Monday + holiday = impossible to find an open restaurant. Thankfully we have Off the Grid, where tonight in Belmont, we got to try the fare of four new trucks. Off the Grid provides space, seating, music, and waste services for food trucks to have an area to congregate, and with so many people staying home on this Monday holiday, we breezed through the event with tiny-to-no lines.
Cheese Gone Wild serves exactly what the name describes. The Alcatraz Island Melt looked most tempting to us: grilled flank steak with homemade balsamic steak sauce, caramelized grilled onions and mushrooms, imported Gruyere and Swiss cheeses, on organic shepherd-style white bread. The tender beef had a nice acidity from the balsamic glaze, and the sweet onions balanced the palate so it didn’t go too far into savory. There was just the right amount of cheese so as not to overpower the other ingredients. Held together between slices of buttery grilled bread, this was sumptuous but far from greasy. All sandwiches come with kettle chips and cole slaw, which we thought was very fresh and crunchy with a creamy mayonnaise base. The lemonade with real strawberries had some pulp, not just blended juice. With more strawberry than lemon flavor, there was little citrus to make your lips pucker, so it was more like a strawberrade.
Roli Roti has spread across the Bay Area and can be found at farmers’ markets all over, but it was our first time bumping into the mobile rotisserie van. “Serving only sustainably-farmed meats and organic produce at their seasonal best,” as per the website, Roli Roti has secured its spot honorably among those markets.
We got a half of a chicken to split between us, because it doesn’t take much food to be satisfied when it’s quality. The meat was supremely moist and juicy with a flavorful herbed skin. To go with it, we ordered a small batch of fingerling potatoes. These were soft and salted just right with sea salt, but the nicely caramelized skins with rosemary put them a step above.
Providing a few specialties tonight as a detour from their standard menu, Little Green Cyclo impressed us with their Vietnamese treatment of meats. Locally sourced, all natural, or organic when possible, we appreciate those who put thought into real food. While Zach enjoyed the first few bites of the wagyu beef and rice vermicelli without the sweet vinegar sauce, it was the sauce that made all the difference in enhancing the noodles, vegetables, and beef itself. The beef was lean and tender, clearly high quality, and though it was seasoned well, that vinegar sauce was magical. The duck confit spring rolls had the same vermicelli that was firm but gummy (in a good way). The fresh veggies provided crispness, but the salty duck gave the spring rolls some meaty crunchiness. The peanut sauce on the side was smooth and sweet, making for an all-around refreshing and light item.
We didn’t have any savory, but we loaded up on sweet from the Pacific Puffs Puff Truck. There’s regular size and mini size, but we couldn’t resist – go big or go home, right? Well, we were going to go home after this stop, so we went big and then went home. The “classic” was filled with a rich vanilla cream and dipped in chocolate ganache that was dark and almost fudge-like. The “chocolatier sugar” had a mild chocolate cream filling and light dusting of powdered sugar. With the same chocolate dip as the “classic,” the special “smores” also had marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs pushed into the top with marshmallow cream inside. The marshmallow cream had a texture somewhat looser than whipped cream and a delicate marshmallow flavor that didn’t overwhelm the pastry.
With the Bay Bridge closure until tomorrow morning we anticipated much more traffic, but getting to and exploring Off the Grid was easy and fun. Twice we’ve visited the Belmont location, and twice we’ve left happy and satisfied.
Mondays. The reason we dislike them is because it’s challenging to find a reliable restaurant that’s open for dinner. It’s the day that so many take off. Thankfully in the Bay Area we have Off the Grid, an organization that coordinates space for food trucks, plus permits, garbage service, and live music. Tonight we followed Off the Grid to the Caltrain station in Belmont, a city of the Bay that neither of us had visited before.
Naked Chorizo, boasting “Spapino” cuisine (that’s Spanish + Filipino), has fusion food with a good mix of ideas. We think some of the items weren’t really Spanish by definition, like tacos and burritos, but any cuisine born in California follows its own rules. We got tocinolog, a plate of braised pork with rice and eggs. Tangy and sweet, the tender pork was flavorful with good char from the grill. The egg had a nice texture as well, so it was an enjoyable item to start our evening of sampling.
