Off the Grid: Civic Center

Here’s a protip: don’t go to eat at a food truck when it’s raining.  It’s tough to stand and balance an umbrella, trays of food and drinks all at once.

It was a few days before Christmas.  I braved the drizzle to meet Erin for some fusion tacos, etc.  The vendor list that day included Seoul on Wheels, Liba Falafel, Japacurry, Senor Sigsig and CupKates.  Erin and I wanted to try something from every truck, and we started at Seoul on Wheels.

I’d had their Korean tacos previously, and like the last time I ate them I was unimpressed.  I love tacos and I love Korean barbecue, but there’s something about the combination that just doesn’t work for me.  Also, the chicken was awfully dry.  The potstickers though were something else.  They were not doughy and soft like you might think of potstickers, but more like a deep fried gyoza.  The wrapping was flakey and greaseless and the pork filling was mellow and a bit sweet.  They were perfect dipped in some chile oil sauce.

Next we tried a bite from Liba Falafel.

Liba was the most crowded truck, and the least user friendly.  There was a very enticing looking spread of condiments, but there was no counter space available to rest drinks or plates on while helping yourself to those condiments.  Quite a bummer.

Luckily, the sweet potato fries were delicious as served.  They were sprinkled with chile powder and a touch of salt, and served with a wedge of flavor brightening lime.  Cooked to the edge of crunchy and no further, there was nary a soggy fry in our little bag.  We ate them along with tall cans of cold coconut juice floating with little niblets of pulp.

Next was CupKates

Erin had the salted caramel.  She liked it, but said the frosting was a little hard.  I had the special of the day, the chocolate peppermint.  I took it back to the office and ate it there.  My frosting was light and not at all sticky, and had a subtle sweet peppermint flavor.  The cake itself was as cake should be, moist with an airy crumb.  It was perhaps the most successful commercially made cupcake I’ve had, excepting a vegan cupcake I ate at Herbivore in Berkeley nearly 4 years ago that I just can’t forget.  Man, that was a good cupcake.  I’ll call CupKates second best though.

We were running short on time and tummy space, so we made Senor Sigsig our last stop.

It was there that I ate my favorite morsel of the afternoon, the sigsig taco.  The green salsa on top worried me at first glance, but it was more tangy than spicy.  A squirt of some creamy sauce was just right with a sprinkle of cold lettuce shreds and sweet charry nuggets of pork.  Unlike the Korean taco, the tortilla that served as the platform of this taco was warm and flexible.  I found myself wishing that we’d come to Senor Sigsig’s first and I’d ordered ten sigsig tacos.  I suppose that gorge-fest will have to wait for another Off the Grid visit.  Hopefully it will be on a sunny day.

Off the Grid Civic Center

Civic Center Plaza

http://www.facebook.com/OffTheGridSF

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Cocobang

I don’t know why I hadn’t visited Cocobang until this past week.  I’d been intrigued by it for some time because I really like Korean food and it has such an exciting name.  How could it be bad?  I was sure it was probably the most awesome restaurant ever.  I finally got a chance to find out last Tuesday, the first day last week with the crazy rains.  I had plans for dinner with Sarah that night.  I was in a pretty bad mood from getting stuck in the rain that morning and, though it wasn’t raining when I got home that evening, I didn’t want to get wet again.  I suggested we go to Cocobang because it’s not too far down the hill into the Tenderloin so if it did start raining we wouldn’t be too far from home.    I cheered up considerably on the walk over; it was dry and I was going to Cocobang!  Things were looking up. 

Sorry for this crappy shot of the interior of Cocobang, but the reason I didn’t want to take another is kind of the point of posting it; it’s super small inside!  Like, small enough that I was kind of embarrassed to be taking pictures.  It was not really what I expected at all, I had been anticipating a big, bustling space, maybe with a bar or even a dance floor.  I’m not sure why…the Yelp reviews give the impression of a party-atmosphere, but maybe that’s because Cocobang is open late, so it’s on a lot of people’s radars as a post-bar spot.  Also, we were there at about 6 on a Tuesday evening…not exactly prime time.  For whatever reason, I didn’t expect Cocobang to be a tiny, dark, almost rustic feeling (what with the brick walls and all) place, but it was.  It was rather hapharzardly yet charmingly decorated with Soju ads and neon light displays, as well as a large screen playing K-pop music videos.  And these placemats:

Also a soju ad I think. 

And speaking of soju; we ordered some!  There was a list of flavored sojus that I’m guessing come in a carafe, and then there was another list of special sojus.  We ordered the raspberry soju from the special list, and it came in this fancy looking plastic bottle (which I took home with me and was promptly thrown away by Steve)

Sarah and I were both pretty impressed by the presentation, but the actual product turned out to be just ok.  The soju was a dark purply-red, like kool-aid, and the flavor profile was similar to that of a children’s cough syrup, but sweeter.  Definitely not undrinkable, especially when you get to use cute little shot glasses, but still, next time I would probably go with beer instead.  They have the giant bottles of Hite and OB that I love that you see in lots of Korean restaurants.

The menu was pretty extensive, and everything sounded really good.  It was definitely hard to choose what to order, and I was kind of wishing that we were there with a larger group so I could check out more of their offerings.  We made our choices and then our banchan came.

Sorry for the lousy picture quality, but like I said, it was dark in there.  Anyway, from bottom to top:  bean sprouts with crunchy little beans on the ends weren’t my favorite, but they were ok.  Next, the cabbage, which was my favorite.  I am totally obsessed with kimchi these days, I can’t get enough.  Then last is what I thought was bean curd sheets but actually turned out to be a sort of fish cake, and unfortunately fish cake doesn’t do it for me so much anymore.  I can’t complain too much about free snacks though, you know?

Our main dishes came out pretty fast.  Sarah got the bibimbap

It looked pretty tasty to me, and she said she liked it.  I think bibimbap sounds like the nearly perfect meal, but for some reason I’ve never tried it.  Sarah added lots of hot sauce to hers, something I forgot to do to my kimchi fried rice

I didn’t miss it though.  I liked that there was a fried egg on top, but honestly I’m not sure if it added anything to the dish.  But I love an egg on top of almost anything so it doesn’t matter.  The rice was soft and salty and sweet and the kimchi was cruncy and juicy with just the right amount of heat.  A nice surprise were the half moon slices of hot dog interspersed throughout (watch out vegetarians!).  I really appreciate the completely earnest use of hot dogs, totally unironic without any sort of nod to our suburban culture or whatever.  At Cocobang, they just like hot dogs in their kimchi fried rice.  Which is awesome. 

The restaurant had been empty for most of the time we were there, but a few tables started to fill up while we were waiting for our check.  I gotta say, it took a while for us to get the attention of the guy working there to ask for it, but it was just him and I think one person in the kitchen.  So I am forgiving.  I was pleasantly surprised that Sarah and I ate pretty cheaply at Cocobang, I generally think of Korean as a more expensive cuisine, and you certainly could spend a lot of money here if you wanted to.  Or, like me and Sarah, you could eat for less than 20 bucks each, including soju.  I’m excited to go back to Cocobang, and when I do I want to go later in the evening and with more people.  I think that’s probably the way to go.  But really, if you were to call me up and say “hey Mel, let’s get dinner at Cocobang, just the two of us,”  I wouldn’t say no.

 

Cocobang

Their Yelp page

550 Taylor