Debuted under its former name Chairman Bao in the spring of 2010, The Chairman Truck is one of the most popular food trucks in the Bay Area. Bao, or Chinese buns, baked or steamed, are the main feature. Traditionally, they’re stuffed first, but here the filling comes later. Unconventional choices such as Chinese spiced duck confit with mango salsa, and lion’s head meatball with fresh kimchi offer a broader world perspective. The Chairman is also an unexpected leader when it comes to original and interesting beverages. A hybrid concoction of shaved ice, large and chewy tapioca pearls, pineapple and salted caramel sauce is a particular crowdpleaser. Be forewarned that long lines are not at all unusual when the Chairman truck appears at special events, but it is usually more accessible during weekday appearances.
While studying at UC Berkeley, Kate McEachern relieved stress and found creative bliss by baking cupcakes. When in 2009 she decided to launch what would become the first mobile cupcake truck in the Bay Area and one of the first nationwide, picking its name was a no-brainer. McEachern, a Chez Panisse alum, uses locally sourced ingredients such as Guittard chocolate and Clover sweet-cream butter and milk to produce a small spectrum of cupcakes, including salted caramel, red velvet, key lime, double vanilla, double chocolate, and tiramisu with a ladyfinger crust and mascarpone frosting. Most popular is the three-layer s’mores cupcake; graham cracker crust topped with chewy chocolate cake and finished, of course, with hand-toasted marshmallow frosting. Fans find Cupkates at Off the Grid on both sides of the bay. The employees are typically friendly and keep the line moving smoothly. If you buy more than one of their delightful confections, you can pay with a credit card and they’ll give you a to go box.
Del Popolo offers some delicious wood-fired pizzas from its roaming glass-fronted mobile truck. In addition to a classic margarita pizza, the Neapolitan-inspired pies may include a version topped with fresh mozzarella, rosemary and French fingerling potatoes. The glass truck offers an anticipation-building view of the people inside tossing the dough, laying out the toppings, and firing up each pizza. Each pie, with its beautifully blistered crust and fresh ingredients, is delivered to you in piping hot glory. The truck itself is gorgeous, with glass windows on the side that allow you to see the pizza-making action! It’s got a great rustic feel with a brown frame coloring, and a dash of contemporary flair.
In a traditional tale of San Francisco eatery entrepreneurship, Curry Up Now graduated from one single food truck to four, and also has three fixed restaurant locations for your convenience. Expect Northern Indian street food offered at stops across the Bay Area. What makes me happy is that they don’t play around with the spicy options. You can opt for none at all, all the way up to the extreme. Spicy food is not just about heat, it’s also about flavor, and the right kind of hot spices can change a dish for the better. With Curry Up’s ghost pepper sauce option, you get the ultimate tasty spicy curry experience. Long line-ups can get annoying, but they’re also a sign that the food is good. I had the paneer tikka masala burrito for a change from the usual meat dishes, and I wasn’t disappointed. The burrito was quite large for the price, the service relatively fast, and definitely friendly.
Long before food trucks of all tasty flavors and aromas began to pop up everywhere, a slew of taco trucks known as El Tonayense were cruising the streets of San Francisco, and they will probably remain long after the current trend dies down. Take a trip here for the Mexican classics – tacos and burritos. If you’re someone who cannot make up their mind, the choices within the two categories will be your worst nightmare. Restaurant quality seafood selections such as camarones de mojo ajo (garlic shrimp) and pescado frito (fried fish) belie their simple, street-side source. El Tonayense has longevity for good reasons – food quality and affordability. These tacos are sure to make a mess so be sure to get lots of napkins or pack the wet naps.