Almanac

News - February 26, 2014

New food-truck event draws about 1,000 people

by Sandy Brundage

Chairs doubled as tables and curbs doubled as chairs at the launch of Off the Grid's weekly Menlo Park food-truck event on Feb. 19.

Lines at popular vendors such as burger truck Me So Hungry and chicken and waffles truck The Waffle Roost stayed long even after two hours.

Over a backdrop of live acoustic music, newcomers swapped intel about which lines moved quickest.

Dozens left with food boxes in hand, passing before a placard encouraging a post-truck visit to Kepler's Books or Cafe Borrone.

Off the Grid estimated that 1,030 customers turned out for its Menlo Park debut at the Caltrain station. "Last night was a great turnout for the first night and (we) had a great response from customers," said representative Marla McLaughlin.

Some grumbles were heard about a dearth of vegetarian or lighter fare, but overall the crowd seemed pleased. Ms. McLaughlin said Off the Grid chooses a mix of trucks and menus to provide a selection of vegetarian as well as meat items, and will keep the feedback in mind for future events.

The Menlo Park Planning Commission approved a permit for the weekly event in January. Despite protests by about 20 downtown businesses, no one appealed the decision.

Off the Grid, based in San Francisco, started organizing food-truck events nearly four years ago and now hosts gatherings at 26 Bay Area locations. The company is paying $750 a month to Caltrain to use the corner of the train station parking lot near the intersection of Merrill Street and Ravenswood Avenue each week. Signs will ban parking within that section of the lot from 3:30 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Food is served for three to four hours, starting at 5 p.m., with live music, chairs and lighting provided along with a portable toilet. Off the Grid must clean up the area by 10 p.m. after each event and dispose of all garbage off-site.

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