San Francisco: Street Food Love and Japantown Antics

Is it a fad? A passing thing for the hipsters to get all excited about before they find something new and obscure to get into before it goes stupid mainstream? Street Food and the gourmet food truck scene is mainstream. At least in the Bay Area it is, everyone’s mama, baby daddy, uncle and cousin twice remove is getting into it. Bombin’ the Bay with some crazy pimped out version of home-style street food and I for one… LOVE IT. It’s no secret that I’m on my own mission to start my own food truck full of Cambodian goodness. I visit food trucks more so these days then I do actual brick and mortar establishments.

My baby brother’s friend Sokha was staying with us this last week before her trip to Cambodia, so we had to show her some serious Bay Area food love. The one place Matt wanted to take her to was Off The Grid at Fort Mason, although I agreed I was slightly hesitant. Off The Grid has done amazing things for street food promotion, but Friday night at Fort Mason is notriously crowded with incredibly long lines. Last summer I went every Friday before it got so popular and loved it. Now it seems more and more trucks offer a very limited menu (not surprising with the amount of people that show up!), the portions are a lot smaller and the food quality at times are less than spectacular. I know it’s because most trucks (and stands) cook their food in advance to deal with serving the massive crowd but doing so results in cold foods, some funky textures and lack luster appearance.

Still hesitant but game because I didn’t wanna be a Debby Downer, we jumped into my ride on a sunny Friday night and rolled on over to Fort Mason, taking with us first timers Vibol and Sokha along with my baby brothers Matt and Jonny.
(I apologize for the blurry pictures, still learning the settings on my camera and not an excuse for my poor camera skills, I swear!)

Off The Grid at Fort Mason Center
Buchanan St & Marina Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 345-7500

El Porteno’s Empanadas


Ever since we started going to Off The Grid, El Porteno’s has been our must have bite. The flakey baked (not fried) empanadas are AMAZING each and every time. The boys always get 2-3 empanadas each, Carne ($4 – Prather Ranch Organic Dry-Aged Grass Feed Beef, Pimiento Stuffed Olives, Raisins, Hard-Boiled Eggs) and Pollo ($4 – Fulton Valley All Natural Chicken, Chicken Chorizo, Raisins, Olives) and I usually grab a chicken, but the last few times I’ve gotten their Champinones ($4 – Fresh Seasonal Local Organic Mushrooms by Far West Fungi, Shallots, Parmesan Cheese, Crème Fraiche) and it’s honestly my favorite. Earthy mushrooms, buttery flakey crust and the sharp salty parmesan is an incredible combo, can’t leave without having one!

The Wow Truck

I’ve never seen this truck before, so I’m reading their menu and thinking “Filipino breakfast truck and oh snap they even have it in a taco form!” I can dig it, plus I love me some garlic rice. Sokha ordered the Silog taco ($4) with (I think) beef. It was pretty hefty! Each taco came with choice of meat, garlic rice, jalapeno-onion-tomato-calamansi juice salsa, and a fried runny egg, topped with a sprinkle of fried garlic. The runny egg really got me, I’m such an egg slut, I know. Sohka said it was pretty damn tasty and as I was strolling to the window ready to order a taco full of goodness, I spied out the corner of my eye, in their window one heavenly street food dessert.. TURON!! I forgot about the taco and ordered 3 turons ($1 each and at least 12 inches long) and they were so GOOD! Basically a Filipino banana spring roll, it was fried to golden perfection with the caramelized sticky sugary heart attack inducing crust that I love so much with turons. I gave 2 to my brothers and munched on mine so fast I didn’t get to take a picture of it! I’ll stalk to truck and order 10 more turons next time I see them and take a billion pictures ‘cus them bad boys were orgasmic.

Onigilly


Onigiri is a rice ball with various toppings and wrapped with nori. The best thing about Onigilly is they offer a variety of toppings and a few different choices of wrappings. I actually really like this food stand (doesn‘t hurt that one of the owners is pretty sexy with his facial hair and Japanese accent.. Swoooon!), my favorite is their Spicy Shrimp, but I noticed they offer it that night but my brother ordered a Teriyaki Chicken ($3) Onigiri. Although the shrimp is much better, he said the teriyaki chicken is pretty yum also.

Seoul On Wheels


I snapped a picture of the boys standing in line at the Seoul on Wheels truck while I was in line at a different truck. Yea, we’re seasoned line ninjas like that! Vibol grabbed a spicy pork taco ($3) and a bulgogi taco($3). I’ve had both before and I wouldn’t call them mind blowing. They do fill the belly though.

