DJ music and a subtle buzz of conversation combined with the mouthwatering aroma of cooking foods from dozens of vendors hits visitors all at once as they walk past a large, illuminated “Off the Grid” sign on Friday nights.
Off the Grid, a collection of food trucks and restaurants, hosts over 40 dining events and markets all around the Bay Area. The most popular San Francisco markets are at the Presidio and Fort Mason, with each having over 30 vendors.
The presence of so many food trucks at the Fort Mason Market is both a blessing and a curse, offering everything from poutine to Japanese street food. The choices can be overwhelming for an indecisive person.
An the Go’s Vietnamese-style cuisine, served at nine different markets, is an Off the Grid staple that should not be missed. The crab puffs ($4) possess an intensely fresh, light flavor despite being fried, with a surprisingly crisp break after biting into the wonton. The truck’s signature An’s Famous Garlic Noodles ($7.50) are smothered in garlic. As tasty as it is, breath mints are a necessary follow-up to the dish, because garlic will radiate off the eater’s breath. The truck gives generous portions, too, with a regular size perfectly-portioned for sharing, although buyers will not want to.
Another must-try vendor is Italian restaurant A16. Its funghi pizza ($16) takes a few minutes to prepare on a busy night, but is well worth the wait. The mushroom pizza’s strong cheese flavor wakes the taster up, and combined with fresh mushrooms, each bite is heavenly. A16 cooks each pizza to order, with the steam rising up from the crust after each taste — perfect for crisp, cold nights.
The market — especially on a mild evening — can be completely packed and hard to maneuver, let alone find seating. Leave backpacks or bulky bags at home because they will definitely hit something — or someone. The venue does provide some tables, chairs and standing tables, but they are occupied quickly. Picnic tables are typically available behind the event, but be forewarned that the lack of body heat makes the area significantly colder.
Bring a jacket if heading to the Fort Mason location. The night may start warm, but will become very cold by 10 p.m., since the market is practically on the water and it can be very windy. Several heaters are scattered around, although they become popular to stand around.
Since the Fort Mason market is so close to the Broadway campus, it is a convenient way to spend a Friday night with a small group of friends. The market is open 5 to 10 p.m and is accessible via the 22 Fillmore or 43 Masonic bus lines. For all Off the Grid market locations and times, visit its website: offthegrid.com.