Archive for the ‘San Mateo County’ Category

MoGo BBQ: Interview with Sam Pak, founder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on April 7, 2010

As much as I love the Bay Area, we’ve definitely been lacking in the Korean taco department — eschewing it for things like cupcakes and Chinese tacos instead. But since I read about MoGo BBQ in SFoodie a few months back, and then later got an email from the good peoples at MoGo BBQ (Facebook, Twitter), I knew I had to find out what was up. They’re aiming to cover the entire Bay Area, from San Jose to Berkeley. Also, forgive me for the lack of posts in recent weeks. I’ve just moved to Germany!

1) Why is everyone so crazy about Korean tacos? Why are your Korean tacos the best around? What’s the one thing about Korean food that us non-Koreans don’t know about?

The reason Korean tacos have generated so much buzz, besides the fact that they’re delicious, is because they’re a uniquely Californian food. They can only exist in this kind of environment, where we have different types of ethnic communities and foods coming together. This kind of experimental fusion cuisine has normally been the domain of high-end restaurateurs. We’re kind of turning that idea on its head by making it available to the masses in a taco truck. As far as MoGo BBQ is concerned, we put a lot of love into making our food and don’t compromise when it comes to the ingredients. We even make our own kimchi. We take time to properly marinate the meat and make sure we cook it on the truck the same day. Those details are important, and they come out in the taste of our food. I think one thing that people don’t know about Korean food is that it’s one of the healthiest kinds of food you can eat. Kimchi is a huge health superfood – it strengthens immunity and fights disease. There’s really nothing it can’t do.

2) Tell me about your background in food/cooking/eating and what you did before starting the truck. What’s your favorite non-Twittering taco truck in the Bay Area?

I actually don’t have a background in the restaurant business–I just eat food and mess around in the kitchen here and there. I am a real estate investor on the side and have scaled back on that for obvious reasons. I do believe that food plays a special role in Korean cultures, and really many Asian cultures, in that food is about love and sharing. In my house, for instance, if someone cooks something, everybody shares it, even to the point of eating out of the same bowl. My mom would make something for us and say “Mogo,” meaning, “Eat this” – that’s how the name came about. It does take someone with experience and training to take that concept and those flavors to the people in terms of starting a business, and that’s where our chef, Chef Jojo, comes in. He’s been a chef at resorts in Napa for more than five years, and is really a genius with putting flavors together. He makes the food; I eat it. My favorite non-Twittering taco truck? David’s Taco Truck in Santa Clara.

3) What’s the best thing on the menu? (And don’t say “Everything.”)

The short rib burrito. I say that because it has most all the ingredients we carry on the truck: marinated meat, kimchi rice, cabbage slaw, chipotle sauce, everything. If you get the burrito, you get all of MoGo BBQ, basically. We’re also working on a new burrito that’s going to be extremely spicy, the ultimate challenge for Koreans and other spicy food eating masochists. I’m pretty sure that’ll be my favorite once we debut it. We welcome any suggestions for the name of our new ultra spicy burrito!

4) How do you determine your route? Why are you concentrating on the Peninsula/South Bay?

I grew up in the South Bay, so I wanted to bring it here first to see if all my friends would like it. At first, we targeted the local hangouts, like coffee shops and bars. Then word got out, and we started to get invited to companies like Facebook, Cisco, Moxsie, and Google. We try to hit the big festivals and events, like San Jose Bike Party, and we’re definitely going to take the MoGo BBQ truck to other areas soon. We’re going to be getting a second truck soon, and will be taking it up to San Francisco and the East Bay to expand our taco truck empire!

5) Hite or OB?

I might lose some friends over this answer–OB.

Curry Up Now takes heat from City of Burlingame

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 11, 2009

One would think that the City of Burlingame would be pleased that a new, fun, delicious, nouveau food truck is gracing their community. Sadly, though, this is not the case as Curry Up Now‘s founder Akash Kapoor is being pressured by restaurateurs, business leaders and even city officials to get him out of the downtown strip.

The San Mateo County Times reports:

Officials have yet to discuss publicly whether they want to support the free enterprise interests of the trucks or prevent them from encroaching on local brick-and-mortar businesses. No meetings on the topic have been scheduled, as policymakers await the results of staff research.

Opinions on the matter seem split. Patricia Love, the city’s economic development specialist, said she has “gotten comments all over the board” in researching the issue.

