The Year in Food: Street Food Gets Serious

  • By John Birdsall, SFoodie Editor
  • Mon Dec 27th, 2010 5:22pm
  • DiningSFoodie
The restaurant consultants behind the Chairman Bao truck saw the viability of mobile vending.

Twelve months, ten storylines: It's SFoodie's annual look back at the year in food.

What burst onto the scene in 2009 as an underemployed construction worker in a toque taking a propane torch to home-baked custards turned to serious business in 2010. Before this year, San Francisco's street food was the domain of those who needed to improvise to make an extra buck. Some vendors had cooking experience, others didn't, but almost all of them worked from home kitchens to cater to particular subcultures: Mission day laborers, Zeitgeist barflies, Dolores Park's Sunday stoners. Oh sure, the Mission's giddy, tweet-stoked vendor phenomenon hit hard in the summer of 2009, but few expected it to last, despite the odd TV production crew becoming enthralled with Precita Park's mix of scene and setting.

While some San Franciscans longed to have an above-ground street-food scene that could go taco-to-taco with Portland or L.A., the city's complex and punishingly expensive permitting laws meant that was just about impossible. Still, few who'd gotten a taste of the zeitgeist at the inaugural editions of the S.F. Street Food Festival and Oakland Eat Real could deny it: Mobile food vending had a pent-up customer base itchy to open its wallets.

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