The Little Green Cyclo


I’ve heard lots about this truck and was excited to try it. Although I was getting a bit full from all the little bites I’ve had so far, I decided to go for something small. I did see they had Bo Luc Lac on the menu, which I can make a killer Cambodian style version of and was interested in trying theirs. I saw someone order it and it was a pretty big portion. I know I’m Ms Fatty..but I’m also Ms On A Budget and didn’t wanna splurge on food I wouldn’t finish eating. Instead I opted for their Sweet Potato Tater Tots ($3) with a Spicy Mango Ketchup. The ketchup was super spicy, the sweet potatoes were crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. Better then your average tater tot and while the boys and I stood there munching on the nuggets of wonderfulness, people kept asking where we got them. Next time, I’m going for a full meal here.

Chairman Bao Truck

I’ve had Chairman Bao many times over, but Sokha hadn’t so she soldier’d up and went to stand in that awfully huge line! She picked up a Steamed Pulled Pork Bao ($3.75 – with Savoy Cabbage and Preserved Mustard Seeds), after about 30mins of waiting in line and for the bao I asked if it was worth it and she nodded with her mouth incredibly full.

I do love Off The Grid and plan on being a part of it when my truck launches, I still dig the vendors and trucks and do follow many of them on twitter. I’d rather catch them parked somewhere with a full menu and everything made to order.

Japantown
Laguna St and Post St
San Francisco, CA 94115

After making our rounds at Off The Grid, I was jonsin’ for some Ramen big time. We drove to Japantown where the boys ran around Daiso looking at all their fun cheap stuff. My favorite isle at Daiso?The candy and treats isle of course!! So many awesome sweet goods and not enough belly room for it all!

We continued our tour with the rest of the mall, taking random pictures and causing ruckus as only a buncha Cambodians can at a Anime and Manga shop, Pika Pika and a spot that had some knives for sale that made Jonny’s eyes gleem and staring at me with the “please use your credit card to buy this for me..pleaseeee” look. As cute as my baby brother is and as soft as I am for him, I am not buying him a friggin’ knife!!

Kushi Tsuru
1737 Post St
Ste 380
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 922-9902

We grabbed a table for 5 at Kushi Tsuru.  A smallish restaurant inside Japantown Mall and on a Friday night, all the tables were packed but we only ended up waiting 10 mins before being seated. The only thing I wanted was ramen that night plus the boys haven’t had fresh ramen before so everyone was game. I was interested in comparing their quality to the ramen joints in San Mateo and Berkeley that I frequent. Quick scan of the menu and we placed our orders.

Chicken Karaage ($6.50) Japanese style fried chicken nuggets

I didn’t get a chance to grab pictures because the boys dug in fairly quickly. Jonny got a California Bento ($9.50) that included grilled chicken teriyaki, tuna sashimi, deep fried fish, california roll 2pcs, salad, served with miso soup and rice.
Matt got the Shoyu Ramen ($8.00) seaweed, cha-shu, bamboo shoots, bean sprout, naruto fish cake, onion, noodles in soy broth.
Vibol got the Miso Ramen ($8.00) seaweed, cha-shu, bamboo shoots, bean sprout, ginger,onion, naruto fish cake, noodles in miso broth

Jonny’s food looked standard but good portions for only $10, I tasted the Shoyu broth and it had an ok flavor, nothing that really wow’d me. Vibol’s broth lacked flavor! I tried 2 sips of it and I was disappointed for him! He didn’t finish his noodles claiming he was super stuffed. Mmmmhmmm yea Vibol.. MAN UP SON!

Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.50) Seaweed, cha-shu, bamboo shoots, bean sprout, ginger, onion, naruto fish cake, noodles in pork broth.

Sokha and I both ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen and although the broth was better then the boys. It was creamy with a nice pork flavor, it still lacked the flavor I’ve had at other places. The one thing that really irked me was the one incredibly thin slice of chashu and the 1 slice of fish cake!! I mean.. REALLY, can‘t we get at least get 1-2 more slices!? The pickled veggies were a great addition to the ramen and the bowl had a huge…HUGE amount of noodles which was great, except my noodles were a bit over cooked. It was just a little more soft then I liked it, but no one else seemed to complain.

It was fairly ok food but it was the really good company that made my night. I was so stuffed after the ramen I didn’t have room for any fresh mochi *sad panda* oh well.. next time!

Oh! Two more pictures (because there isn’t enough right!?), the one thing I adore about Japantown are the awesome plastic food displays at almost every resturant! I don’t know why, but I’m stupidly facinated by them!

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