Inquires from merchants have prompted police to ask the truck to move 500 feet every half-hour, and the owner has been cooperative, Burlingame police Capt. Mike Matteucci said. The truck is fully permitted to operate in the city, he said.

But Chamber of Commerce CEO Georgette Naylor, Downtown Burlingame Business Association President Kevin Osborne and Mayor Ann Keighran said local merchants have been groaning about the truck. Mostly, they said, shops think the truck has swooped in without having to pay the high rents properties fetch near Burlingame and Howard avenues.

In other words, restaurant owners are upset because they can’t compete. Boo-freakin’-hoo.

Worse still, city officials seem to be listening, and the truck may get run out of its prime location:

[Mayor] Keighran has been talking to business leaders and said they plan to meet with the truck’s owners. She said it may make sense to move the truck toward Bayside Park, where there are sports games and a lack of takeout food options.

But Kapoor said that would be tantamount to moving his truck out of the city.

I sent emails to Mayor Ann Keighran, Patricia Love and Akash Kapoor to get more details. I will update as soon as I know more.

Update 10:00 am Pacific Time: I just got off the phone with Akash Kapoor, who told me that a second truck is already in the works for San Francisco. He says that he’d like to work it out with the city, but doesn’t want to get into a protracted legal battle.

“If we have to move to Bayside Park, we’ll just move to San Francisco,” he said.

“I don’t have the energy to fight,” he added. “I’d rather just move 10 miles down and I know people will come.”

He also estimated that 80 percent of his customers are coming from outside of Burlingame, and in some cases, probably spend money in other city businesses, too.

“We have people coming from Santa Cruz and Sacramento. I wouldn’t come that far, but they come.”

Still no word from city officials.

Update 3:30 pm Pacific Time: Patricia Love responds:

“As highlighted in the article, some people love the convenience and price of the food the truck offers, others comment that they think it tastes great, some are concerned about the competition with local restaurants, others have concerns about safety in terms of traffic and pedestrians, and some are just curious about the truck and regulations. Take a look at the Burlingame Voice for a sample of some of these opinions.”

“The City does not have any actions in the works about vendor trucks. We are just collecting information and getting up-to-speed on the topic. Feel free to share any information you have with us if you think it would be helpful.”

“We are doing research so we can better understand the various laws that may pertain to this issue. We are also listening to what everyone has to say.”

Concerning the possible move to Bayside Park:

“The City hasn’t asked that as far as I know. I think some people may think it would be good for him to move his truck to an area without a lot of restaurants.”

“From the quote in the article, it doesn’t look like anyone has asked them to move. It sounds like the mayor was just throwing out the idea that an under-served area (Bayside Park area) might benefit from access to the food.”

Curry Up Now: Interview with Akash Kapoor

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on October 2, 2009

I was contacted out of the blue by Akash Kapoor, of Curry Up Now, a new Indian taco truck based in Burlingame, Calif. (near SFO airport, in San Mateo County). I haven’t had the pleasure yet of trying its wares, but boy does it sound good!

1) What’s Curry Up Now all about? How’d you get started? What’s your background in food/cooking/eating?

Curry Up Now is essentially authentic Indian street food served on the street, where it belongs. We have mixed in some burritos and tacos in the menu to keep the spirit of a lonchera.

We originally thought about this 10 years ago but other business interests kept us from getting started. Seeing the success of Kogi and other ethnic trucks in SoCal, rekindled the idea and three to four months later, here we are. We have absolutely no background in the food business. We are foodies who have a passion for cooking and sharing.

2) What trucks have been your inspiration? Why start a truck, anyway? What are your favorite local trucks and why?

The success of Kogi and other trucks in LA have been a huge inspiration.

Since our focus is Indian street food, we wanted it to be just that, street food served from a truck.

Believe it or not, we haven’t eaten from a truck, local or anywhere else as yet. One of our associates tried the Kung Fu taco truck in the city and had good things to say about them. I plan on visiting them, Liba SF and El Tonayense soon.

3) What’s been the permit process like? I see you’re operating in San Mateo County, not San Francisco. Is that any easier/harder? Is that a deliberate decision?

The permit process has been brutal. The San Mateo County permit was a breeze but most Peninsula cities have been unwelcoming. This is due to unlicensed trucks all over El Camino Real from Daly City to Mountain View. However, we are hoping Burlingame, Foster City and Belmont will work things out with us. Burlingame has been most helpful and have allowed us to be out on a weekend to weekend basis as of now. We should have the Redwood City permit in a few days as well.

