In the first part of our interview with Off the Grid street food maestro Matt Cohen we discussed the hurdles -- financial and otherwise -- facing food truck entrepreneurs; also some new ice cream vendors -- Three Twins, anyone? -- joining the street mob. It today's part deux, Cohen talks about the immediate and long-term future of street food in SF, who's underrated and some unfilled truck niches he's noticed.
Who would you say is most representative of the street food we're going to be seeing here in SF in, say, 2015? I think that Hapa SF, Southern Sandwich, and The Tacos Guys are primarily what Street Food is going to be about in the future: highly trained chefs that have a desire to own their own businesses and were attracted to street food because of the affordability, close connection to their customers, and flexibility. There are some really exciting concepts that people are working on right now that I can't wait to see in six to nine months.
And will Off the Grid have taken over the city by then? We're just trying to open as many opportunities as we can for mobile businesses. Are you still going to even be doing this in 2015, and if so, where do you see the business growing? I hope so, but we'll be doing it in a very different environment. Street food can't stay hot forever, so eventually its going to have to stand on its own. Off the Grid is about building the community and infrastructure so that the industry can continue to grow. I hope that it'll move toward more diversity, more creativity and more sophisticated food and pairings.
Are there any more neighborhoods you want to roll out into? What other goals do you have? We are actively looking for the right locations in the North, East and South Bay right now. Those are our priorities.
What's going to happen to Off the Grid in the colder winter months? Much of this is an experiment. Fort Mason Center will end on November 19th and will return in March. All the others we are going to try and run year round with a month break for the holidays. Will there be some rain outs? Sure. But, when rain happens in the Bay Area people still need to eat.
What are the most popular trucks in the respective OTG markets to date? They all vary. What truck concepts would you like to see someone try? For example, we think a gourmet hot chocolate and cookie truck would be cool. Or maybe a meatball truck... A meatball truck would be great! There's a burger truck that should be rolling out very soon. That'll be cool. But a grilled cheese truck? A sandwich truck? A halal truck? BBQ is basically untouched at the moment too... Pizza truck? A salad truck? There's so many good ideas left.
And a which truck will we find you eating the most? It changes all the time. We imagine you've been a roving street food consumer for quite some time now. What's your fave street food in the country? When I think street food, I definitely think more international. I am a huge fan of late night ramen from Yattai food stands in Japan.
Any that you think are underrated in these parts? There's a new truck in Oakland called Skylite Snowball that is doing some really interesting stuff with shaved ice. Definitely worth checking out.