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Off the Grid, Oakland CA

a dozen trucks came out tonight!

a dozen trucks came out tonight!

You can count on variety when you go to Off the Grid.  Small mobile food businesses from all over the Bay come together with the help of this organization, which coordinates space, permits, garbage service, and live music.  On a section of 10th St next to the Oakland Museum of California, every Friday from 5 to 9 pm admission to the gallery is half price, local beer and wine are featured, and music has an actual stage and lighting.  With the acoustics of the buildings, the music floated all the way up from the bottom to the top of the block, entertaining all the diners out for the evening.

Kasa Indian, Sanguchón, Señor Sisig, WhipOut!, The Architect’s Kitchen, and KoJa Kitchen were half of a dozen vendors with broad and popular menus.  We confess, we got here with a little less than two hours before closing, so we didn’t get to try everything but we did what we could.

rice plate with chicken masala and palak aloo

rice plate with chicken tikka masala and palak aloo

Zach hasn’t had Indian food except for once, so he’s not an expert by any means on typical flavors of the subcontinent, but August felt the spices used by Kasa Indian were as authentic as they get.  In fact, we were so swept up with the flavor, August forgot to snap a picture of the truck, so thank you, Kasa Indian, because we’ve borrowed one of your images for our collage above.  And clearly, thank you for an impressive entree.  The masala sauce was spicy and rich over the tender, juicy chicken.  For how simple spinach and potato may seem, the palak aloo was deep in flavor.  The crew is definitely well trained in their preparation of Indian cuisine, because even the pickled onion and fresh, refreshing cilantro sauce were tasty condiments.

Sanguchón offers up sandwiches with Peruvian flair.  A sanguchería is a Peruvian sandwich shop, traditionally serving the types of sandwiches you might want at late hours of the night after lots of drinking.  We can imagine that this pan con chicharrón would win favor with native peruanos.  In fact, it is pretty special indeed because we noticed a plaque indicating that Sanguchón is a Peruvian ambassador in recognition for its representation and dedication of this sandwich with sliced pork loin, fried yams, marinated onions in lime juice, and crema de rocoto. Another type of sandwich we picked up here was the buttery, light cookies with dulce de leche.  These were a nice treat for each of us when we got home.  If you’re looking for an all-in-one meal with meat, vegetables, and bread, this is the thing to try.

señor sisig burrito

“señor sisig” burrito

The Filipino burrito from Señor Sisig was familiar in the basic burrito sense, but there were a few elements that made it new and zesty.  The adobo garlic rice, pinto beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cilantro cream sauce combined for a slightly spicy yet slightly sweet flavor mix, with savor throughout as it was packed with garlic.  This is a mild fusion of a Mexican-American burrito with Southeast Asian ingredients, so it is perfect for those with a craving but wanting to jazz up the taste experience.  The truck spends a lot of its time in San Francisco during lunch, so keep an eye out.

split pea fritter slider

split pea fritter slider

August wished the split pea fritter slider from WhipOut! was bigger.  Sure, she could go back in line to get more, but the line was long since the food is that good, and she still needed room for items from other trucks.  Being a vegetarian option in respect to Oakland Veg Week, of which Sunday is the last day (we had no idea it was going on until tonight), this was super delicious and further proof that vegetarian food isn’t always bland.  The patty was made from split peas and risotto rice, with a crispy exterior and creamy yet filling center.  The mild Serrano relish was sweet and tangy, and the garlic aioli added an extra richness.  Mustard greens were a surprising lettuce alternative, and the delicate brioche bun was perfect for keeping it all together.

the works

the works

ArKi (The Architect’s Kitchen) is all about fried chicken.  We almost got individual pieces of chicken, but we wanted to see what they would serve it with; we tried it in a sandwich called The Works.  All the sandwiches come on Acme Torpedo rolls, and The Works boasted coleslaw, hash browns, and sweet n’ spicy aioli.  This is likely a college-student favorite.

Zach was lured to the KoJa Kitchen truck when the kamikaze fries flashed on the flat-screen display, then August saw the mochimisu.  He enjoyed the crosscut fries with Korean barbecue beef, sauteed onions, kimchi, green onions, Japanese mayonnaise and the house’s special red sauce.  The mochimisu, though, blew both of us away.  It was definitely a traditional tiramisu as far as the main ingredients go, but the one variance was the addition of chocolate mochi.  The mochi soaks up the coffee-flavored alcohol, blending in taste-wise with traditional tiramisu, yet the gummy texture is a layer of newness and innovation that made this dessert really stand out.  Heads up, tiramisu lovers!  Track down this truck and try it for yourselves.

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We’ve gone to two Off the Grids and among 20 trucks total now, we only saw one repeat.  We are very much looking forward to future jaunts in order to try more of the Bay’s diverse foods from some very creative minds.  High five to the band, you were really spirited and maintained your energy through the evening!  And thank you, Off the Grid crew, for keeping a big supply of chairs so that anyone who wanted to sit, could.  Being able to sit when eating makes a big difference in the enjoyment of the food.  See you guys again soon!

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Off the Grid, Hayward CA

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Street food vendors are not new.  If you haven’t noticed the growing food truck trend yet, then you will see it in your neighborhood soon enough.  Off the Grid helps to promote small mobile food businesses by organizing space, permits, garbage service, and live music, thereby creating a weekly marketplace of amazing eats, and a community center for families and friends.