Our truck is in the shop this week to be readied for Santa Clara and San Francisco permits. We will be in the city and South Bay within 3 weeks. We wanted to start with the Peninsula and have a truck each in the city, South & East Bay.

4) What’s the best thing on your menu? How did you come up with these specific items? How does what you’re offering differ from traditional Indian street food?

I’d say the chicken kathi, deconstructed samosa with meat & chana and the doubles (from Trinidad & Tobago). The chicken kathi was inspired by frequent visits to Nizam’s, Kolkatta as a kid but we have changed it a little bit. A few people in the family prefer the samosa shell to the filling, thus was born the deconstructed samosa topped with meat keema. We remove the filling from the shell, top it off with chana, meat keema, onions, jalapenos, tamarind & mint/coriander chutney. Doubles is basically chana bhatura Trindiad & Tobago style. chana bhatura figures in the top five favorite Indian street foods and we had to have this on the truck even though its a pain to make on the truck. We have tried to keep this as trini as possible and have been pleasantly surprised with the response. Since the deconstructed samosa is a home grown recipe, I would rate it as the best thing on the menu and it tastes amazing to boot.

Our food is traditional and authentic Indian Street food, however, we have ‘taco truckized’ the menu with burritos and tacos. We will be featuring a curry from a different region of India each month as well.

5) Thums Up or Limca?

None, Pepsi 0 :-) . We will have Limca & Thums Up on the truck along with mango lassi and mint lemonade.

Sam’s ChowderMobile: Interview with Julie Shenkman, co-owner

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 28, 2009

In our continuing series of five-question email interviews, I dropped a quintent of queries to Julie Shenkman, co-owner of Sam’s Chowder House and Sam’s ChowderMobile in Half Moon Bay, Calif. This is the Bay Area’s first mobile gourmet seafood truck.

1) A ChowderMobile? Huh? How’d this all get started? Why a truck, and why a truck now?

Well, we’ve actually been working on it for a little over a year now. We opened Sam’s in October of 2006, and we continually hear from customers that they love it, and “man, I wish there was something like this in (my city)” and we thought, well…why not? A truck seemed the perfect solution, and the idea grew from there.

2) Is there anything easier or harder about cooking chowder in a truck? Aren’t liquids dangerous in a moving vehicle?

We actually prepare the chowder in our main restaurant in Half Moon Bay, and then we heat it on the truck. It’s not difficult at all, as we heat it in a large pot, and then transfer it to a large, converted built-in coffee urn
that we had customized for this purpose, and we serve it from that. The coffee urn was designed to be stable during travel, so it works great.

3) What’s your route? How do you determine it? Do you only do private events? And when will you be back in SF, or more importantly, in Oakland, where I live? :-)

During the week we will be at company campuses and large business parks across the Peninsula for lunch and (soon) dinner, such as Robert Haft International, Genentech, Intuit, etc. We are in the midst of expanding our route now based on incoming requests we are getting, so it’s largely based on customer feedback and demand. Customers can email us at route@samschowdermobile.com to request to be added to our stops. We also do private events on a scheduled basis, such as we just did a private Lobster Clambake in Atherton, and one for Intuit, as well as a private event for Ideo (SF) and Catholic Healthcare West (SF). We will be back in San Francisco in the coming weeks. Oakland is not part of our regular route, but we’ll be at the Eat Real Fest in Jack London Square in Oakland, on Saturday/Sunday August 29 and 30. Also August 7-9, we’ll be at the San Jose Jazz Festival, and August 15-23 we’ll be at the Santa Clara County Fair, and September 18-20 we’ll be at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

4) What’s the best item on the menu?

Depends on who you ask! I personally love the fish tacos and lobster roll :-)

5) What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned by operating a truck?

One is that it’s important to economize on time – so we are trying to schedule a route that makes sense for our staff and our customers. We are finding that it sometimes makes sense to visit multiple locations within one campus to serve a good part of the customer demand at a particular company. Also to have regular stops at companies, so they can plan to visit the ChowderMobile on that particular day. Second is the response – it’s overwhelming — we can’t believe how jazzed people are by it. It’s sort of its own advertising (being lobster red doesn’t hurt).