Off the Grid aims for new North Berkeley digs

Off the Grid took place in the Gourmet Ghetto from June 2011 through December 2012. Photo: Art Poskanzer

Off the Grid took place in the Gourmet Ghetto from June 2011 through December 2012. Photo: Art Poskanzer

The popular food truck event Off the Grid may be headed back to North Berkeley if a deal pending between the organization and BART is successful, officials announced Monday.

According to a statement released by Councilwoman Linda Maio’s office Monday, “An agreement with BART is developing to have food trucks at the North Berkeley BART called ‘Off the Grid.'”

Off the Grid had a home in the Gourmet Ghetto from June 2011 through December 2012. The city ultimately decided to call it off at that location, citing its impact on local brick and mortar businesses and property owners, and because of roadwork planned for Shattuck Avenue and Rose Street, where the event was held.

The hugely popular street food gathering drew an estimated 1,500 people to enjoy on-the-go edibles from the likes of Brass Knuckle, Fiveten Burger, Liba Falafel and the CupKates Truck. But it didn’t work for everyone.

Said Michael Caplan, economic development director for the city of Berkeley, when the event shut down: “What was meant to be a special event became a competitive challenge for some existing brick and mortar stores.” Caplan said he had spoken to local restaurants who were losing $1,000 worth of business every Wednesday night. “One business owner said to me, ‘How would you feel if you saw your sales drop by a significant percentage on 50 days of the year?’” he said.

Off the Grid has continued to run an event on the south side of the Cal campus, at Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street, Mondays from 5-8 p.m.

The new North Berkeley event would take place Sundays from 5-9 p.m., potentially starting as early as the first quarter of 2014. Winter hours would likely be shorter, according to the statement.

Maio’s office said the idea would be to use the “open space to create a place for people to meet while focusing on chef-driving small business.” Eight to 12 mobile food vehicles would be on site each week.

Alcohol would not be served at the event, which would take place rain or shine, year round.

“The market will rotate vendors on a consistent bi-weekly basis in order to keep things fresh and interesting, as well as offer an opportunity to maximize truck participation,” according to the statement.

All Off the Grid markets have at least two staff members, a market manager and an event staffer, on site at all times “to maintain the space, problem solve if issues occur, (and) handle set up, breakdown and cleanup at the event conclusion. Their goal is to create spaces that encourage neighborhood interaction, activation of outdoor eating spaces and provide value priced high quality food items in a family friendly environment.”

Councilwoman Maio’s office asks anyone with concerns or feedback about Off the Grid at the North Berkeley BART to pass them on to her via email, at, or by phone, at 510-981-7110.

Off The Grid says goodbye to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto (12.20.12)
Off The Grid’s Telegraph Ave. debut attracts young crowds (07.13.12)
Off The Grid food truck fest to launch on Telegraph Avenue (06.22.12)
Local food names sign up for Berkeley Off The Grid truck (10.19.11)
Crowds turn out for Berkeley’s inaugural Off The Grid (06.02.11)
More local food trucks join Berkeley’s first Off The Grid (05.31.11)
Off The Grid to launch street food event in Berkeley (05.17.11)

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  • Guest

    I’m excited to see this happening. (Even though it’ll probably do less-than-wonderful things for my diet!) I do hope it’ll move forward without too many hurdles.

    I do have one concern, however: Will patrons of the off the grid market be allowed to park in the BART parking lot to park to attend these events? I really hope so–if not, it could have a pretty adverse effect on street parking in the neighborhood, and could also lead to more litter from people walking back to their cars to sit and eat, then littering with the food containers on surrounding streets. I hope this will be addressed during the permitting process.

  • Awesome, looks like a great place to go eat!

  • bob

    The funny thing is that at the last Off the Grid event in N. Berkeley, the lines were so long and the food was so lackluster I wound up giving my money to the superior brick and mortar stores in the area.

  • bi-weekly

    There’s that ambiguous word again!

    I assume this means “Bi-weekly” as in every other week (On Sundays), and not twice a week. Off the Grid on Shattuck was twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, correct?

