Food Trucks Then and Now

Food TrucksSan Francisco has been over run with food truck culture just like many other cities. This time the food trucks are different than they used to be. When I was younger [not a kid, but this lasted into my early thirties] there weren’t really any food trucks other than the taco trucks you would see usually of the El Tonayense variety. These early food trucks were real working man’s kind of places to grab a bite to eat. Now the food trucks have slicked themselves up to cater to the foodistas around San Francisco.

The taco trucks were great when you were on a budget because I could get a burrito I could never finish and a coke for about $4.50. Now the food trucks are pushing up their prices selling gourmet, artisanal and organic foods to the foodistas who have lots of extra cash and in many cases don’t realize that they’re eating the food that the working middle class eats for around four times the price.

I have seen the trucks all over the city and I find it hard to pay $6-$8 for some variation of a grilled cheese sandwich plus the soda is separate from that price. My wife and I were watching The Great Food Truck Race where one truck was selling their hamburgers for $10 and lost due to lack of income and afterwards they were talking that they could have stayed in the game if they charged $12 per burger. I don’t know about you, but I can grill up a might fine hamburger at home with a side of fries and a coke for about $2. I also know of many foodista sit down places where for my $12 I get to have a seat at a nice table and I get the fries and coke for my $12.

I have this little hand gesture I make where I hold my hands flat in front of me to represent the amount I’d have to pay to purchase what they’re selling at cheaper price. Let’s say I pay $10 for lunch for two at In-N-Out burger. Now if I go to a food truck the same thing would cost me closer to $30, so I raise one hand up to show the price difference and ask, for 3x the price is it 3x as good? Honestly, I can’t and don’t think many people can taste organic, artisanal or gourmet in most cases. I can taste a well made hamburger, but gourmet and artisanal are words that are just used for packaging in my mind.  I hand made some silver dollar pancakes for my daughter because I thought it was cheaper than buying the pre-made ones for her. Mine ended up being tossed aside for the mass produced perfectly round pancakes. Oh well, at least I and my friends and family know I’m a good cook.

I understand the whole idea of the experience of eating at a food truck gathering. Off the Grid is a great example of pulling in people who have a large choice of food to choose from. It strikes me though as kind of like a food court that’s outdoors though. I’ve eaten food from several of the food trucks, but while they were good in most cases I’ve been able to get just as good from other places that are cheaper where I can sit down inside.

I don’t think San Francisco is the best place for food trucks because we don’t have the weather to support them every day unlike say, San Diego where the weather forecast is always, nice. We’re an expensive city to live in and the costs get passed on to the people. If anyone disagrees with me please post a comment because I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I’d like to see what I’m missing here. Please note that I haven’t mentioned anyone by name as I don’t want to upset any of the food truck owners, yet I do find it interesting that when I visit their websites they never list prices. Most restaurants do list prices and I just think the old rule of, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it shouldn’t apply to a truck were I have to sit outside in a windy area to eat my food that’s gotten cold half way through it.

Sunrise Deli

I have to say I came a bit late to learning about falafel, but when I did I happened to find the best place in the city to get it and that is the Sunrise Deli. They specialize in Middle-Eastern cuisine which means it could be based on just about any country there so expect to see a few variations [definitely not Egyptian based as those falafel are made with fava beans]. Opening in 1984 at 2115 Irving Street this location has expanded to serve a total of three locations in San Francisco and one in Berkeley.

Falafel tends to be on the greasy side and should be eaten as soon as it comes out of the fryer. I’m not sure what type of oil they use here, but it not greasy compared to other places and the taste holds up even after it’s sat for awhile. I know this because we were looking for an inexpensive way to serve up food to people at my daughter’s first birthday so we decided to go to the Sunrise Deli.

There is a lot more to this place than just falafel, but that’s what brings you into the store usually. I’ve gotten a lot of my friends hooked on the fried paste that’s made from dried chickpeas [garbanzo beans], onion, garlic, parsley and a few other spices and fried up into little hockey pucks as my cousin who’d never had them before called them. I like to dip them in hummus which is actually a little like falafel that hasn’t been fried with more olive oil mixed in, but they can be stuffed into pita bread with a host of other ingredients and served as a sandwich.

Speaking of sandwiches, I tried the shawarma one day that in some places looks more like a middle eastern burrito rather than the way they are truly made, but stuffing the contents into a half a pita bread. There’s usually some chicken or lamb involved with onions, tomatoes and other grilled vegetables topped with some tahini sauce and pickles and these are wonderful. Their vegetarian plate will appeal to vegans since there are no animal products involved at all.

The best part about the Irving Street location is the price. I won’t knock them because I know that downtown rents are expensive, but a half dozen falafel is less expensive on Irving Street than it is downtown and since they’re so close to us that makes it an even better bargain. When we called in the order for my daughter’s party we had more than enough to feed a crowd of about 30 people for a little over $50. Of course we had the tabouli, babaganoush and olives as well as the pickled turnips [those are the pink strips in the picture that if you don’t tell someone what they are they’ll try them and tell you they’re quite good]. We rounded it out with several of their fresh sesame seed bread rings.

On a weekend when you want something that you can say it fried, but light the falafel at the Sunrise Deli is the place to go.

[gmap width=”650px” height=”200px” type=”satellite” visible=”true” static=”true” zoom=”16″ lat=”37.7634255″ lon=”-122.48048570000003″]