Go Streatery, The Chairman Truck, Cheese Gone Wild, House of Siam On Wheels, Fivetenburger, and The Crème Brûlèe Cart were six of eight vendors offering different items well worth traveling for.  Many people here were nearby community members, but others, like us, clearly had driven in for this week’s batch of trucks.

The sun was out but at the worst angle at the worst time, not shining nearly enough golden light on this “glorious peasant food” from Go Streatery.  So simple, but so delightful, the oxtail was tender to the point of falling off the bone.  Rich, hearty gravy with the meat was slightly sweet with a mild and pleasant orange flavor thanks to fresh zest.  The chunks of carrot and squash were tender and slightly crisp.  August said, “I never new grits could be so creamy,” and for Zach’s first time with American polenta, he was impressed.  Chopped parsley brightened the dish for the eye as well as the palate.  Between bites of this hearty concoction we sipped lavender lemonade and August, who is typically picky about lemonade, promised herself that being infused with fresh lavender is from now on the only way she prefers her lemonade.  We were treated to a piping hot handful of zeppoles, lemon and ricotta Italian-style doughnuts dusted in powdered sugar.  These were very light in lemon flavor, and the texture was almost like a cake doughnut but even closer to being like a beignet.  Above all, everything at Go Streatery is inspired by the founder’s father, who instilled in her the pride of true cooking; to that end, everything is scratch-made, seasonal, and sustainably sourced.

coca-cola braised pork with savoy cabbage, yellow mustard seeds & kewpie mayo on baked bao; crisp miso cured tofu with garlic-tofu mayo & baby choy sum on steamed bao

coca-cola braised pork with savoy cabbage, yellow mustard seeds & kewpie mayo on baked bao; crisp miso cured tofu with garlic-tofu mayo & baby choy sum on steamed bao

Bun sandwiches are traditional Taiwanese snacks, known as gua bao.  Typically these are made with baked or steamed buns, filled with savory meats and/or vegetables.  The baked buns at The Chairman Truck are kind of like Hawaiian rolls and are cut like sliders, while steamed buns look doubled over like a clam shell.  The braised pork in a baked bao had a unique flavor but in a good way, certainly.  The tangy, crisp cabbage was hearty but also refreshing.  The tofu was velvety with an excellent grill on it, great for contrasting the very light and super tender steamed bao.  A light sesame flavor like a vinaigrette dressing was a sweet and tangy complement for the baby choy sum.

golden gate melt

golden gate melt

Cheese Gone Wild serves their grilled cheese sandwiches with chips, coleslaw and a pickle, making this summer picnic and comfort food wrapped into one.  If you’re really craving a grilled cheese sandwich, follow this food truck for a broad variety, like the Golden Gate with Tillamook medium cheddar and aged white cheddar mac & cheese, applewood thick cut smoked bacon, melted on Panorama Bakery shepherd style white bread.  The bread was crispy but not overly so, giving way to the gooey insides with rich and mild mac and smoky bacon.  Just about everything here is house-made, so while waiting for our fresh sandwich August couldn’t wait longer to sip on this perfectly creamed and sweetened iced coffee.

honey bbq chicken

honey bbq chicken

Proudly offering free range chicken from Bassian Farms and fresh organic produce, House of Siam On Wheels is very popular and had one of the longer wait times.  This chicken was moist and tender thigh meat, slightly tangy and seasoned well with pepper, garlic, cilantro, and honey.  The salad dressing was what gave this dish the familiar Thai kick of heat.  We suppose the greatest satisfaction in eating here is knowing that the products used are good quality, sustainably produced, and good for you.

loaded burger and truffled tater tots

loaded burger and truffled tater tots

Fivetenburger crafts a great beef burger like this loaded one we tried, to which we added an optional egg as well as bacon; if you’re getting something called “loaded,” you might as well go all the way.  Without dropping or substituting anything, the burgers come standard with pickles, red onion, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and choice of cheese.  The vegetables were all fresh and crispy, between the two halves of a butter-toasted bun.  This patty was juicy with a nice sear, made with very high quality beef and crispy bacon.  The egg was runny from the yolk where it was supposed to be runny, thankfully not like slime from the white. Mixed with the cheese, the egg made this a gooey, delectable sandwich.  It was accompanied by crispy tater tots, a nostalgic favorite but with a twist.  These were exceptionally crispy yet tender in the middle, then lightly tossed with truffle oil, making them the grown-up version of a childhood memory.  Fivetenburger also offers grassfed meat, high quality grilled cheeses, and even a deli-style pastrami sandwich with the pastrami made “in-truck” by the masterful Phat Matt.

Our final stop was for dessert at The Crème Brûlèe Cart, which tonight was featuring four of its thirty-plus flavors.  Vanilla bean, double chocolate, “Cham-Wow!” and “Yes Please!” were equally smooth and creamy in texture, and true to their flavor-based names.  The vanilla bean had an abundant amount of fresh vanilla bean seeds, resulting in a pleasantly intense flavor experience.  The double chocolate was light but still chocolatey enough to sate August’s craving.  Cham-Wow! was made with dark chocolate and black raspberry Chambourd liqueur, while Yes Please! had Nutella and real strawberries.  We can’t wait to find them again to see what the other flavors are like.

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There are many more food trucks that we realized, since we learned that the trucks we saw tonight were only a small sampling of Off the Grid’s network (and not all trucks are even affiliated with Off the Grid).  Here at the Hayward location trucks are on a two-week rotation, so you can count on seeing your favorites twice a month.  It’s impossible for us to pick favorites yet since this was only our first time doing Off the Grid, so we’ll just have to keep trying more and more.