YES! That’s typically my answer before anyone has even completed their question. While not to the same extent as Jim Carrey in Yes Man, it has become a recent mantra of my life. I’ll travel with someone I’ve never met, meet someone I only know through Twitter, eat a larva taco – once, attempt a novel, and try a new sport. I find that if I let someone finish their question and think about the answer, by that time, I’ve already talked myself out of it. I didn’t even think about the feasibility, rewards, or consequences when I decided to personally challenge myself to eat from 100 food trucks and pushcarts in San Francisco this past summer. That comes to just over 1 food truck per day, because surely some people eat from food trucks everyday. Right?
“73, 74, 75, 76.” I took a deep breath, rubbed my belly, and closed my notebook as I finished counting off all the street food vendors in San Francisco I had eaten from. I finished off the last bite of my pork belly and poached egg sandwich from the Brunch Box and started heading back to my apartment. There was still another week of summer, but I was getting on a plane to go out of town for what became the next three weeks. It wasn’t 100, but it was 76, which is still a lot of street food. I paused and thought about what I had accomplished. I took in another deep breath and looked up into the sky, as if I had just climbed Mt. Everest. Except I hadn’t. People don’t have books written or movies filmed about them eating street food. Somehow I don’t think my family would have sent a bouquet of flowers or even a card to congratulate me for eating from 76 food trucks and pushcarts.
Will I ever eat street food again? Absolutely. In the last couple weeks I’ve had a mashed potato grilled cheese, a red velvet cupcake (Yes, there are cupcake trucks and yes they are delicious), and a Korean BBQ burrito. As a new transplant to San Francisco, I can’t think of a better way to have gotten introduced to the city. My foodie adventures helped introduce me to many of San Francisco’s neighborhoods, including the Mission, Marina, and Upper Haight. It’s been my “in” to the city. I’ve written about the street food scene in San Francisco several other places, such as a food truck tour for Urbandig, and have been interviewed a couple times about my experiences, including BootsnAll.
When I told people about my challenge, I often got this look of disgust, which was typically followed by rubbing their belly or their heart, and sometimes both at the same time. It was as if just thinking about it was giving them heart burn and adding pounds. However, much to the surprise of most people…wait for it….wait…I actually lost weight over the course of my street food challenge.
All total since moving to San Francisco in June, I’ve lost 20 pounds. Street food was somewhat of an excuse to better explore the city. I would often pick up a couple items from the Upper Haight, Mission, or the Marina, and then explore that general area since I was a new resident. The two Friday nights I went all out and gorged myself, I walked three miles back home rather than catching the bus. Some days I just seemed to be piling on the grease, while other days included healthy choices, such as an avocado and tomato sandwich.
Going forward, I still want to try as many new food trucks and pushcarts in San Francisco as possible. However, I also found that there are some vendors that I really liked and will be returning to, which amounts to 5-10 vendors. Most of the food trucks I ate from were really good, but with well over 100 street food vendors in the bay area, I only considered a few of them good enough to return to when there are so many I still have to try. Below you’ll find a few of my recommendations:
- Chairman. Melt in your mouth. No, it isn’t chocolate, but steamed buns. My personal favorite is the steamed pork belly bun. If you don’t do meat, they also have a tofu bun.
- Sam’s ChowderMobile. New Englanders rejoice. If you’ve been scouring the Bay Area for a lobster roll, then this is your place. You’ll be paying for it, $16.50, but this is probably as close as you’re going to get to a New England lobster roll. They also have a shrimp po’boy that is delicious and clam chowder for $5.50. They have fish and chips, but I’m not wasting my time on this when I can name you five other places in San Francisco for good fish and chips.
- The Taco Guys. You can get good tacos at so many different places in San Francisco, but you can’t just get a good fried fish taco. Most fish taco places I’ve been to in San Francisco have left me wanting, but The Taco Guys serve a good, hearty fish taco.
- Southern Sandwich. Um, duh. These guys are from several different states in the south and they do it right. From macaroni and cheese to hushpuppies to pulled pork, you really can’t go wrong. I’m picky about my BBQ, but Southern Sandwich does a good job of filling the BBQ void that was left in my life after I moved from the Carolinas.
- Crème Brûlée Cart. One word: Nutella. You don’t need another, but here’s two more: fresh strawberries. The result: Foodgasm. They have several other flavors, including vanilla bean, which I recommend, but the dessert gods look more favorably upon Nutella.
What’s the best street food you’ve ever had?