Wednesday was the day the food carts came to the San Francisco Chronicle tunnel on Minna as part of the Off The Grid mobile food service. There were six carts all told - Curry Up Now, Seoul on Wheels, Southern Sandwich, Kung Fu Tacos, Hapa SF and Cupkates. There was a bit of a festival atmosphere when I emerged from the building. There was a brass band playing under a tent (video at the end of the post), people from all walks of life downtown sitting on the curb or in chairs eating the wares of the truckers, talking and laughing, it was pretty cool.
Here are pictures of each of the trucks:
Those who know me know that Gemini + Foodie = I demand variety so of course I had to try more than just one cart. The offerings will change every week so I really wanted to try them all, but time, money, and a lack of a third arm to carry everything back upstairs kept me down to only two carts this week. I decided to try the BBQ offerings at Southern Sandwich and was undecided on my second choice.
I wandered along the row of trucks and decided to check the menu at Curry Up Now which had the longest line. They had a Tikka Masala Burrito on the menu with either chicken or paneer cheese. I have had Indian Chicken Tikka Masala several times at many different places and thanks to our friend Anita, I've even made it, so I'm well-versed in the dish for a Florida-born cracker. I love it. It's a thick, creamy, tomato-based red sauce with chicken pieces over rice. That, coupled with the long line sealed the deal and I decided to wait. I finally get to the front counter after about ten minutes on line (and freezing by the way because as I've mentioned before, shade matters a lot more here and the tunnel is all shade) just in time for the guy to stop his money-taking duties to start handing out some dishes to waiting people. Apparently the dish of the day was the butter chicken burrito. It was $1 more and wasn't ready to go (maybe they had more demand than they planned for). So I wait another couple of minutes until he finished handing out food and then he takes my order for the chicken tikka masala burrito which he then hands me from the ones in the hot glass cabinet. I take my two dishes and tea back to my desk and dig in.
I started with the BBQ. For $7 I got a nice, big, smoked, pulled pork sandwich with spiced vinegar and rustic coleslaw. The coleslaw was on the sandwich and consisted of really large thick strips of purple cabbage and smaller chopped green cabbage. It was not overly mayonaisey and may have been vinegar based like the sauce. The sandwich was really delicious and most of the meat was super moist and tender. There were a couple of bites that were on the dryer side and the pork was just barely pulled, leaving quite a few big chunks (I'm not complaining, just explaining). They also had sweet tea which was strong and not over-sweetened. The tea was self-served from the side of the truck and they had retrofitted the normal pull down taps with some "American Cross" bathroom faucet handles, which I thought was a nice touch. I ate half of the sandwich and saved half for my better half to try.
Then I unwrapped the hefty $7 "tikka masala" burrito. I put that in quotes to say "the so-called tikka masala burrito". I don't know if perhaps this wasn't Indian curry, or if it's some different region where tikka masala means something entirely different, but this was not what I thought it was going to be. It was a yellow curry chicken and rice burrito. It was not red or creamy and I fully expected sauce to be dripping out of the burrito on my first bite. It was not dry, but it seemed as though the rice had been sauced and spiced and then added to the burrito shell along with your choice of protein (chicken or paneer). It was tasty, don't get me wrong, just not what I expected and not what I was looking for. Another unfortunate thing was that one bite of my burrito included a black spice pod of some sort. It was bitter and crunchy like a nutshell and was black and slightly scarab-like. I'm sure in the no doubt HUGE pot of rice or sauce that pod added much needed and expected flavors. However in a single burrito unexpectedly chomped down upon, it was a less than pleasant surprise. I save half of that for Traci and she liked it but thought she tasted more of a tikka masala undertone than I.
I hope they keep this up at our location because if they do, this will be a weekly happening for me and if not, I'll have to get directions to one of their other locations! My only regret is that I didn't make it back down for a cupcake!
Video of the band: