Groovin' to the Mellow Vibe at Off the Grid Upper Haight

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Lou Bustamante
Peace, love, and groovin' grub in the Upper Haight
Our monthly review explores the city's food trucks gatherings, one at a time, breaking down each one with statistics, descriptions of the scene, and vital info to help you plan a trip there.

Location: At Stanyan and Waller in Upper Haight
Schedule: Thursdays 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Market Info Website: Upper Haight OTG Facebook
Approximate Number of Trucks: 10-13
Parking/Public Transit: Street parking or the Muini N, 71, 43, or any one of many routes that stop near Haight near Golden Gate Park
Music: Live music; check out full schedule
Restrooms: Public restrooms by the entrance to the park
Booze: No
Seating: Folding chairs
Best for: Warming up and refueling after wandering through Golden Gate Park, or fueling up for NightLife at the Academy of Sciences
Other notes: A mix of tourists, locals, and nearby residents.

Arriving at the Upper Haight edition of Off the Grid, I am reminded how much the venue and clients affect the feel of a food truck rally. Everyone focuses so much on which trucks will be at a venue when planning a visit that they forget the impact that the space itself has on the experience.

See also: Off the Grid's Picnic at the Presidio: Like a Day in Dolores, But Better Food, Drinks, and Grass
Food Truck Rally Review: SoMa StrEat Food Park

Perhaps it's the fond memories I have of spending time in Golden Gate Park's many attractions (like the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden, museums, or biking along JFK Drive on Sundays), but the Upper Haight edition of Off the Grid is one of my favorites.

Set up just inside the park on Waller, this nighttime market features about a dozen trucks, live music, and enough verdant surroundings that make it feel like a gathering in the park rather than a parking lot. As you would expect, the atmosphere is lively, but it's mellow, with a lot of families and residents who live nearby making a stop for dinner. You see all the various facets of the neighborhood, minus the unsavory characters that sometimes prowl that section of the Haight.

The trucks are mostly familiar, with a couple of vendors that don't usually make the usual lunchtime locations. The selection usually include at least one of the all-star trucks people line up for (the likes of The Chairman, KoJA, Curry Up Now, SeƱor Sisig, FiveTen Burger, or Hapa SF), but here the lines and wait times are so minor that it's a great place to explore those vendors you may not have braved yet.

Its location also makes it a perfect spot for meeting up with a group before hitting the scores of bars located a few blocks away. Someone inevitably runs late to these gatherings, and here their tardiness only gives you more time to try more bites and the high-energy live band.

If you spent any late afternoons here than you can already guess one of the only drawbacks, the one that sends scores of tourists back home in clad in San Francisco sweatshirts: the fog and quickly changing weather.

Bring an extra layer or two, an appetite, and if the weather permits, a blanket for a late afternoon summer picnic in the park.

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