    I only ask because “biweekly” can have two different meanings. See the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry for biweekly:


    Syllabification: (bi·week·ly)
    Pronunciation: /bīˈwēklē/

    adjective & adverb appearing or taking place every two weeks or twice a week:

  • B2B

    Finally. Something within walking distance of my home. As long as Chairman Bao and The Whip show up, I’m golden!

  • Doc

    Why would a neighborhood famous for eateries want trucks to roll in to serve pre-made food?

  • ketchup fingers

    Why do you think a food truck is serving pre-made food? You think the grills are not turned on?

  • Matt

    It’s a shame that Off the Grid was pushed out of North Berkeley. The event brought a lot of bodies to the neighborhood. As for the loss of revenues, there are a lot of subpar restaurants in the neighborhood, especially for a neighborhood dubbed the “Gourmet Ghetto.” Frankly, if they have trouble competing with the food trucks, maybe they should improve their food instead of shooing away competitors

  • Guest

    That, and KoJa kitchen…love those kamikaze fries!

  • Publius

    Just as a reminder, Off The Grid wound up landing in ElCerrito, fairly near the Plaza BART station this summer on Wednesday evenings and is doing very well. I realize this is not the same as North Berkeley, but it is reachable. Would have been nice if the story included this information for those of us who still like a Wed. night without cooking;-)

  • guest

    The idea to have this in the North Berkeley BART parking lot was first proposed in the comments section here on Berkeleyside! Glad to see it coming to fruition!

  • nperk

    Please, please, pleeeeeeeeease come back!

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    While I am thrilled to see that this event found a new location, it’s really quite infuriating to see the Shattuck businesses would get a say in who their competition is going to be! If they cannot compete, they shouldn’t be in business – it’s that simple; never mind that bringing more street vendors would also have eventually forced the commercial lease rates downwards as a result of the competion.

    Screwing the free market by limiting competition not only hurts the consumer but also the entire neighborhood that would otherwise benefit from more competitive (ie YUMMIER) businesses replacing the crappy and boring restaurants that dot the neighborhood. Sigh. Sad.

  • Chris J

    Huh. North Berkeley BART for food trucks? Cool.

    I’m five minutes walk from there–it’s my wife’s station five mornings a week but will BART allow cars to park in their lot? Hopefully.

  • Chris Rossi

    I live near the North Berkeley BART and I welcome this as long as there is parking at North Berkeley BART! We have enough problems with parking in the area! That said I am REALLY excited! Can’t wait to start eating!

  • guest

    Shameful what the BART unions did in the last contract negotiations. Riders are getting screwed to pay for ridiculously high pay and benefits for low-skill workers.

  • guest

    Can I get a good kogi taco?

  • gigglingone

    On Sundays there are no restrictions for BART lot parking, right? So it should be no problem to park there I’d assume….

  • Ellice Richmond

    Yeah! Miss the wed nite one!

  • The 7-11 and McDonald’s trucks are awesome!

  • David D.

    There are no restaurants near North Berkeley BART, which is not in North Berkeley for the record. (Berkeleyside: Can you update your article to clarify this?) This is very close to home for me, so I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully Curry Up Now makes an appearance. :)

  • David D.

    The parking lot is mostly empty on Sunday nights, so you’ll be fine. Heck, even street parking is easy on Sunday nights!

  • jah

    It’s across the street from the imaginary line that defines North Berkeley—close enough don’t ya’ think?

  • Joseph

    I live nearby and there always is plenty of parking on Virginia/Cedar/Hopkins or south of the BART. Especially on a Sunday it shouldn’t be busy at all.

    Anyways, I welcome this too. I used to go to the North Berkeley Off the Grid every month and was sad when it closed, It used to the have a great selection of trucks that could meet whatever you wanted, from Liba to Kasa to Snowcones. I moved to Haste/Telegraph and the SB OTG was 2 minutes from my house; however, that OTG was awful. Usually filled to the brim with annoying students and only a handful of trucks–mostly Chairman Bao, Senor Sisig, Arkitect and the BBQ one. None of which I really liked that much.

    Now I live near Virginia/MLK so this is very welcome to have it back and hopefully they have the same great selection they had before.

  • Matt Cohen OtG

    Parking at BART would be permitted, so no worries on parking concerns.

  • jk

    WIsh they would have one at Ashby Bart!