Opening a restaurant in the Bay Area can be very costly and this could be why Off the Grid and Moveable Feast events have become so popular on the West Coast.
Off the Grid currently operates over 50 different events across the Bay Area featuring multiple food trucks.
Cost is one of the highest determining factors that restaurant owners take into account when opening a restaurant as well as the determining factor for customers looking for delicious foods. I ventured to Portland, Oregon to see what the food culture was like. Let me tell you, it sure did not disappoint!
“The easiest answer would be money, I’ve been a line cook since I was 20, I’m 32 now, but no matter your ability as a line cook, you’re never gonna make more than enough money to pay your rent, cover a few bar tabs and put away a few bucks for a rainy day,” said Jesus Martinez, owner of Gumba.
Food trucks are a place to get quality food at a decent price without paying for the overhead that traditional brick and mortar restaurants add to their prices.
“I think most people open a food truck because is inexpensive, you work when you want, there’s no cost of hiring bus boys, waiters, etc. you have the freedom to cook however you want, you also have the freedom to target certain customers you’re seeking for,” said Julie Nguyen, 25, restaurant owner and business major at De Anza College.
The term “roach coach” is what used to come to mind when someone mentioned food trucks. Now since different chefs are moving over to food trucks or food families are getting into it, the quality of the foods at these trucks is getting better and better.
“A lot of it is better than restaurants,” Nguyen said. “Plus I think because food trucks that are owned by a specific chef, they have the freedom to express their culinary skills with their dishes.”
Food trucks are not only beneficial for consumers looking for quality food at an affordable price, but it is also beneficial for the owners.
“I love being in a food cart though, if I were to win the lottery tomorrow I’d stay in the cart, I really would. It’s a fun pace to cook at, for the most part it’s people strolling up and me being able to have a conversation with them, which is something that rarely happens in a restaurant kitchen,” Martinez said. “Then I get to cook my food for them, I get to take my time and cook the dish with the attention that is not always provided in a busy restaurant setting. Food carts are a low risk, high reward way to dine out, and I love being a part of it.”
Gumba is a high end food cart in Portland, Oregon that offers high quality Italian pasta dishes that are affordable.
“When we opened up Gumba, what excited me most was being able to offer high end food, but at a price that allows everyone to experience it,” Martinez said. “Lately there’s been a lot of carts opening blurring the line between restaurants and carts, I can’t believe the quality of food at some of carts I’ve been going to lately. We’re all pushing each other to be better, it’s a pretty special community to be a part of.”
Food truck communities can be found from Los Angeles to Seattle. Each community offers something different. With each city having its own melting pot of cultures, the combination of food at these events are endless. Portland’s food cart culture will feature several carts on one plot of land which is different from the Bay Area’s food truck events.
“Well Portland, up until about 10 years or so ago, was more of a large town than a city. Vacated lots, containing nothing but weeds splitting the cracks in the pavement, is not an uncommon sight,” Martinez said. “Food carts are a great way to make use of these spaces. Sadly as the city grows, it seems as though those cul de sacs are now being appraised, and it’s coming back dolla signs. Lots are now being developed and food carts, which have become such a huge part of this city’s identity, are being forced out.”
With Portland moving towards more gentrification, you may see the food cart scene change into more of a Bay Area food truck scene since the land the carts are currently on, may end up getting sold to the highest bidder. And since I normally write about food, Here is my review of Gumba.
When I visited Gumba, I ordered the Manila clams pasta. The manila clams pasta featured manila clams, guancialle, green garlic, white wine, pickled soy beans and chiles for $14. This manila clam pasta was so good. You can taste the freshness of the dish. There was spicy taste to it with the clams. The spice almost resembled Chinese XO sauce. Excellent dish.
I also ordered the Pappardelle off of the handmade pasta section. Pappardelle had braised short rib sugo, olives, pecorino cheese and bread crumbs all for $12. This dish was my favorite of the two. It had a little crunch along with some meat. The dish was very aesthetic. It was like fine dining quality pasta at a food cart in Portland.
Honestly the best past I have ever had.