California is the U.S.A.’s leading food and agricultural producer. So the opportunities to sip, sample and nosh there are ridiculously abundant. That’s especially true of the street food scene. Legions of food trucks and carts wheel around statewide, offering chef-made bites to those on the go. With ready access to fresh, local ingredients and diverse populations, these mobile local food purveyors have given rise to mouthwatering street food mash-ups like the Korean BBQ taco. See what’s on the mobile menu in San Francisco, LA and San Diego. Here are our local picks — the places our chefs and operators support when they aren’t in their own restaurants.
San Francisco Bay Area
One of San Francisco’s original gourmet trucks, the Chairman Bao crew is famous for their Chinese-style buns and panda-emblazoned vehicle. Headed by a former executive chef for Charlie Trotter’s Bar Charlie, expect surprises like Coca-Cola braised pork with savory cabbage.
Curry Up Now
Indian street food is the inspiration for the Bay Area’s Curry Up Now. Selections range from the traditional, like samosas and a thali (mixed dish) platter, to West Coast hybrids like the aloo parantha quesadillix (whole wheat potato stuffed flat bread) and “sexy fries” (criss-cut sweet potato fries dressed with garbanzo beans).
Perfect for San Francisco’s cool weather and bicycle culture, Chai Cart brings artisanal chai rendered from rich Assam teas to the streets of the city via two bike-powered carts. Founder Paawan Kothari left her marketing gig at IBM to run the company, meshing her nostalgia for the street carts of her native India with the desire to bring delicious, spot-on chai to San Francisco.
Kogi Korean BBQ
Follow: @kogibbq site: www.kogiBBQ.com
A food truck rockstar, the famed Kogi truck was there at the beginning of the trend and is credited with being among the first to leverage social media. Award-winning chef Roy Choi fuses Korean and Mexican specialties for true LA fusion street food.
Ricky’s Fish Tacos
Another veteran of the elevated food truck scene, Ricky Piña started out with a stand, but has graduated to a sleek silver truck that can usually be found in LA’s trendy Los Feliz neighborhood. His Ensenada-style fish and shrimp tacos are considered some of the finest in the city, and in LA, that’s saying a lot. If you’re lucky, he’ll be serving his two-handed lobster tacos (check Twitter!).
Jogasaki Sushi Burrito
Another example of LA’s love of fusion foods, the Jogasaki truck crew takes sushi rolls and gives them a SoCal spin, turning them into essentially a sushi roll-meets-burrito. Get adventurous and experience favorites like sandwich #2, composed of delicate soy paper wrapped around spicy tuna, sweet crab, shrimp tempura and avocado.
Follow: @greentruck; @greentruck_SD
Nothing says “Cali” more than this creative hybrid that mixes locally sourced, organic ingredients with a green-powered truck that runs on bio-fuels. With trucks covering both the LA and San Diego areas, some of Green Truck’s most popular items include their beet and quinoa salad and Mother Trucker vegan burger.
From Southern Orange County to stops throughout San Diego, the Devilicious truck fires up their grill and fans with specialties that turn staples like grilled cheese into foodie fantasies. Think butter-poached lobster grilled cheese on sourdough and Angus beef cheeseburger dressed with spicy aioli.
Red Oven Artisanal Pizza
Follow: @RedOvenPizza Si
If you’ve been to Napoli, you know — there’s pizza, and there’s the wood-fired traditional pizza from Naples. Essentially a wood-fired oven on wheels, Red Oven serves “la vera pizza Napoletana” like the Margherita using fresh, locally sourced tomatoes, basil and other ingredients at pop-up events like farmers markets, breweries, civic events and food truck gatherings.
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How do YOU do street food? Tell us your favorite food truck — no matter where you live!
— Eric Hiss