San Francisco is a melting pot of world cultures and the food scene is an excellent example of this diversity. One of the best and certainly most enjoyable moments to experience and taste the culinary kaleidoscope of the Northern California metropolis is an evening at “Off the Grid” – a Friday night event held at Fort Mason Center at the Bay.

Wikipedia describes “off the grid” as “a self-sufficient way of life, which has little dependence on public institutions” and which is best translated with “net-independent”. Well, that doesn’t sound very appealing and certainly does not whet your appetite. So here’s my take: “Off the Grid” is an open-air gourmet extravaganza consisting of 20-30 food trucks and a dozen kitchens, which corral regularly at determined places in The City. They feature freshly cooked meals, live music on a stage, benches and chairs, fairy lights and hundreds of (lively) hungry and good-humored people of all ages cosily ensconced in its core. In summer this happens every Friday night at the historic Fort Mason Center from where you can see the silhouette of the Golden Gate Bridge and the reflexion of the city lights in the Bay!

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“Food Trucks” have been in fashion in the USA for years. You’ll find the mobile mini-kitchens on four wheels at many street corners. They provide treats throughout the day to office workers, shoppers and night owls alike. Streetfood at it’s best: delicious, fast and affordable. The trucks are equipped with cooks and grills – and they feed you the best tastes of the world: American burgers and hot dogs, ribs and steaks, Mexican burritos and tacos, Chinese Dim Sum, Indian and Thai curries, Japanese sushi and kushi, Greek gyros, Italian pasta and pizza, Vietnamese noodles, Korean fries with kimchi, Nepalese pastries with spicy chicken and pork or simply sandwiches with lobster, crab or pulled pork with homemade fruity dips and exuberant relishes.

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It is only since 2010 that these “Off the Grid”-happenings are taking place on a regular basis all over San Francisco, in the smaller towns on the Peninsula, as well as in Sacramento and in San Diego. The highlight, however, for me is Friday evening at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center!

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Lobsta Truck’s specialty: fresh Maine Lobster and Dungeness crabs on roasted baguette
with herbal mayonnaise ($14 and $13).

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Best of Boneyard: the “Roasted Pork Tenderloin Sandwich” with herb crusted pork fillet,
rocket salad and wasabi mayonnaise and the “Texas Beef Brisket” for $12 each.

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Chilled: The Boneyard’s “Bar” featuring craft beer and soft drinks.

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Curry in a hurry: the “Naughty Naan” (Chicken Tikka Masala Naan sandwich for $10)
and the “Deconstructed Samosa” (beef or chicken mini-buns, topped with beans,
tomato hot sauce, onions and chili peppers for $8).

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Hot stuff: “Bobcha” serves the Korean “Bulgogi” as a beef burger marinated with spring onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, pepper and sugar – grilled over an open fire.

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Southern Special: the food truck of “Southern Comfort Kitchen” offers New Orleans style handmade and hearty Cajun delicacies such as “Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya”
(kind of paella with spicy chicken and smoked sausage, vegetables and all kinds of
Caribbean spices for $12) or “Fried Shrimp and Cajun Fries” (peppery potato pieces
with cayenne pepper, fresh garlic and coriander, $10).

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Tiny but great: at “Happy Dumplings” not only are the pots behind the tent a sight to see with their full head of steam. The pasta filled with vegetables and glass noodles, with chicken and coriander or with pork and white cabbage are already available for $1.50.

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Try the Mexican tacos with grilled chicken, coriander, onions and a sprinkled lime juice ($7) and the huge mango lollipop powdered with chili powder ($4).

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Once you make your selection and get your food stay where you are or walk around,
sit at tables, on stairs or get into the queue in front of another food truck next door:
delicious and entertaining!

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Drinks & Drums: In the center of the Food Truck-corral is space for the bar tents (cocktails, sangria and wines from the neighboring Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley for $10- $14 the glass) and the stage with jazzy live music til 10pm. Then, believe it or not, the lights of San Francisco, turn off for the night. Only a few night life places remain open after that!

Off the Grid
@ Fort Mason Center
San Francisco
Fridays 5-10 pm
www.offthegrid.com

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