Starting this week, TGIF takes on a tasty new dimension Friday afternoons at the Larkspur Ferry Terminal with a food truck rally, the first of its kind in Marin.
After a soft launch last Friday, the Food Truck Crush officially launches this Friday and runs weekly through September. Trucks will be stationed in the kiss-and-drop area of the terminal parking lot from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and organizers hope that both work-weary commuters and hungry Marin-ites will check out the food and atmosphere.
For those who’ve missed out on this trend in the past couple years: these are most definitely not the less-than-hygienic roach coaches of yesteryear. Today’s trucks are manned by classically-trained chefs and offer everything from tandoori chicken tacos to fried oyster BLT’s.
It’s a culinary craze that’s wildly popular across the nation, and across the Bay in San Francisco and Berkeley/Oakland, but has been noticeably slow to take hold in Marin. Now, thanks to two enterprising local event producers, Marin foodies can finally find out what the buzz is about.
The Food Truck Crush is the brainchild of event producers Jeromy Zajonc and Jason Holthe, whose Ready, Set Entertainment is bringing together an eclectic mix of trucks from across the Bay Area.
Curry Up Now, one of the first food trucks to hit the SF culinary scene, serves up Indian street food; The Rib Whip whips up Midwest-style BBQ; Suzy Q’s Lunchbox offers authentic Creole cuisine; and Pizza Politana fires up artisanal pizza in their on-site wood-fired pizza oven. For dessert, Sift Cupcake and Dessert Bar (winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars) tends to your sweet tooth, while Three Twins Organic Ice Cream will being making regular appearances in June.
Zajonc and Holthe selected the vendors based on reviews of their food.
“We scoured through Yelp, looking for four-star reviews or higher,” Zajonc explains. Holthe concurs: “We were really picky about who to invite,” he says.
The idea for a Marin food truck rally hatched as Zajonc and Holthe watched the trend take off in SF and the East Bay, and noticed that – despite a county full of self-proclaimed foodies – there was nothing similar happening here in Marin.
“All these people that work in the city are seeing [food truck rallies] like Off the Grid there, but not here at home,” Zajonc says, referring to the city-based roaming foodie extravanganza that rotates around different locations like Fort Mason Center and U.N. Plaza.
Holthe says his wife, who commutes on the ferry herself, often notices people phoning friends and spouses to decide what kind of take-out to pick up on their way home.
“Every Friday,” he says, “thousands of hungry people are on their way home from work wondering what they’re going to eat. Now they can just pick something up on their way home.”
Despite having a number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through to get the event lined up, Zajonc and Holthe have nothing but praise for the county agencies that they worked with to resolve permit, licensing and insurance issues. They also capitalized on a good working relationship with the Golden Gate Bridge District, whose juridsiction the ferry terminal is in and with whom they had previously partnered on a 2009 event called Bookstock at AT&T Park.
“For us, the Food Truck Crush offers a new opportunity for our customers," says Mary Currie, the district's public affairs director. "Jeromy and Jason had a great plan, and they did a heck of a job – and a very successful one – in producing Bookstock.”
According to Currie, approximately 1,500 ferry passengers disembark each Friday afternoon between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. They’re often in a hurry to beat the crowds out of the parking lot, creating a bit of a “mad dash,” as Currie describes it. She hopes that the Food Truck Crush will help slow things down, and even attract customers from San Francisco, who can hop on a ferry, eat at the terminal, then enjoy an evening in Marin or return to the city.
Zajonc and Holthe are also hoping to attract non-ferry passengers to the Crush. The parking lot starts to clear around 3 p.m., so by the time the trucks are set up, there are hundreds of available parking spots. There’s also plenty of free parking across the road at Marin Country Mart, with a convenient footbridge linking the two.
Suzy Doty is one of the newer entrants on the Marin food truck scene: her truck, Suzy Q’s Lunchbox, has been up and running for about six weeks, and she’s thrilled at the opportunity to participate in the weekly Crush. A Hurricane Katrina survivor and graduate of the California Culinary Academy, Doty settled in San Rafael after completing an externship in England.
After working in a restaurant and for a catering company, she decided to go the food truck route to reclaim her independence and to cook the food she wanted to cook. Her authentic Creole specialties include a signature jambalaya dish, as well as the aforementioned fried oyster BLT.
So far she couldn’t be happier with her decision to go mobile: “I’m not spending $100,000 on overhead. What I have on the menu this week can change next week. Plus, I’m meeting all these great people. I’ve never really felt like I fit in here in California, but now with the truck I’m making friends everywhere.”
Zajonc couldn’t agree more. “Food is social,” he says. He and Holthe are looking into a beer and wine license and hope to bring in hay bails to liven up the ferry terminal’s atmosphere. This Friday’s rally will also feature live music by Fred O’Dell, something they hope to continue throughout the spring and summer.
The Food Truck Crush marks the first official collaboration for Zajonc and Holthe under the banner of Ready, Set Entertainment, but they’re certain it won’t be their last.
“We love entertainment and we love the Bay Area, so whenever we can put those two things together, we’re in business,” says Zajonc.
The 411: The Food Truck Crush kicks off this Friday, May 20th, and will take place weekly through September, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. For more information, visit their website, Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter.