SOMA StrEAT Food Park and the SF Street Food Festival

I thought DC people took their food trucks seriously. Turns out, my native hometown has nothing on San Francisco’s love (obsession?) with food trucks. First, there’s Off the Grid, which is a weekly food truck market that congregates in different places all over the city. They have a variety of food trucks participating in each of the spots and there’s music and arts/crafts.

Recently, there is now the SOMA StrEAT Food Park. This is the city’s first permanent food truck park and it has a biergarten too! They’re open for most meal times and even introduced late night food hours.

A lot of people remain critical of street food citing nutritional concerns and potential health code violations as reasons to stay away. I’ll own up to the fact that I prefer to dine and be served, a preference that my fiance likes to mock me for. I can’t help it though, I love the whole experience that comes with dining and prefer for it to be a whole spectacle that takes more than an hour. So it’s taken me a while to get on board with this whole food truck phenomenon where the emphasis is on casual and food-on-the-go.

I finally made my way to the StrEAT Food Park last weekend though, and I got to hand it to these food trucks– they are so tasty! First we tried popcorn shrimp from The Fish Tank which specializes in seafood. The breading surprisingly lacked the grease that you associate with most popcorn shrimp, and was well-seasoned. The shrimp were a bit small, but overall it was a delicious start.

Next, it was on to the Slider Shack. Look out for this one, SF folks. We had the original slider which is marinated for a full 24 hours and topped with pepperjack; the Kalua Pork Slider which is “slow cooked a minimum of 12 hours with Hawaiian Alaea salt for a distinctively smoky Hawaiian imu flavor, dressed with Slider Shack’s spicy Polynesian green sauce, and topped with pickled red onions” and the BBQ pulled pork slider- I kid you not the meat melted in your mouth.

We finished off the night splitting the infamous Tikka Masala burrito from the Indian food truck Curry Up Now (LOVE this name). Holy hotness, but this food creation is pure genius.

The park contains tons of outdoor seating, as well as an area that is partially enclosed and has heat lamps for those chilly SF nights. The bar is separate and has a couple beers on tap and a limited wine and liquor selection also. The park offers a unique dining experience that is still fun and yummy and of course is centered around the new food truck phenomenon. I’m curious to see how far this craze goes, but it looks like it’s still picking up speed, and I’m not hating it!

Continuing the foray into street food, I also attended the 2012 Street Food Festival last weekend. This festival is one of the coolest things I’ve attended since moving to the Bay Area. Not only did it feature the food trucks you see at Off the Grid and around the city on a daily basis; but there were also trucks set up with special cuisine from notable San Francisco restaurants: A16, Slanted Door, and Bon Appetit’s 2012 Best New Restaurant State Bird Provisions.

The festival occupied Folsom between 20th-26th streets in the Mission. They had enclosed bars set-up at both ends of the festival that you had to buy wooden tokens too and get bracelets to enter. I suppose it was the best way to control the alcohol and had something to do with permits and such, but it was kind of a pain. I wish there had been one in the middle somewhere, but that’s just me.

Lines were long, but tended to move fast. We had a LOT of food, but the most memorable were: The A16 truck and these huge delicious pork meatballs with marinara sauce; the  4505 Meats truck and their “best damned cheeseburger” — it was, in fact, the best damned cheeseburger I’d eaten in a while; and a fry-bread taco from HellaVegan Eats. My first intentional vegan anything- California is having an effect on me!

After a weekend of street food, I think I’ve turned the corner. Definitely a tasty and delicious option for a casual night out, and the festival is an annual must-do.