Food trucks in San Francisco
Childhood friends and Bowl’d Acai co-founders Reza Morvari and Angel Serratos launched their first truck together in 2014. Their business has since grown into a fleet of four, selling smoothies, fresh juices, poke, and—the signature—acai bowls (or, as the duo refers to them, “parfaits on tropical, chilled steroids”). The tart, slushy base is made from organic frozen acai root, fruit, and coconut water. That’s topped with homemade One Planet granola, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, coconut shavings, honey, and bougie extras like bee pollen and hemp seed. The smoothies contain no added sugar or fillers and come in flavors like the Hella Green, a post-gym favorite (kale, spinach, mango, pineapple, banana, and housemade almond milk) and Rocket Fuel (coffee, banana, peanut butter, vanilla whey protein, chia seed, flaxseed, and housemade almond milk). Juices are hand-pressed to order, shaken over ice, and served chilled.
Husband and wife team Akash and Rana Kapoor founded their food truck business in 2009. Their vision: an inventive twist on Indian street food. Curry Up Now has since grown into a mini empire, with brick-and-mortar locations in the Mission, Oakland, Alameda, San Jose, Palo Alto, and San Mateo. Still, the original truck circulates throughout the Bay Area, serving a variety of Indian burritos, bowls, and thali platters. Each dish can be ordered with chicken tikka, kashiri lamb, saag paneer, or ghee makhni butter. Bowls are served alongside rice, chana garbanzo masala, and pico kachumber, while the platters include all those items, plus papadum. But Curry Up Now might be best known for its modernized takes on traditional dishes, like the Deconstructed Samosa, a chutney crowned garbanzo explosion, or the Sexy Fries, an Indian-inspired spin on poutine.
In the transient world of food trucks, a buzzy newcomer seems to roll up every other week. Meanwhile, Roti Roti has been a mainstay for more than 15 years. You’ll most often see the trucks at farmers markets, including every weekend at the Ferry Building. Despite the volume of its business—Roti hits as many as 46 markets a week—the mobile chicken chain still sources its meat and produce from local farmers: garlic from Gilroy, lettuce from Bolinas, and Mary’s free-range chickens from the Central Valley. Though the truck made a name for itself on its rotisserie chickens—you can watch them twirling on the back of the truck—the heritage-breed porchetta has since become market favorite. In particular, the crispy porchetta sandwich, served on an Acme Bakery roll with homemade onion marmalade and fresh arugula, has earned a cult-like following.
Jon Darsky is a former Flour + Water pizzaiolo-turned-food truck purveyor. But this is no ordinary food truck: It’s custom built from a former shipping container. It stands 20 feet long and weighs in at 14 tons, most of that from the 5,000-pound pizza oven hitched to the back. That domed hulk is a wood-burning feat that was built by hand in Naples. It reaches a searing 800 degrees—hot enough to cook a perfect Neapolitan pie in about a minute. The whole operation is encased in 39-foot glass windows so that the throngs in line can watch the oven in action. The pizzas themselves are relatively simple, with a focus on fresh ingredients and a soft, perfectly blistered crust. The offerings include marinara, margherita, bargherita (crushed tomato, mozzarella, and basil), and bianca (mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic). The lone meat option is typically the salami piccanti, with is topped with crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, peppers, and onions.
Chef Carlos Altamirano is the owner of three traditional Peruvian restaurants in the Bay Area—Mochica, Piqueos, and La Costanera—but at his food truck, the specialty is sandwiches. Your options include the Pan con Chicharron (sliced pork loin, fried yams, lime-marinated onions, and cream de rocoto); the Barbacoa (pulled pork, Cola sauce, potato chips, coleslaw, and aji rocoto sauce); and the Lomo Saltado (NY strip sirloin topped with tomato, onion, cilantro, soy sauce, and fries). All sandwiches are served on a hearty French roll and can be crowned with a fried egg for an extra $1. Pair it with a purple corn refresco.
In 2010, high school friends Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo bought a former Chinese food truck on Craigslist with the dream of transforming it into a mobile taco and burrito stand. They set themselves apart from the taco-slinging masses with their Filipino-inspired signature ingredient: sisig. Though the chopped meat dish it’s traditionally made with the head of a pig, Kidera and Payumo have tweaked their recipe to feature crowd-pleasing pork shoulder instead. The pork is infused in a spicy, rich marinade for 24 hours, grilled, and chopped. (In the ensuing years, they’ve also adapted a chicken and tofu option.) The sisig is wrapped in burritos, sprinkled on tacos, and ladled atop nachos. Try the California Sisig burrito, a gut-bomb of French fries, shredded cheese, sour cream, guac, and pico de gallo, or the Filipino-influenced Tosilog burrito, which incorporates sweet pork, garlic rice, tomatoes, and a fried egg.
JapaCurry claims to be the first Japanese food truck in the entire Bay Area, which—considering our city’s collective obsession with all things Japanese—seems long overdue. The truck keeps it simple, offering bento boxes and authentic curry dishes made from scratch. The curries span katsu (a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet), kurobuta sausage, pumpkin, kara-age (Japanese-style fried chicken), and fried or baked tofu katsu. Bento boxes are similarly wide-ranging—from BBQ beef to salmon—and come with a side of seaweed salad or brown rice.
This Asian street food truck has an unexpected pedigree. It was founded by chef Hiroo Nagahara, formerly the executive chef at Bar Charlie in Las Vegas under Charlie Trotter. His truck’s baked and steamed baos are unfussy, but hint at Nagahara’s fine dining roots (you’ll see a red miso glaze here, toasted sesame puree there…). The menu features four types of boldly flavored buns: pork belly, Coca-Cola braised pork, spicy chicken, and miso cured tofu. Pair your bun with a side of wonton chips, generously seasoned with nori and citrus togarashi salt.
This custard truck goes above and beyond the Good Humor sellers of your youth. Founded by Jason Angeles in 2011, the concept revolves around rich frozen custard in eclectic flavors. The truck usually offers a rotating array of around four or five base flavors. Those might include salted chocolate peanut butter, Four Barrel coffee, black milk tea (a trendy blend of tea and charcoal ash), banana rum, or the White Rabbbit (inspired by the Asian milk candy). That comes with the option of more than a dozen classic and oddball toppings, like burnt caramel, Nutter Butter, or ube (purple yam) sauce. Look out for specials like the s’mores sundae (cookies and cream ice cream, burnt caramel sauce, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and toasted marshmallows); hand-dipped custard bars; or macaroon ice cream sandwiches.
Owner Adam Lee is known for his metal-inspired food truck, from the heart-stopping menu to the attention-grabbing art. The flavors may be Asian inspired, but the effect is pure comfort food. Lee is best known for heaping sandwiches like the Drako (drunken pulled pork with Asian slaw on brioche) and the Falkor (panko-crusted fried chicken with pepper jack cheese, hickory smoked bacon, and a fried egg). The most popular sandwich in the line-up is the spicy Kraken, which heaps pickled ginger, Sriracha, avocado wasabi, roasted seaweed, Asian slaw, and bacon on top of two peppery, fried soft shell crabs. The fries here are giant and qualify as a meal, layered with toppings like pulled pork, chicken nuggets, bacon, cneese, jalapenos, and corned beef.