Never underestimate the ability of sports marketers to co-opt a trend. First, the Oakland Raiders, who last week finalized an agreement with local street-food organizers to bring food trucks to the Coliseum parking lot for pregame tailgating.
Elizabeth August told WTF that her Oakland Mobile Food Group (OMFG) is collaborating with East Oakland's Rising Sun Entrepreneurs to bring as many as ten food trucks to the Coliseum's north parking lot on Raiders' home-game Sundays for the NFL season, as well as both preseason games in Oakland.
At last week's first preseason game, four vendors — two from OMFG, two from Rising Sun — set up in the lot just beyond the Coliseum's 66th Street entrance. August said an attorney for the Raiders contacted her months ago seeking to organize a vendor zone during tailgating sessions at the Coliseum, a deal that took several weeks of agency shuffling to seal. Oakland's second (and final) preseason game is August 28. The regular season kickoff game at the Coliseum is September 25.
August said the collaboration with Rising Sun, a Fruitvale-based mobile vending consultant and kitchen commissary, is part of OMFG's strategy to broaden access to legal street food in Oakland beyond the protected zone of Fruitvale. "The idea is to expand opportunities for East Oakland vendors, the ones we just know as taco trucks, to give them opportunities to get in on this new wave of food truck popularity," August said.
Meanwhile, Albany's Golden Gate Fields is seeking a different kind of opportunity — an opportunity to attract a younger, trendier crowd to the horseracing grandstand. For four Saturdays starting August 27, Golden Gate Fields is inviting Off the Grid, the street-food phenom that's found success in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto, for epic food-truck events.
Off the Grid founder Matt Cohen says Golden Gate Fields approached him with a pitch for Off the Grid's food-truck Saturdays — its sister track in SoCal, Santa Anita, has hosted similar promos. The events represent the biggest food-truck gatherings Cohen has organized to date — thirty trucks, opening their order flaps starting at 11 a.m. on race Saturdays through September 17. The pods promise to have an old-timey, Ascot sort of vibe, meaning attendees are encouraged to wear big garden-party hats — Cohen called it "a throwback day." Also on hand for the throwing back: Bloody Marys. And as for headwear, the event press release stresses "extra points for oversized or pillbox styles." Anyone who doesn't happen to have a sweet little pillbox number in his or her closet will be able to purchase one, onsite, from a so-called hat hawker.
Trucks will rotate in and out over the four weeks, though vendors who'll definitely show include Hapa SF, 3-Sum Eats, Chairman Bao, Curry Up Now, and Whisk on Wheels. Admission to the races is $6 (free for seventeen and under, though you have to be eighteen to wager), and there'll be a free shuttle from North Berkeley BART.
BaiA Out, PieTisserie In
Following the shuttering of Levende East (for, um, maintenance work, a sign on the door says), there's more bad news for Old Oakland. BAiA Food + Wine — chef Edward Higgins' modern Italian concept planning to move into 465 9th Street this fall — has pulled out.
Higgins, who built an impressive résumé in Manhattan before moving West, had planned to open a modern Sicilian concept that promised to be one of the year's splashiest openings in Oakland. Now, Higgins says, he's found a new space in San Francisco's Mission Bay, where he projects a spring 2012 opening. "The new location and landlord are simply better matches for me and the restaurant," Higgins explained by e-mail, "so it is a positive move in every respect." Positive, that is, unless you're an Oakland diner.
Meanwhile, the news from nearby Swan's Marketplace is mixed. The bad news: Rio de Parras has pulled its farmstand from Swan's, citing weak demand, according to Catherine Lim of landlord East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. The good news: Jaynelle St. Jean has moved her popup pie shop PieTisserie to the former Rio de Parras space.
St. Jean had been popping up at nearby 1015 Clay, where owner Herman Chin suffered a breakup last month with Chop Bar founder Jesse Branstetter. (Branstetter divorced himself from the 1015 Clay project in late July, and now says he's looking for other opportunities to launch his own place in Oakland.)
At Swan's, St. Jean has begun popping up on Fridays, coinciding with the Old Oakland farmers' market. The idea is to extend, eventually, to three or four days a week, Lim said.
Also according to Lim, another popup — Jem African and Caribbean Food Market — is also launching soon at Swan's, in the stall directly behind PieTisserie, facing Old Oakland bright spot Cosecha. Details are still emerging.