Monday, March 3, 2014

Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center 2014 Edition -- Back to the Future?

Burr-eatery will be vending its dainty Sonoran Burritos  at Fort Mason

Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center is both the granddaddy and the Big Kahuna of Bay Area food truck rallies.  About to enter its fifth year, OTG:FMC serves up 30-odd mobile food vendors and plenty of booze to enliven Friday nights for thousands of people from March to November. Season openers (this year's will be on March 14) have become much-anticipated events.

At the outset of the 2013 season, I was somewhat dismayed by the direction the event seemed to be heading. In part, it was due to the introduction of elitist events, like the segregated $40-$50 pp prix fixe "VIP" dining area with its exclusive "curated" cocktail "experience," but more of my displeasure was triggered by the changes in the roster of vendors, which seemed little short of ethnic cleansing -- a net loss of 10 out of 24 Asian or Latin food vendors from 2012 to 2013, even though the event's charter calls for promoting Asian and Latin street foods.

The 2014 Off the Grid: Fort Mason Center cat is out of the bag and, based on this Inside Scoop report, I'm happy to say that the event seems to have reversed direction, at least partially, back to its more proletarian roots.  Gone are the "VIP" events, and this has provided more room for vendors, which is back to the 2012 level of 35 (though it's not clear how much rotation of vendors is involved). An analysis of lineup changes reveals that, while not back to 2012 levels, there has been a net increase of four Asian and Latino vendors from last year. There's also more of a Euro flavor this year, with France Delice's excellent home-made sausages (and peerless frites), a paella vendor and even a red sauce meatball vendor.

Some of the roster losses from last year are surprising, especially OG Off the Grid vendor HapaSF (let's hope William Pilz is busy with irons in other fires). Also missing is Onigilly (certifiably busy elsewhere), and Chotto Ramen is also a goner. New additions in the Asian food department are An the Go (actually returning from 2012); Happy Dumplings (ditto): The Jeepney Guy (Filipino fusion) and Raj Singh (Indian food). New-to-Fort Mason Latin vendors are Burr-Eatery, El Pipila, and Nora Cocina Espanola (Spanish, rather than Latin American, and a paella specialist).

Other departures from 2013 are Belly Burgers, Fins on the Hoof, the Old World Food Truck, Pete's Kettle Corn, Side Pony, Sticks, and The Whole Beast.  Newly inserted in the OTG:FMC starting lineup are local favorites Bacon Bacon, FiveTen Burger and Casey's Pizza. And there will be donuts.

Along with bread you get circuses, of course, so the will be Skeeball (wonder where they got that ides?), shuffleboard and Whack-a-Mole. Talk about your curated experiences!

See you there.

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