Eight Great Street-Food Vendors in the Bay Area

spencer on the go

Assortment of Spencer on the Go food, including lobster orange salad, escargot lollipops, skate cheeks, blue crab soup, and braised sweetbreads.

Between Oakland’s Eat Real Festival and San Francisco’s recent Street Food Festival, the Bay Area has taken the soaring popularity of street food to the status of phenomenon. True, the Bay has never suffered a dearth of taco trucks or sidewalk churro vendors, but only of late can you find crème brûlée peddled from a cart and pizzas slung from a Weber converted into a wood-burning oven. It’s impossible to know which purveyors will persevere beyond their first 15 tweets and which might never reappear on that corner of Dolores Park again, but here are eight worth checking out … for now.


An offshoot of Chez Spencer, this mobile vendor was in the vanguard of the upscale/downscale street-food movement. Laurent Katgely converted a taco truck into an outlet for French food, replete with planter boxes sprouting lavender, and serves up whimsies such as escargot puffs (skewered herbed snails encased in light pastry), tender frog legs with curry, and delicious grilled sweetbreads. Perhaps the truck’s greatest asset is its location across the street from the organic wine bar Terroir, whose proprietors mercifully allow you to import your snacks to eat along with a glass of wine. 300 7th Street, at Folsom, San Francisco (spenceronthego.com; Twitter: @chezspencergo)

2. CARTE 415

The only way Chef Joshua Skenes could have increased the buzz around Saison (his once-a-week restaurant at which it is nigh impossible to procure a reservation) is to have added a food cart to his repertoire. Now regularly stationed in the Atrium Lobby at Second Street and Mission, Skenes’s cart serves up a number of delicious, seasonal lunch items including soups and sandwiches. The latter include one piled with sautéed mushrooms and goat cheese and one filled with succulent pulled pork. Of equal interest are the lovely sides: herbed new potatoes or, for dessert, a vanilla-scented poached peach. 101 Second Street, in the Atrium Lobby, San Francisco (carte415.com; Twitter: @CARTE415)


The mere fact that this hot dog cart predated the Rise of Twitter might normally disqualify it from consideration, if the hot dogs weren’t so tasty (and fashioned from conscience-soothing grass-fed beef and sustainable pork). On weekends and holidays, the cart is at Crissy Field, a park near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge that was converted from an old landing strip. Order a frank smothered in sautéed onions and peppers while enjoying the stunning vista. It’s still one of the best dogs around. At the Warming Hut at Crissy Field, San Francisco (letsbefrankdogs.com; Twitter: @letsbefranksf)


Check for tweets that notify you of the daily lunchtime location, the time of arrival, and the panini selection of the day. Then prepare to linger with a horde of hungry folks waiting for a cyclist to arrive on a bicycle customized to transport a hold of sandwiches. The latter are simply and deliciously assembled: crusty bread laden with locally cured charcuterie, or as Boccalone’s motto describes it, “tasty salted pig parts.” (Twitter: @boccalone)


The brothers behind this tented outpost at the Thursday Farmers Market behind the Ferry Building claim they invented the Korean taco. These small “tacos” consist of squares of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets) filled with cubes of juicy, grilled steak and topped with a fresh, cilantro-laced tomato salsa—fusion at its best. Other dishes worth sampling are kimchi fried rice and okonomiyaki, a dense, scallion-filled pancake topped with a fried egg. Ferry Plaza Thursday Market, San Francisco (namusf.com)

6. 4505 MEATS

Ryan Farr’s operation, another fixture of the Thursday Farmers Market, is consistently swamped. Anyone who has sampled the irresistible chicharrones would expect this to be the case. The stand also turns out a number of beautiful sausages and an impeccable burger, all of which are made from sustainably produced meats. Whether you opt for the tame chicken sausage or the Golden Dog-zilla, topped with kimchi, secret sauce, and chicharrones, you’re in good hands. Ferry Plaza Thursday Market, San Francisco (4505meats.com; Twitter: @chicharrones)


Though taco trucks are ubiquitous around the Bay Area, a legitimately good one still stands out. This one, at the foot of Ashby Avenue in Berkeley (next to the BMW dealership) is good enough to make Alice Waters (my mother) to briefly suspend her rigorous boycott of questionable meats. Small, supple tortillas are filled with just the right amount of meat (the best are the al pastor and carnitas) and covered with chopped cilantro, onion, and a drizzle of salsa. Nothing more is needed. Potter & 7th Street, Berkeley


Sylvan Mishima Brackett turns out extraordinary bento boxes that fill a culinary void long-endured in the Bay Area. Brackett began his “catering” business last spring, after returning from a stint at a soba restaurant north of Tokyo. Those in the know (join the ranks by signing up for his newsletter) follow texts, emails, and word of mouth to the locations where he’ll be dispensing his bento boxes; expect the contents to be authentic Japanese enhanced by Brackett’s meticulous sourcing of pristine local and sustainable ingredients. Whether you open your box to find a tonkatsu (a Marin Sun pork sandwich of breaded cutlets and spicy mustard) with Japanese-style potato salad, or an entire Dungeness crab with fresh pea- and fava bean–flecked rice, you could not possibly be disappointed. (eatpekopeko.com)

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