Taking It to the Streets

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letruck.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Here's a dare: Sidle into a bar in San Francisco's Mission District and ask a patron to name her favorite food purveyor in town.  Given recent trends, she's just as likely to respond, "The Bacon Dog Cart ", "The Tamale Lady" or "The Crème Brulee Guy" as to finger a member of the city's restaurant royalty such as Zuni Café or Boulevard. Why? Because, you see, street is the new chic when it comes to dining out in SF, a trend that - so long as the economy continues its lackluster performance - will only gain still more strength.
It's Got Bite!
Long seen as the underbelly of the urban food scene, street food has been slow to take off in spots like the Bay Area where reputable restaurants have traditionally held sway as dining out destinations of choice. But whether fueled by more adventurous attitudes towards food or the economic slump - likely both - SF and even wine country eaters are turning a friendlier eye these days towards foods served out of carts, trucks, garages and the like. Let's see what's on the menu, shall we?

Oh, and while we're at it, go ahead and ask that Mission dweller about her favorite local food purveyor.

I double bacon dog dare you.

San Francisco
Mission Street Food - A rotating selection of local (mostly) amateur and professional chefs dish gourmet-on-the-cheap eats in an erstwhile Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Mission District twice weekly, with proceeds going to food charities. Tip: Arrive early - lines are as long as the hype.

Spencer On the Go - Chef-restaurateur Laurent Katgely of San Francisco's cult popular Chez Spencer restaurant now serves haute-low nibbles like escargot-on-a-stick and grilled sweetbreads from an ex taco truck he parks across the street from SoMa's terroir wine bar. Tip: Go ahead, sip while you sample - the wine bar allows vittles to be brought in.

Kitchenette SF - Pro chefs from the likes of Chez Panisse, Incanto and Foreign Cinema serve cash-only gourmet eats daily from a garage in the city's industrial Dogpatch neighborhood. Tip: check the spot's Twitter feed (@kitchenettesf) for news on upcoming menus and news.

Wine Country
Yountville Taco Truck - EaterSF reports that members of Yountville's city council recently granted a use permit to the town's first taco truck - Tacos Garcia - which will be parked at the south end of Pancha's parking lot in a couple of weeks. Ole!

Uncle Bill's Gourmet Corn Dogs - A fixture at the Windsor Certified Farmer's Market, the so-called corn dog guy serves what one Chowhound reader dubbed the "most amazing corndogs I have ever tasted." Just the thing to pair with a hearty Sonoma Chardonnay?

Take Away at the Relish Kitchen - No website (yet) but a dedicated following and rotating menu of gourmet eats keep regulars coming back for takeout from popular Napa caterer Lucy Gore, who dishes the likes of Marinated Tri-tip "Composed Salad" over Arugula with Succotash ($15) to eager eaters between 5 and 7pm Thursdays and Fridays. Tip: For menus email CafeLucy@aol.com and take note: Menus tend to sell out so advance ordering is highly recommended.

Other Street Happenings
La Cocina Street Fair - Call it legitimization: Come August, San Francisco's finest street food purveyors will have a proper Street Food Fair at which to exhibit. The first of its kind in the city, the fair is the brainchild of Caleb Zigas, Director of Operations for La Cocina, a non-profit Mission-based organization that provides kitchen space for food entrepreneurs - many of them street food purveyors.

Los Angeles Takes It to the Street - LA resto icon Susan Feniger has taken her love of street food from around the world upscale - to a highly tauted new eatery called - fittingly - Street, located on Highland just south of Hollywood. Early Yelp reviews for the new spot are mixed, but the outdoor graffiti art, service and breadth of dishes win points.

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Aaaand, this just in: Brix of Yountville to offer Street Food-inspired (the press release reads "exotic street food") fare this Sept and Oct. Naysayers say it's a stretch for this bucolic spot. What do you think?


Cheers, CC

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