San Francisco has always lived on the cutting edge - of philosophy, of politics and of technology. It's a city of thinkers, who aren't just onto the next trend - they craft it themselves. Then the rest of the country follows. Food here's no exception, with world-class restaurants famous for experimentation, or more to the point - famous the successful results of experimentation.
Michelin-starred chefs have been attracted to San Francisco for years thanks to a scene lush with European technique, Asian flavor and Mexican tradition, all combined to equal classic California cuisine. It's the best of all worlds, shipped straight to one vibrant, eclectic, highly walkable town. Unsurprisingly, the food trucks here are a dutiful extension of this scene, giving you the same imagination, and the same experimentation, right on the streets.
San Francisco was one of the first cities to benefit from the food truck revolution (of course), but thanks to stern regulations, the last few years have seen a drop in trucks, as the city and restaurants have combined forces to slow growth. Nonetheless, the scene is still booming, with some of the best trucks in the nation serving daily, and innovating nightly. Check them out yourself to get a grip on the next big thing, and more importantly - taste it for yourself.
Roli-Roti predates the modern street food phenomenon. In fact, it might not be a stretch to say they even helped start it. Laying claim to being not just the Bay Area, but the entire country's first slow-cooked, sustainable, healthy street food, the food truck's journey began over 15 years ago. Now priding itself as the "grandfather of gourmet street food", Roli-Roti continues to service the very farmers' markets that helped inspire it.
Owner Thomas Odermatt comes from a Swiss family with 70+ years of butchery expertise, emphasizing the importance of free range, well-seasoned cuts of meat. After earning his masters in organic farming from ETH, Zurich, Odermatt continued his study at Berkley, only to fall in love with the local farmers' markets. Soon he combined his family's recipes with his newfound love to craft a totally innovative mobile venture - with slow-roasted rotisserie chicken and crispy, juicy porchetta leading the way on a fine menu of farm-fresh eats. These days, Roli-Roti remains the gold standard for the Bay Area's mobile cuisine, visiting markets, retail and private clients alike to deliver its trademark savory bliss.
One trend San Francisco excels at is remaking the very things that defy trends - the simplest of ingredients or the most familiar of dishes, torn down and built back up into something entirely new. Or at least something that feels that way; re-introducing food concepts that never really left for an audience eager to play along and pretend it's the first time.
Sanguchon is taking high-end Peruvian cuisine out of fine dining and back into the streets, with a bevy of sandwiches anchoring its vast menu of eats. Pan con chicharron with fried yam, Barbacoa in inka-cola BBQ, and Lomo Saltada stuffed with fries are all on hand to tempt you three ways, with wraps, bowls and salads providing show-stealing support. It's the finish line of a round-trip journey for one of street food's most prized cuisines, rich in tradition but polished by innovation. And all in all irresistible.
Simply Mochi wraps up the sweet Japanese delicacy in bold ways you've never seen, stuffed with even bolder tastes you've never tried. From Oreo cheesecake to Nutella to salted caramel, these are flavors that give you more than a mouthful in every bite. Finally, the Bacon Bacon food truck became the stuff of San Francisco legend in no time flat, propelling it to its own brick-and-mortar. But the food truck remains one of the most sought-after catering services in town. We'll give you one guess to figure out what they do best.
San Francisco's always been ripe with Asian influence - from the oldest Chinatown in the US to the oldest Japanese tea garden in the US. And the food's always mirrored that, making San Fran an equally impressive stop for ramen, dumplings and bulgogi alike. Asia dominates the San Francisco food truck scene too, with scores of trucks delivering fresh eats that taste 1000 miles away but pull up straight to you.
The Chairman has climbed the ranks to become one of San Francisco's most popular food trucks, serving bao buns unlike any other. Rich, decadent fillings get baked or steamed inside the buns after the fact, giving the truck more freedom with its whimsical recipes. From Coca-Cola-braised pork with garlic mayo to crispy tempeh with carrot puree, these flavor combos turn bao buns on their head, and shoot tastebuds through the ceiling. A healthy assortment of rice bowls and noodle salads compliment the main menu, giving you no shortage of ways to conquer your cravings.
Señor Siseg has redefined Filipino street food for a new generation of eaters, taking the namesake dish and delivering it in fused Mexican fashion, from tacos to burritos to loaded up fries. Owners Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo's exotic flavors in familiar forms have taken San Francisco food truck culture by storm, and pushed an entire cuisine further into the mainstream. Finally, Curry Up Now fuses Mexican to Indian in similar fashion, and gives you a wrapped-up way to eat curry that fits in one hand. Of course things get messy, so we still recommend using both.
New England goes Northwest with Sam's Chowdermobile, which delivers authentic lobster rolls, and clam chowder that tastes a coast away - without bringing the weather with them. Regional specialties like Andouille po'boys and Baja fish tacos line the rest of the offerings, giving you a whole seafood tour on a truck. Not to be outdone, Southern Comfort Kitchen whips up world-class po'boys of their own, but strictly stick to Creole flavors and seasonings. On top of that, offerings like crab fries, gumbo and jambalaya give San Francisco a taste of NOLA that lasts long after it leaves your mouth.
Meanwhile, The Chai Cart keeps things simple, serving up the Indian specialty in a wide spectrum of variations - from ginger to rose. Flavors rotate on and off the menu, providing a mid-day pick-up that's as fresh as it is necessary. Founder Paawan Kothari founded the business on the back of her bike, turning weekend breaks from computer science studies into constructive recreation. A decade later, she's constructed a mini-empire, fueled by fleets of carts pushing her homemade brews on a weary populace. These days the Chai Cart's single-handedly made San Francisco a warmer, more-awake town to live in, so visit yourself, and join the ranks of the un-tired.
As always, check out the live San Francisco food truck map above or on the Roaming Hunger app to find the most accurate, up-to-the-minute location info for all trucks listed, alongside countless more options.
Like we said before, a flurry of restrictions in recent years has made launching(and parking) new food trucks an intimidating chore. As a result, trucks have been on the steady decline, but officially-permitted gathering spots have been on the rise.
Food truck parks like SoMa (weekend nights on 11th street) and the Duboce Truck Stop (weekday afternoons on...you guessed it, Duboce) have becoming gathering spots for the best of the city's best, while the traveling Off the Grid collects equally varied and dynamic street food and dispenses it where it's least expected.
Stray trucks are a rare sighting now, but you can catch them any time by booking them for yourself. Any and all the trucks mentioned above are available for private gigs, and are as easy to grab as clicking right HERE. No matter which food truck you go with, you'll be grabbing cutting-edge skills and forward-thinking cuisine that hint at a promising future, and more importantly - make for a delicious present.