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San Francisco has become the mecca of global dining with over 3,500 restaurants to choose from (more per capita than any other major city in the United States!). It makes sense that after its beautiful waterfront and iconic landmarks, the next most popular reason for visiting this 47 square-mile food lover’s paradise is its restaurants.
One trend that has become mainstream in the last few years is the food truck following. No more trying to track these drivers on Facebook anymore, you can simply head to their storefront for the same delicious cuisine.According to Jennifer Morris, founder and CEO of Ajenda Public Relations, “one of the perks of starting a food truck first is the opportunity to adapt and change branding until it resonates with guests. The successful food truck operators realized that having a strong brand presence is as important as providing unique food offerings and good service. Therefore, when they transitioned into brick and mortar locations, they often already had brand recognition and a brand following on social media giving them a ‘head start’ over competitors.”
Since the food flavors represented in San Francisco are definitely international, here are four unique and delicious truck-turned-restaurants to highlight. There is definitely a flavor for everyone!
KoJa (short for Korean-Japanese) was born from the owners’ desire to reinvent the way Korean and Japanese foods are traditionally prepared and served.
Tommy Nguyen, operations manager, says they create Korean-Japanese Fusion with a priority to maintain the highest quality possible. This quality does not only apply to the food, flavors, and presentation, but also with the goal of having the best possible customer experience in the fast casual industry. “We pride ourselves in innovation and creativity and we hope that our restaurants are an epicenter for exciting food, decor, and memories.”
A highlight at KoJa is their take on a burger. First they replace a typical boring bun with two lightly fried garlic rice buns. The buns are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are perfect to encompass your favorite Korean-Japanese proteins. In this case, “The Original” KoJa houses succulent, barbequed cubes of tender short rib meat that sits on a bed of sesame vinaigrette lettuce. It’s all topped with a sweet and savory katsu aioli full of Japanese spices. Sesame seeds give it some texture and a beautiful aesthetic.
According to Akash Kapoor, co-founder of Curry Up Now, the restaurant started with an idea one summer evening among friends, after reading about Roi Choi's Kogi BBQ trucks in SoCal. By the end of the evening, they came up with a name and four menu items that are still on the menu today. “We made the food and just felt that it seemed right. We bought a truck a little while later and launched as a weekend-only truck in Burlingame, Cali. in Sept. 2016.”
“With no culinary training, experience, or experienced staff to help, Rana, Amir, Marisol (our number one employee who is still with us) and I set out selling food and the day we opened we had a few hundred people in line and crazy long wait times!”
“We take traditional Indian flavors and present them in a friendly, recognizable way,” he says. Deconstructed samosas, naughty naan, and a tikka masala burrito are a few menu favorites. “Our obsession is amazing tasting food, but we’re just as passionate about making sure our guests have an incredible experience the moment they walk through our doors or step in line at our food trucks.”
It’s the sight and aroma of sajj, pita, falafel, and shawarma being made in front of you. It’s exotic Mediterranean entrée choices you can customize any way you want. It’s authentic sauces and flavors you won’t find anywhere else. It’s the graciousness and warmth so characteristic of Mediterranean hospitality. And, it’s healthy and fast.Zaid Ayoub, founder of SAJJ, explains “we use the same fresh ingredients for both the trucks and brick and mortar. In the stores, customers customize their meals, for the trucks we curate specific dishes because of the way food is served. We have ‘SAJJ staples’ that we feature on the trucks and individual meal,” he says. “Trucks are sexy, in demand, and a great marketing tool for the brand. They are moving billboards. We believe in reaching our customers using multi channels including trucks, B&M stores, catering, online partners, and meal plans. It's the network effect.”
Andy Mercy, founder and CEO, says the idea for Dabba came to fruition when he took his first bite of food in a Mexican format, made by a Jamaican chef, at an Indian-owned restaurant in Marin in 1998. “I had never before tasted anything like it.” “It” being what Zagat affectionately dubbed as “ethnic confusion.” He sold his tech business, stumbled upon a Colombian chef who trained at French Laundry, and together they embarked on their vision to celebrate “borderless” ingredients, spices from around the world, and the freshest, most nutritious ingredients combined in a way that's delicious and playful.
Dabba’s offerings include burritos or tacos served with a family recipe of grain, beans, and chutneys, as well as seasonal salads served either in a bowl or hummus wrap. You can then add your favorite toppings like Cajun chicken, curry lamb, Caribbean jerk pork, seasonal vegetables, egg, or avocado, and wash it down with a nitro hibiscus or Turmeric ginger lime aqua fresca, mango lassi, kombucha, beer or wine—all on tap.
With over 15 years experience as a writer and editor for the food and agricultural industries, I am excited to write for such a reputable company as Chowhound.