Since trying Indian food for the first time a few months ago, Zach is becoming more curious about the flavors. He was happy that Curry Up Now represented with some enticing items, but with a faintly Hispanic twist. The “sexy fries” are criss-cut sweet potato fries, cheese, and onions, and you can choose one of four styles; we got m.e.a.t., with halal beef and chutneys. The fries were baked, not fried, and made a bed on which the rest of the ingredients were piled. Together, everything was packed with spices, like cumin, curry, and garlic. Lots and lots of savory beef was accented by the green sauce that was medium spicy, more tangy, with a cilantro base. The same green sauce was on the deconstructed samosa, “an inside out phenomenon.” It has garbanzo beans, pico de gallo, chutneys, and mini samosas, mounded onto a huge samosa dough mass. This, too, is served one of four ways, so we went with paneer. The paneer was plentiful and grilled on one side, adding an extra bit of flavor to an otherwise very mild cheese. It, along with a sweet sauce, helped to balance the warmth of the green sauce. Fresh vegetables and dainty mini samosas topped it all off; crispy with curry and potato, the mini samosas were the cutest part of the night (besides toddlers dancing with live music).
We wanted to try SAJJ Street Eats‘ most traditional Mediterranean dish, and we couldn’t go more traditional than the “traditional shawarma wrap.” With beef, lamb, hummus, cucumber and tomato salad, sumac onions, pickled cucumber, lettuce, and tahini sauce, this was everything that we expected – fresh, well balanced, and mellow. The fillings were traditional, but the wrap itself was not, as it’s just a tortilla. Regardless, after having some spicy food, this was a good change of pace. In fact, if you’re planning to do Off the Grid like we do, sampling an item from each truck, it’s wise to pace yourself and keep things varied.
The Rib Whip was popular with its Midwest style barbecue. The Holly Hill pork sandwich looked the tastiest, featuring pulled pork, creamy slaw, and South Carolina mustard sauce. The pork was tender, moist, and rich with a great smoky flavor. The tangy mustard sauce added a bit of kick, while the crispy slaw provided bold texture to match the bold flavors. A soft roll made it very easy to eat, though you might want to grab an extra napkin. No doubt you’d get every crumb of the buttermilk pie, though. Grandma Ruth is over 100 years old, and her recipe for buttermilk pie is something this centenarian should be mighty proud of. She does a housemade graham cracker crust with buttermilk custard and whipped cream. Silky and creamy, this pie is so simple but so delicious. Our eyes lit up on first bite, and immediately Zach new that August would be asking him to replicate it.
Sam’s ChowderMobile is clearly known for chowder, but since we just did a chowder recipe last week, we went for something different. The lobster roll comes in two sizes and we got the smaller of the two (“shortie”), but it was still plenty big after having already sampled so much food. The brioche was grilled but still buttery and soft, perfect for holding the fresh Maine lobster with warmed butter. The meat was so tender, sweet, and succulent, as it was butter poached, and the crisp celery set off the richness even more. The side of cole slaw was slightly creamy and its dressing had onions in it, something different but pleasant.
We’ve seen The Crème Brûlée Cart before, but we reached it in time tonight before most of the flavors sold out. After eliminating those which we had tried previously, we were surprised that we still came out with four distinct crème brûlées. We took pictures on site, but had no more room even to try a bite at the time. You can request lids to make transportation that much easier and take them home like we did. Now that we’re sitting here, thinking about the evening, we have the chance (and the space) to try them now. In the top left was “candy bar” with chocolate creme base and toppings of golden grahams, chocolate sauce, and salted caramel sauce. The golden grahams added a great contrast, along with the traditional shell, to break up the creaminess of the milk chocolate custard. The top right was “godfather,” also with chocolate creme base but toppings of midnight cookie crumble and salted caramel sauce. This one was super decadent with rich chocolate flavors and a gooey saltiness from the caramel to offset the near overload of chocolate. Bottom left was the delicious “take a hike!” with vanilla bean creme, “naughty” granola (with nuts and chocolate), and both salted caramel and chocolate sauces. The crunch from the candy top was accentuated by the crunch of the granola, and this was likely the most over-the-top crème brûlée we will see in a long while. Finally, the wallflower of the bunch with no toppings in the bottom right, was the lavender. Simple but constructed well, it had a medium lavender flavor enhanced by a touch of vanilla.
Easy to get to (even when coming from across the Bay), plenty of parking, and more seating than we’ve seen at prior Off the Grids, this is a great spot to have a great Monday night dinner. Bring the family, as your kids will enjoy dancing with the upbeat music, but please leave the dogs at home – we saw way too many that weren’t service dogs. We support service dogs and other service animals, but only certified ones should come out because we must keep in mind the patrons with allergies or other considerations. Bring Fido and Fifi their own treats to have at home like we do for our Bea, just like you’ll likely get a few crème brûlées for your own personal doggie bag.