By Jonathan Kauffman and John Birdsall
Thanks to more hospitable city regulations and the seeding of Off the Grid street-food events at sites around the city, the food-truck scene is finally taking root in San Francisco. Its tendrils are twining around the light posts and parking meters. New blossoms are unfurling in parking lots and downtown streets, and the swarms of diners buzzing about each truck have grown louder and more insistent with every sunny day. Here are five of San Francisco's best.
www.hapasf.com, Twitter: @HapaSF
Few food trucks bring the polish that William Pilz does to his nuevo-Filipino food. His lumpia possess an ethereal crackle. His sisig tacos complement dense, crunchy pork bits with lime-lashed avocado salsa, cilantro, and the watermelon radishes. And his mahogany-colored chicken adobo is so vividly seasoned your aunties might approve of it.
Parking lot at Bryant and Harriet, 756-1220
The swaggering potency of El Norteno's übertraditional tacos — particularly the braised goat and carnitas — is heightened with nothing more than a spoonful of salsa and the crunch and flash of chopped onions and cilantro. Sounds minimal, but it doesn't take much C-4 to blow up a car.
www.japacurry.com, Twitter: @JapaCurry
Jay Hamada trained with a ramen maker in Japan for six months before discovering the impracticality of serving noodle soups from a truck. So he switched to serving Japanese curry — and for the better. His cola-colored sauce, dense with caramelized onions, reduced chicken stock, and spices, thrums with flavor, whether it's ladled over kurobuta pork sausage, vegetable croquettes, or chicken katsu.
El Gallo Giro
Treat at 23rd St.
Lengua, al pastor, chicken — El Gallo Giro braises and roasts the meats at the heart of its antojitos just as ably as its Mission District competitors. But the dish that keeps us coming back is its Michoacan style carnitas, roast pork with a healthy cap of browned fat. Does it help that the tacos are less expensive than the ones from its neighbors? When we're being honest: perhaps.
Cupkates vhttp://cupkatesbakery.com, Twitter: @CupkatesTruck
Proof that quality is the antidote to cliché, Kate McEachern's cupcakes truck dispenses small, finely wrought desserts that just happen to be baked in cupcake tins. The base for all of her chocolate cupcakes is moist and dense, the buttercream swirl on her double-vanilla cupcake is tinted taupe with vanilla-bean seeds and extract, and the salted caramel cupcake finds the perfect balance between salt and burnt sugar.