Americans like to tailgate. Hanging out in parking lots with grills, boom boxes and the occasional Nerf football is a weekend ritual for many. At the three Marin locations of Off the Grid (OtG) mobile food markets – Larkspur, Novato and now San Anselmo – tailgating requires only that you bring a hearty appetite.
There are over 200 rotating vendors at the more than 35 Bay Area OtG markets and, when taken as a whole, offer a wildly diverse menu. (The number of trucks varies at each OtG market but you can expect at least 10 trucks at the Marin markets.) You cannot go wrong with the immensely popular tacos from The Taco Guys. Kalua pork taco ($5 each) was a mound of juicy and lushly fatty Berkshire pork shoulder topped with pickled mango and red cabbage. Equally impossible to stop eating was the summer squash taco ($5 each) which featured cubes of three gently roasted gourds topped with beet salad and corn.
Walk a few paces to the Curry Up Now truck for the rather inaptly named sexy fries ($8.50). The Indian-American version of nachos was cross-cut sweet potato fries topped with cheese onions and a selection of toppings, including chicken tikka masala and halal beef and chutney. A mix of chick peas, pico de gallo and two chutneys (one sweet, one spicy) was slathered atop the fries in the ‘Hella Vegan. The result was a crazy mash-up of textures, colors and flavors. It was not for everyone but it was ideal food truck grub and more than enough for a satisfying meal.
Lobsta Truck kept it simple with lobster or crab on a roll ($13 or $19 for extra meat), whoopee pies ($4) and Maine Roots sodas ($3) to wash it all down. France Délices served up a good brie onion pie with a side green salad ($9.75) and a decent duck sausage ($8.50). Meathead Truck made barbecue ($9 for a Carolina pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw) which was neither saucy nor spicy and not particularly memorable. Smokey’s and the Oyster Guy, The Rib Whip and Whip Out added even more protein to the carbon-saturated scene. (Vendors change from week to week so be sure to check each market’s most up-to-date truck info here.)
Take your purchases to the curb or to one of the tables provided by OtG management. Early birds get the in-demand shady seats but as autumn deepens, the sunny seats will soon be the coveted ones. Yes, there are bathrooms, located somewhere in the shopping center you have chosen as your dining destination. OtG staff can point them out to you. Entertainment could be thumping tunes pumped out of an OtG-provided boom-box or the sometimes equally boisterous live music.
Wrap up a meal with an enormous classic glazed doughnut ($2.75) or gluten-free doughnut ($3) from Johnny Doughnuts, a fitting end to this most American of experiences.
Food? Check. Curbside seating? Check. Boom box? Check. Off The Grid takes care of it all. Just bring an appetite.
San Anselmo OtG, which debuted on September 30 and runs every Tuesday night from 5 to 9 p.m., takes over part of the parking lot at the Red Hill Shopping Center, 800 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo.
Novato OtG, which debuted June 26 and runs every Thursday night from 5 to 9 p.m., takes over part of the parking lot at the Vintage Oaks Shopping Center (near Old Navy), 201 Vintage Way, Novato.
Larkspur OtG, which debuted in 2012 and runs every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., takes over part of the parking lot at the Marin Country Mart, 2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur.
Off the Grid can be found anytime at http://offthegridsf.com/.