Off The Grid food truck fest to launch on Telegraph Avenue

Off The Grid North Shattuck, which takes place every Wednesday, has proved immensely popular. Photo: Art Poskanzer/Creative Commons

Off The Grid, the popular gathering of food trucks that has already proved a hit in North Berkeley, will launch on Telegraph Avenue on Thursday, July 12.

Just like the North Shattuck Wednesday food fest, “Off The Grid: South Side Berkeley on Telegraph” will feature a rotating selection of eight to ten food trucks every Thursday night. They will be located on Haste Street, just west of Telegraph, and the area will be closed to traffic for the duration of the event which runs from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Along with the trucks, some seating, lights and music will be provided.

Matt Cohen, founder of Off The Grid, says he sees the new market as complementary to the one in the Gourmet Ghetto as it will feature few of the same trucks. He hopes it will appeal to students and families in particular, and help bring foot traffic to an area that has had its share of problems.

“We have had a great experience in Berkeley,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to appeal to a new group of potential consumers and serve a need.” Cohen added that he had been enthusiastic when the conversations about launching the event started up in the wake of the devastating Sequoia Building fire in November 2011 which laid waste to the northwest lot at Telegraph and Haste.

Telegraph Off The Grid had hoped to launch on June 28, but the city requires that the food trucks be inspected if they are participating in a new event, and this has delayed the opening. In addition, it was decided that launching the event after the Fourth of July holiday would be sensible, according to an Off The Grid spokesperson.

Cohen said there will be little duplication with the trucks that serve the Gourmet Ghetto, which, he says tends to draw customers from El Cerrito, Albany, and Emeryville, as well as Berkeley. “While those trucks lean towards the artisanal, the ones on Telegraph will be more value-oriented,” he said.

Vendors who have already signed up include: Southern Sandwich, Old World Food Truck, Sunrise Deli, Hapa SF (which also serves North Shattuck), the Crème Brûlée Man, El Sur empanada truck, and Seňor Sisig.

The intersection of Telegraph and Haste is currently something of a wasteland with three of its corners abandoned. The northeast side, owned by Ken Sarachan, has been vacant ever since the Berkeley Inn burned down in 1990; the Sequoia Building on the northwest corner, owned by the Ent family, burned down in November 2011; and the southwest corner retail space that housed the popular Cody’s bookstore, also owned by Sarachan, has been empty since Cody’s closed in 2006.

The advent of Telegraph Off The Grid could provide a boost to local retailers that have been badly hit by the Sequoia fire and the series of vacancies on the street.

Off The Grid, the brainchild of Cohen, started operating in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto in June 2011. Last month it launched its second food truck market outside San Francisco in Alameda on Saturdays. Off The Grid has a total of 18 markets and is known to be scouting further locations in the East Bay, including in Oakland.

Local food names sign up for Off The Grid truck in Berkeley [10.19.11]
Off The Grid to launch street food event in Berkeley [05.17.11]
Crowds turn out for Berkeley’s inaugural Off The Grid [06.02.11]
Saul’s to cook street food at Berkeley’s Off The Grid [06.07.11]
The verdict is in: Berkeley’s best ice cream (and gelato) [07.27.11]
Chez Panisse chef opens butcher shop in Berkeley [08.26.11]
Why does the street food scene bypass Berkeley? [10.18.10]

To find out what is going on in Berkeley and nearby, be sure to check out Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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  • Berkeleyfarm

    This is great news and will likely lure me back to Telegraph.  I am hoping that Moe’s, Amoeba, and some other nearby businesses get a boost. 

  • Guest

    eating in the street next to people’s park? no thanks.

  • Mbfarrell

    I hope this improves the atmosphere and generates business on the Ave. If it actually attracts people back, that will be quite impressive. Often people who quit an area never return.
    It’s also a low cost/low risk way to generate buzz – no additional capital investment required.

