Spark Social food trucks roll into San Francisco

Food and entertainment venue finds post COVID-19 popularity


Amelia Froyd-Kamrath

Food trucks in Mission Bay on Saturday September 25. The food truck spot offers a variety of food options from local vendors and is open everyday from 11 AM to 5 PM.

The smell of pizza fills the air and mingles with the sound of laughter. A plethora of food trucks stand in close proximity, their unique cuisines just feet away from each other. Dogs bask in the sun and children run on the turf. As the night runs late, people gather to watch movies on picnic blankets and roast marshmallows.

The venue has dozens of partnerships with small businesses and trucks in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Spark Social offers activities including mini golf, bonfires and music. It is also pet friendly.

“I liked where it’s situated; it wasn’t very crowded but there were definitely a lot of people,” freshmen Layla Grace Dixon said. “The exterior is also very unique; surrounding Spark Social are tall apartment buildings, making Spark Social’s atmosphere even cozier.”

Spark Social is located in a parkway along Mission Boulevard Avenue, in the Mission Bay neighborhood between Oracle Arena and Chase Center. This makes it a convenient stop for tourists or locals, according to owner and founder Carlos Muela. 

“Mission Bay on its own could be a small city, it has everyone, there’s a bunch of residential and then there’s people that work there every single day,” Carlos Muela said. “Unlike an area like downtown where everyone leaves at 5 p.m. it really is this community and I saw that this is gonna be a great location for this type of a project.”

The project to create Spark Social was first started in 2016 in partnership with San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, after the success of Muela’s similar project, SOMA Streat Food Park. It continued to grow with the expansion with ParkLab Gardens opening across the street in 2018.

“I’ve gone with my family a few different times and we’ve always had a good time and had something different,” Mercado said. “There were a bunch of different food stands and trucks around the area so you can come back and they’ll be something different next time.”

The venue partners with 150 small business food trucks, with 25 to 30 small businesses there at a time, that rotate in and out at about 3 p.m. to 5 p.m, according to the Spark Social website. The daily list of vendor lineups is always posted on their website and twitter account and is updated daily around 10:30 AM.

“Before it the food truck industry was pretty successful at that time and so what I had was trucks looking for places to go, but I didn’t have enough places to send them,” Muela said. “It was kinda like the perfect situation, helping out local businesses and having people coming from all over the Bay Area to come check this neighborhood and place out.”

Spark social still manages to differentiate themselves from other food truck gatherings like, Off The Grid in the Presidio, through their location, versatility of food as well as other activities. Because of this, customers like Julia Mackinnon seem to favor Spark Social. 

“It’s similar, but it’s more of a picnic theme at Off The Grid, and this one is more a bunch of food trucks and also games,” freshmen Julia Mackinnon said. “I do want more of them but, I don’t want it to lose originality.”

The food truck industry is predicted to grow 1.93 billion dollars in the next four years, according to Yahoo Finance. As the industry grows, consumers find that Spark Social retains its local appeal, according to Mercado. 

“They have music and a field where I saw a lot of kids playing soccer,” Mercado said. “It’s pretty chill and has a community-like vibe.”

Spark Social has become a part of San Francisco’s city life, according to Dixon. 

“I think Spark Social contributes to San Francisco because it brings together a mix of all kinds of fun food, games, and people,” Dixon said. “This also means that people from all walks of life can come and have fun.”