Eating in the City: San Francisco’s Food Truck Movement

There were a few things FCT team member Gareth Pearson knew he wanted to see during his recent visit to San Francisco. Food trucks, parklets, and some urban farming projects. He thought he would have to hunt them down, but was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon them by chance. Here he shares the first of a few highlights from his stay.

San Francisco is a lot like Cape Town. The topography, the hippies, the weather, the prison on an island, the list goes on. I found myself inspired by a lot of what I saw in the city by the bay. With all the similarities between our cities, it’s easy to see things there and think how well they could work in Cape Town. When it comes to food in the city, a number of things stood out to me. Most notably though, was experiencing the city’s food trucks.

The gourmet food truck movement in San Francisco is thriving. Most trucks focus on a particular cuisine – indian, japanese, mexican, you name it. No matter what cuisine they serve, most trucks make use of local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. Unlike a fixed food stand, trucks can go to where the people are –  near places of work at lunchtime, close to where there is more nightlife in the evening, and even off to feed the hungry goers of special events or festivals. What is great about street food is that it brings life to the streets. Food trucks make the street a destination and not just a necessary function of the city.

A lot of trucks will change their location from day to day, sharing where they are and what they are serving through Facebook and Twitter. The branding and marketing of these trucks certainly stands out. If these trucks used WordArt to produce their logos I probably wouldn’t be writing about them, but thankfully that’s not a problem. Each truck has a unique visual identity that lures in customers to try its cuisine over the next truck’s.

I was lucky enough to catch one of the Off The Grid food truck markets at Fort Mason. Over 30 food trucks come together, attracting the masses for an evening of incredible food and live music. Think along the lines of Cape Town’s We Love Real Beer festival, but with a higher food to beer ratio, and every week. It’s easy to gauge which trucks have the best food by looking for the longer queues. I opted for a Vietnamese food truck with a shorter queue, but still had an incredible meal.

The food truck movement has started to grow to cities all over the U.S., and for good reason. I would love to see something similar take off in Cape Town. It may require support from the city, but it really just needs someone to go ahead and do it to act as the catalyst. I’ve become so obsessed with this movement that I constantly think of personally starting a truck in Cape Town, just so that I could continue to experience it. I probably won’t start one, but I would whole-heartedly support anyone who does. This is a call to anyone in Cape Town who would be willing: please start a food truck. I may just be your best customer.