  • Lhasa7

    Maybe the Telegraph version should be named “On the Meth”…

  • Bryan Garcia

    A correction to the following line:

    “[…] the southwest corner retail space that housed the popular Cody’s bookstore, also owned by Sarachan, has been empty since Cody’s closed in 2010.”

    The Telegraph Cody’s closed in (I believe) 2006, and the building has been empty since then. Cody’s final location, at Shattuck and Allston, closed in 2008. Not sure where the 2010 date came from.

    Anyways, I’m excited about this!

  • TizziLish

    your ‘correction” sorta kinda makes it sound like Sarachan owned Cody’s but he bought the building after Cody’s closed.

  • Bryan Garcia

    Let me break it down a little bit more so that the error is clearer:

    “[…] Cody’s closed in 2010.”

    That is an error. Cody’s did not close in 2010. The store on Telegraph closed in 2006. Cody’s went out of business completely in 2008.

  • I’ve corrected the date to 2006. Sorry about that slip. 

  • guest

    As a Haste St resident (downtown) I am very excited by this and hope it helps revitalize this area! Would be great if they could get CupKates, and maybe that dim sum truck that’s usually parked on Sproul Plaza on weekdays.

  • Yes!!  This is great news.  I live 3 blocks from haste and telegraph.  I can’t wait.

  • Guest

    Would all the people in this photo be cited under the proposed sit/lie ordinance?

  • Guestorious

    I believe OTG gets a permit to allow it.

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Nobody’s been cited for eating on the median, or even asked to move off ;).   Permits are a wonderful thing. 

  • Creme Brulee man I love you!!!!!

  • Bola

    How about pressuring Sarachan to actually fill those sites? Kinda lame, depending only on food trucks to energize that area. Telegraph will never be as vibrant as it should be until that corner has some life in it, besides just people hanging out on the street. 

  • Justjulie19

    Ken Sarachan is a slumlord. Take a look at the buildings he owns in Pleasant Hill & Concord—they are wasted shells that blight the surrounding neighborhoods… I know, I live near them.. From what I’ve read about this idiot owner, he never makes much of what he owns, and it shows. The old Blondies/Rasputin building on the corner of Taylor/Contra Costa, across from the Slum Valley (ahem, Sun Valley) mall in Concord/Pleasant Hill, has the most 1970’s butt ugly solar panels on top of this building….rendering it so ugly, and most likely, so unattractive, to any potential renter, that most likely, this building will stay this way—half “rennovated” and never used again. Berkeley is probably no different, although, maybe he figures that Berkeley will let him be, and never pressure him to remodel his buildings there to attract new business renters.

  • David D.

    If Curry Up Now comes, I’ll be there in a heartbeat!

  • Wanda

    If you own a restaurant on Telegraph this is a poor idea – since we pay huge rents to be here.  I love the justification saying they want to bring more people to Telegraph – to eat – that’s my business and Thursday evenings have been very good for me and now I can forget about that.  Business has been hurting for some time and it’s not because there isn’t enough people around – there’s too much competition and now we have more. 

  • sdbitch

    oh shut up. a lot of people showed up, people’s park is not a problem so calm down

  • Guest

  • Southside-Johnny

    Dear Off the Grid:  Please move your Southside site to another street, such as Channing Way.  Haste is a major artery and you are creating a serious blockage of traffic. It will be worse when the fall term begins.  Channing Way is a less crucial throughway and would be more viable. I hope you’ll take this seriously, it would be part of being a good neighbor to all northbound drivers on Telegraph and all westbound drivers on Haste. That includes not only faculty, staff and students but really every driver trying to traverse the Southside and head into Berkeley.  Please, please consider this.

  • Nunya Beeswax

     I would be fine with it being there if the city would just post a notice at Haste & Bowditch that the street is closed at Telegraph.  The problem is that people are used to taking Haste west in order to get out of Southside, and by the time they find out the street is blocked they’re locked into a 20-minute (or more) gridlock.  Not very considerate of them.