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

Hooker’s Sweet Treats

It was a lovely Saturday morning in the Tenderloin when I walked down the hill to meet Jessie and Justin at Hooker’s. 

Before this place opened the space belonged to another little coffee place, Chez Momo I think?  I only went once, and Steve got coffee but I didn’t. 

Hooker’s was making caramels before they opened this cafe, and they’d become pretty popular locally.  When word got out that they were opening a coffee spot, people got pretty excited.  Pretty, pretty excited (that’s my Larry David impression.  Get it?).  So excited that they tried to convince themselves that Hyde and Ellis is in a much nicer neighborhood than it actually is.  Many referred to it as a “Tendernob cafe” and some even attempted to claim it was Nob Hill.  I don’t generally like to quibble about this kind of stuff (ha ha, jk, of course I do) but I think once you’re below O’Farrell it’s extremely difficult to deny that you. are. in. the. loin.  period.  But being in the Tenderloin proper takes nothing away from how nice a cafe the Hooker’s peeps opened up!

It’s a pretty fucking adorable spot.  I have to begrudgingly admit that I like it, because I like cutesy shit, and this place really appeals to my asthetic.  It’s fancy coffee, so it could easily go hipster sneery, but they keep it pretty low key.  Instead the vibe is warm and inviting. 

The whole store is similar in size to farm:table, and there is the same communal table situation.  However, I could handle it this time, since I wasn’t there by my lonesome, but with a couple friends.  Probably I would be uncomfortable if I were alone.  In fact, that’s the title of my autobiography; Mel Roska, Uncomfortable at Any Speed.  Yeah, I don’t like it either.

You order the french press coffee and you get your french press and this little timer so you know when it’s ready.  You also get this cute little enamel pitcher of cream. 

The coffee is good.  I’m suspicious of all these roasters that have been popping up, I find the coffee to be very hit and miss.  At Hooker’s they serve Sightglass, which I hadn’t tried before, but I’ll add them to the list of acceptable brews. 

Here’s what you get if you order the bread pudding (ugh please excuse the horrible and unappetizing picture.  just awful.)

This is not something I ever need to eat by myself again.  Certainly not for breakfast.  But holy moly, that’s some good stuff.  Sweet to be sure,  though I enjoyed and I’ve been having issues with things being “too sweet” recently, so unless you absolutely have no sweet tooth you should be good with this. 

Justin and Jessie split a savory biscuit. 

There were mixed feelings about it.  I didn’t try it, but as I recall it sounded appealing, I just had too much bread pudding happening to even attempt any other food. 

Look!  It’s adorable, I told you.  It’s almost a little much…like, I can see that it’s a little much.  I can understand that.  I just love it; I can’t help it!  I haven’t been back to Hooker’s since this first visit, but in writing this post I’ve certainly convinced myself the time for second visit is now.

Hooker’s Sweet Treats

442 Hyde St