Crowds turn out for Berkeley’s inaugural Off The Grid

An estimated 1,000-2,000 people came to Berkeley’s first Off The Grid. Photos: Tracey Taylor

[Update, 8:50 pm: Watch a video of Off The Grid, at foot of story.]

Organizer Matt Cohen needn’t have worried about the weather being a dampener — he estimated that anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people showed up last night to Off The Grid’s inaugural Berkeley street food event in the Gourmet Ghetto.

Such was the enthusiasm among locals to sample pockets of falafel, Filipino treats, dripping pulled pork sandwiches and crunchy fish tacos that several of the food trucks ran dry early in the evening.

Cupkates sold out at 6.30 pm, just one and half hours after the start time. By the time Berkeleyside turned up at about 7.15 pm, 510 Burger had shut up shop and neither Skylite Snowballs nor The Taco Guys were anywhere to be seen. (At 8.27 pm, tweeter ak3700 posted a photo of a disappointed young customer who had no doubt been looking forward a Red Velvet treat.) The prospect of rain had been enough to deter some, it seems.


Wating in line to sample food from Hapa SF

Hapa SF, Liba Falafel, and Brass Knuckle were going strong however.

“This is why we billed it as a soft launch,” said Cohen who was seemingly unfazed at Berkeleyans’ eagerness for scrumptious, sustainable food with the added bonus of an enticing price. (That, and perhaps Berkeleyside must shoulder some responsibility for swelling the numbers — the Facebook “Like” counter on our original Off The Grid story gave up the ghost at 1,000 and our follow-up post was showing 174 at last count.)

Cohen expects any wrinkles to be ironed out as the event establishes itself — it will take place every Wednesday evening at the intersection of Shattuck and Rose, between 5 pm and 9 pm. He estimates there will be eleven vendors operating next week. And the hope is that Saul Deli’s Peter Levitt will be cooking up a storm in the Off The Grid truck.

The chilly, overcast evening didn’t deter Wes Lyndberg and his three friends, all recent Cal graduates, from standing in line for more than half an hour to buy some Filipino small plates from Hapa SF. “We would wait for ever,” Lyndberg joked, who was clearly feeling demob happy and enjoying the anticipation of the al fresco feast ahead of him.

Wes Lyndberg (far right) and his three friends, all recent Cal graduates, wait to buy food from Hapa SF

Heather Hensley, Executive Director of the North Shattuck Association, which co-hosted the event, said she was pleased with the turn-out and the general atmosphere. And she wasn’t concerned that the event was a victim of its own success. “Everyone is being very social — there’s lots of chatting in line. It’s going to get better and better every week,” she said.

“The night was great. A large, enthusiastic crowd spilled over into neighborhood businesses which were also filled,” Mark Rhoades wrote in a Berkeleyside comment after attending Off The Grid. “An event that simply uses the street to let people gather, eat and socialize is worth replicating in other neighborhoods. I hope other councilmembers champion this cause in their neighborhoods.”

People used the median and available chairs to eat their street-food dinners

Thanks to Ira Serkes, anyone who couldn’t make Berkeley’s first Off The Grid and would like to see what they missed can enjoy his 2.40-minute video: