From the classic hot dog vendors of American cities to today's uber trendy bacon-wrapped mochi on a stick, street food has evolved into an inventive, exciting, and mobile form of fast food. Infusing traditional street foods with new culinary trends and drawing on international cuisines for inspiration, the street food scene in San Francisco has exploded with niche and nouveau food trucks.
While there's something to be said for the transient and ephemeral nature of food trucks, thanks to the growing popularity of street food, there are new, permanent alternatives to the wild goose chase that was once required to track down the best eats.
The Streat Food Park in SoMa is the newest kid on the block and the latest evolution in SF street eating. Open daily for lunch and dinner with a rotating selection of ten food trucks, Streat Food Park offers covered, outdoor seating, a beer garden, a projection screen for film nights and game days, and free wifi (so you can have your cake and tweet about it too). A typical a la cart Streat Food feast might include a Seoul barbeque sandwich, an Italian empanada, a tres leches cupcake, and chocolate-covered bacon, to name a few of the many innovative vendors that take over the space.
Located in the Mission District, Mission Dispatch sets up shop in a small parking lot, where they're open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. The concept is similar to Streat Food Park in that vendors rotate, but this mobile food outpost is much smaller in scale.
In Hayes Valley, a series of shipping containers have been re-purposed into industrial-styled "pods," hybrids of food trucks and permanent storefronts or eateries. Though the occupants of Proxy SF may change month to month, the two lots along Octavia Street, between Fell and Hayes, are open for business seven days a week -- meaning the end of hunting around the neighborhood for that cart that serves the super tasty ice cream. Smitten, said ice creamery, is a current pod occupant as is Ritual Coffee and Suppenkuche's Biergarten. There are more food trucks scheduled to open soon, as well as a plan to bring in local chefs.
SF Food Lab is part pop-up restaurant, part kitchen rental for mobile food producers. Located alongside the lobby of the Renoir Hotel, they're open on a walk-in basis for lunch 5 days a week and dinner 4-6 nights a week (check the website's calendar for more information). Conveniently located about 6 blocks from both the San Francisco City Center and San Francisco Downtown hostels, SF Food Lab features a rotation of amateur and experienced chefs, and is a great place to sample the latest in local cuisine.
In addition to permanent installations, street food events also abound, like the Street Food Festival on August 18, an edible encyclopedia of San Francisco street food. Even big-name local restaurants join the fun and sell street-food portions of their popular dishes elbow-to-elbow with up-and-coming food entrepreneurs and amateur chefs. There's also the weekly Off the Grid markets that bring mobile food trucks together at different locations around the city (the Fort Mason Center market is the biggest with over 30 vendors, and it's very close to the Fisherman's Wharf Hostel).
Stay at one of our three hostels in San Francisco, and be sure to sample something wrapped in bacon.