One chicken tikka masala burrito, followed up with a pork belly sandwich topped with turmeric pickled daikon radishes and green shiso, with a side of a fully dressed Chicago-style hot dog, complete with pickle spear and sport peppers and a dessert of lemon ricotta zeppoles, lightly dusted with powdered sugar.
These varied and intriguing choices for dinner are just a small sampling of some of the options that were available to the roughly 1,200 people at Off The Grid’s (OTG) fourth weekly Monday night food truck market in downtown Hayward.
“We’re really bringing something that Hayward doesn’t have,” said Daniel Azarkman, the market manager for Hayward’s location. “I think anybody who lives in Hayward would agree that there isn’t a huge variety of dining options in the city.”
OTG is an event organizer for mobile food businesses that began in June of 2010 in San Francisco, with its first market taking place at Fort Mason. Currently, OTG operates 19 weekly markets, divided up amongst the San Francisco area and the East Bay.
After being recruited by the city’s Economic Development Manager Sean Brooks, OTG worked to evaluate the best spot for the market and landed on the newly opened triangle park at Mission Boulevard and D Street.
“The buzz and energy created by Off The Grid really sends a signal to the general Bay Area, that Hayward is a cool, hip and fun place,” said Brooks, explaining the city is looking for ways to continually re-energize and revitalize the downtown area, as many retailers and restaurants complain about the lack of foot traffic.
This past Monday night’s market featured eight food truck vendors from all over the Bay Area and a small tent setup for some live music that was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., but started an hour late, quietly demonstrating some growing pains of the fresh event.
Locals could be seen pointing to menu items in wonderment, curiosity and excitement, as many of the items the trucks serve are not typically found in the middle of a parking lot.
“While I think Hayward is getting better with more diverse food options, this is a really cool extra experience to taste more in Hayward,” said Hannah Chien, a chemistry major at CSU East Bay. “I’m excited this is finally here,” said the San Francisco native, who has visited other OTG markets across the Bay.
Trucks like “Go Streatery” who specialize in what they call “glorious peasant food,” utilize local and seasonal ingredients to prepare reasonably priced mobile delicacies like braised paprika chicken with peasant rice.
Some trucks ran short of certain popular menu items towards the end of the evening, with employees covering those selections with tape.
Chien says she plans to come to OTG more, but doesn’t think she’ll stop shopping elsewhere in Hayward.
“Its all about options, and now we definitely have more of that,” she said.
Azarkman says OTG takes into consideration the other restaurants in the area and does their best to bring trucks that do not directly compete with brick-and-mortar food selections in the area and they chose Monday as it is typically a non-peak night for activity.
Alice Nguyen, owner of Le Paradis, a Vietnamese restaurant and French bakery located directly across the street from the congregation of trucks, says OTG is “not a problem.”
“I feel very good because it gets more people walking around downtown.” Nguyen explained her regularly slow business on Monday may suffer a little bit due to the trucks, but the exposure of her restaurant to those same crowds will bring them back to her restaurant the next day.
Brooks stressed the market is a stimulus to help get more people downtown, and only complements the surrounding businesses. Since OTG in Hayward doesn’t serve alcohol, those looking to drink will migrate to the other restaurants and bars and continue the “spillover” effect the city is looking to foster.
OTG events bank heavily on the prevalence of social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to spread the word about their locations and schedules and most of the individual trucks do their own guerrilla advertising several times a day.
Maudie Silverman of Lafayette runs “Street Dogs,” a food truck that serves Chicago-style hot dogs among other treats. She says she loves OTG events because they publicize their functions very well and Hayward’s market has become one of her favorites.
“It’s just a good fit here. The people are friendly, they like to eat hot dogs, it works for us,” she said. “It’s really fun, I’m having a great time doing it!”
The crowd in Hayward was comprised of families, groups of friends and individual patrons both young and old. The event stayed mostly full and functioning until well past its 9:00 p.m. closing time.
Andrew Pitts of Hayward came to the event with his wife and grandchildren after having first checked it out two weeks ago. Pitts says he is all for new flavors and options being added to the city. Even though he supports local businesses, he says his wife is a fan of Korean food, which was featured on one of the trucks.
Pitts showed local enthusiasm expressing, “Now I’d say for this, I just might love this city a little more.”
Natalia Aldana contributed to this article.
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 11:49 am.