight

The food truck sensation has reached such heights in San Francisco that the popular weekly Off the Grid food truck gathering at Fort Mason has spawned nearly seven sibling OTGs around town.

The Fort Mason event on Friday nights still remains the largest gathering, but I decided recently to check out one of the other OTGs, specifically the OTG in Upper Haight. This OTG occurs on Thursday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. near Stanyan and Waller.

Just a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate Park, the spot has a feel like you’re dining in a meadow, giving it a picnic feel (once our weather warms up). When I arrived right after work, the OTG wasn’t that crowded so there weren’t that many lines at the trucks.

For example, this was an interesting sight: a short line at Chairman Bao! This truck consistently has a line whenever it makes an appearance. I took advantage of the short line and ordered its special bun for the night, a Muscove duck bun with spicy aioli and green papaya salad ($4.50).

Chairman Bao’s buns are always a challenge to eat, but they’re always worth it because of the creativity and flavors. This special duck bun wasn’t any different. My first bite basically was filled with most of the crunchy green papaya salad on top. Eventually I got to the tender duck meat underneath that had a nice mild kick from the spicy aioli.

OTG: Upper Haight has a mix of old favorites like Chairman Bao, Curry Up Now, and Seoul on Wheels, with a few trucks I’d never heard of. Like this rock star truck calling themselves Brass Knuckles. It appeals to the fried foods-loving crowd, with its fries and bacon-wrapped hot dog, but I was intrigued by its “Notorious P.I.G” ($8), a Cubana-like sandwich made with a rosemary waffle.

I didn’t know what to expect since I’m generally not a waffle eater, but this just blew me away. The waffle was perfectly cooked, light with crispy edges and just the faintest of rosemary flavor. Inside was the typical ingredients of a Cuban sandwich, which means strips of cold cuts like ham all held together in the pressed waffle sandwich by the cheese. One of the best street food I’ve eaten in years.

By now I was ready for dessert, and you can always count on a cupcake truck, and at Upper Haight it’s the reliable CupKates, who drives over from the East Bay. I ended up getting the seasonal lemon meringue cupcake, which was a bit difficult to eat because of the meringue topping, but such a lemony and moist cake. Unfortunately, because this is a seasonal flavor, the week I was there was the last week CupKates was selling this flavor. But I’m sure you’ll find another favorite flavor among its many choices.

OTG: Upper Haight actually has a cozier feel because it’s smaller than the event at Fort Mason (although the neighborhood does have the same cold gusty wind like the Marina). If you haven’t checked it out, head out there tonight. Soon I bet there’ll be an OTG every night of the week. But I’m not complaining.


Hungry Dog said...

This is near my house (well, down a big hill). I've been meaning to stop by so thanks for the reminder--I just might go this afternoon!

nanette said...

what time around did you go if you don't mind me asking? now that there's a waffle sandwich I think I finally will make it there!

Single Guy Ben said...

I think I was there between 5:30 and 6:30, it started getting crowded as I was leaving.

julieako said...

Have you done any of the dishcrawls? Tracy usually includes foodtrucks at the ones in SJ. It's a great way to try new things.

Single Guy Ben said...

I would love to do a dishcrawl but so far the ones I've seen either are based in San Mateo, San Jose, etc. and I don't have a car. The ones I've seen in the Mission conflicted with my calendar. :(

Carolyn Jung said...

Nice about the shorter lines at this location. And that rosemary waffle would tempt me to check this out all on its own. ;)