Day 6 in San Francisco: Food Truck Harbour

Given the wealth of City Guide tour options available, we had wanted to fit at least one more in – I was hoping the second go-around might erase the disappointment of our Chinatown experience. We ended up choosing the City Scapes and Public Places tour, mostly because the meeting location was only a few blocks away from our hotel.

Thankfully, our guide Paul seemed better informed than our previous escort, but as a whole, the tour still seemed less packed with information than the walks we partook in both New York and DC.

It was really interesting to learn about POPOS, however: privately-owned, public open spaces. It is specified in San Francisco’s building code that the trade-off for the construction of a high-rise building is the creation of some sort of usable public space on the land – whether that is a square, a balcony, or park.

San Francisco

Atop the Crocker Galleria

In the two hours, we toured nearly a dozen of the spaces (there are sixty all together in San Francisco). Some of them, such as the one located on the fifteenth floor of a building, were like little hidden gems, that only those “in the know” would be cognizant of (you can check out a map here).

4978381459_2f0f9c965d[1]

The gem at 343 Sansome Street

San Francisco

The view

There were others – such as the redwood park (which was my personal favourite of the bunch), that could easily be mistaken to simply be a green space amidst towers.

San Francisco

Redwood Park

San Francisco

Water feature

San Francisco

Life imitates art

Some of the POPOS, such as the greenhouse in Citigroup Centre, featured seating, as well as food service – fantastic for the business crowd at lunch.

The only downside to the open spaces, however, is that the regulations specify that POPOS only need to be accessible during weekday business hours – so anyone wishing to take advantage of them in the evenings or weekends are out of luck (we tried to access Citigroup Centre on a Saturday, but the gates were locked up tight).

During the tour, we had passed by the San Buena Taco Truck parked on the street. Given that it was the first food truck we had stumbled upon in San Francisco, we made sure to remember where it was so we could hit it up for lunch.

San Buena

San Buena Taco Truck

The line was steady, and given it was made up mostly of the area’s office workers, we knew we had probably made a good choice. The menu included burritos, tacos and tortas, but from the orders made around us, we knew a burrito was the way to go.

San Buena

Mack hearts burritos

For just $7, each of us received a wrap absolutely packed with chicken (though carnitas and beef were meat options as well). It had been expertly bound – the perfect kind of street food – and with moist, flavourful chicken interspersed with beans, rice and heat to taste – it was without a doubt the best thing we ate in San Francisco.

The only thing I really remember from my previous visit to San Francisco was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge with my family, but it isn’t exactly a pleasant memory. It had been one of those drizzly, blustery days, cold and miserable for any tourist, but particularly for us, given the night before, we had been in the +40 climes of Asia. Fortunately, the weather on the day that Mack and I chose to visit the bridge was perfect, and did much to ensure my future associations with the Golden Gate were positive ones.

Golden Gate Bridge

Misty, but bright

A quick bus ride got us to the San Francisco side of the bridge. The forty-minute windswept walk across yielded unparalleled views of the city and the activities in the bay.

Golden Gate Bridge

Mack and the city

Golden Gate Bridge

Queen of the bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The barges just kept on cominng

The traffic on the bridge was also a little unbelievable – the cars did not stop flowing. It was on that day that we christened our version of Punch Buggy – Punch Prius! At some point we had to stop counting because it was getting ridiculous.

Golden Gate Bridge

The bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

A reminder

We walked the length back to the San Francisco side, and hopped on a bus that took us closer to the city centre. The line terminated at Fort Mason, where we were directed by the driver to transfer to a different bus. Given it was already the dinner hour, the fact that there was a Safeway at the terminal seemed to be a blessing. We picked up some food and headed to the park for a picnic supper, a relaxing way to refuel and rest our weary feet.

Salad

Dinner of champions

Residents were out in full force, enjoying the setting sun as we were. And like so many other parts of the city, it was picturesque without even trying.

Marina

The marina

Satisfied, before heading back to the hotel, we thought we should explore the area. Peeking over the hill side drop, we encountered a gaggle of people down below in the Fort Mason parking lot – what was going on?

Off The Grid

So many people!

It turned out we had stumbled upon the first Off the Grid, a “roaming mobile food extravaganza.” This was the largest of their weekly events, and sees thirty food trucks gather alongside a full-service bar and music.

Off The Grid

Music amongst the madness

That night, the twenty food trucks offered food ranging from cupcakes to empanadas to ramen. But it was challenging to even browse the offerings – the line-ups were massive (and really, too large for the space), with the longest gathering centered around Chairman Bao, a truck offering, among other things, pork belly buns.

Off The Grid

Just some of the food trucks

Off The Grid

Empanada stand

Off The Grid

The line at Chairman Bao

It was really unfortunate that we had already eaten our meal – what better way to sample food trucks than at such an event? We made room for a few things though – a trio of dumplings we purchased for $2 were hand-rolled in the tent, and were very tasty.

Off The Grid

Dumplings!

I was also swayed into buying a dulce de leche creme brulee. It was okay, but not worth the $5.

Off The Grid

Creme brulee

Though we didn’t eat much, Off the Grid was amazing to see. Everyone there was just so darn excited about food, and that energy was contagious. It’s crazy to imagine that something like that happens on a weekly basis, but in a city like San Francisco, food trucks aren’t a fad, but a core of their food culture. Look for it if you’re travelling to SF!

Off The Grid

Off the Grid

We ended our evening back on a bus, ready for a good night’s sleep at the hotel. Gearing up for a Saturday trip to the Ferry Market, we would need it.

9 thoughts on “Day 6 in San Francisco: Food Truck Harbour

  1. I’m really enjoying your San Fran series; I’m planning a trip for September with one of my sisters, and it’s awesome to get a sense of what is worth checking out!

    Thanks, Sharon!

  2. Hey Queen of the Bridge- reading your blog makes me look back on my trip to S.F. and see that really, I did nothing!!! I should travel with you sometime! Great blog!

  3. I love how sometimes the most awesome food can be found from food trucks. When I was in Brooklyn, there was this amazing taco truck that served spicy chicken tacos with feta cheese and cilantro. They were incredible!

  4. Fun! Too bad you’d already eaten, but good to know you made room for some tidbits. I love the name Chairman Bao 🙂 SF is such an awesome city. Can’t wait to read more about your trip!

    PS: Looking forward to your veggie meals too 🙂

  5. KatyBelle – thanks for reading! You’re going to have a great time in SF; the city offers so much whatever you decide to do it will be great. I do highly recommend Off the Grid though!

    Jill – I’m sure you did things! Mostly, I think I’m just one of those travellers that has to pack in lots or I feel like I didn’t really visit the city :).

    Amanda – food trucks really are the way to go if you can find one! I was surprised it took us 6 days to come across one downtown. Later, when we tried to actively search for them, it turned out they were parked away from the city centre, or outside of SF all together!

    Ellen – I love the name too! And I really have to make more of an effort with the veggie experiments. I should borrow that cookbook from you some time!

  6. When my husband and I were in SF for the first time, we also got caught up in a rousing game of Punch Prius 🙂
    We didn’t see all of those food trucks, though! Will definitely have to look up that Off the Grid the next time we visit…

  7. Fojoy – I’m sure you had to give it up at some point as we did :). Yes, definitely look for Off the Grid – they’re several times a week now (though most of them are smaller gatherings of 6-8 food trucks), but it means it will be easier to incorporate into your itinerary!

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