The hottest restaurant to see and be seen at on a Friday night in San Francisco isn’t a restaurant at all. It’s an outdoor gathering of food trucks located in a parking lot at the waterfront Fort Mason Center. Known as Off the Grid, the concept is easily digestible: connect small mobile food businesses to hungry diners.
Off the Grid was created three years ago by Matt Cohen, a street food expert and ramen aficionado. Although the idea started out small, it has grown exponentially and, today, Cohen operates more than 20 different Off the Grid markets all over the city. The Fort Mason set-up usually attracts about 8,000 people per week alone.
“I was going to open a food truck myself, so I learned about the permits and licensing,” Cohen says. “People wanted to figure out how to park together and group together, so I decided to do a themed market.”
In the past, Off the Grid only featured Asian or Latin food trucks such as The Chairman and Hapa SF, but this year the focus is on exploring new flavors. Thirteen vendors — including The Whole Beast, which specializes in butchery, and Bini’s Kitchen, which does Nepalese cuisine — have been added to make a total of 32 food options. If that’s not enough to entice you, Cohen threw in craft beer from Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery; cocktails by one of San Francisco’s most-talked-about bars, the Alembic; a wine-tasting bar from QB Catering; and live music. The stunning view of the San Francisco Bay doesn’t hurt, either.
Also new this season is a much-hyped-about Lounge Area with a prix-fixe dining service and mobile bar from the Stag Dining Group and Derby Cocktail Co. Reserve a spot at vendors’ private tables and enjoy a meal in an area that’s heated and with restricted access to regular Off the Grid goers.
“Between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30 [p.m.], it can get kind of congested,” Cohen says, “so for the person who doesn’t want to wait in line and be able to easily navigate and get food, we created the concept of the chefs table and private lounge.”
If you’re visiting San Francisco, don’t miss this food truck gathering that celebrates street eats and connects communities. It runs through October and takes place rain or shine, every Friday from 5 to 10 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Off The Grid