"My family always had big gatherings growing up in San Jose and I loved it. And my wife has a culinary background, so it happened pretty naturally."
It started this past April with their first food truck gathering in San Jose. Their first time out was huge, but not exactly a success.
"I own the Treatbot ice cream truck with my wife, so I knew a lot of other trucks in the area. I knew the San Pedro Square Market in San Jose had enough parking space, so we ended up there on a Saturday with about 10 trucks and spread the word through Facebook. The demand was so much higher than we ever expected and it got out of control. There was overcrowding, the wait times for food were ridiculous and we got slaughtered on Yelp, afterwards."
Three months later, after a lot more planning and organization, the San Jose event goes off in the same place every Saturday, without a hitch.
Their success eventually caught the attention of the folks at the San Mateo Events Center, who actually called Ryan to ask if he’d be interested in doing a similar event for the Peninsula.
"This is the biggest food truck event on the Peninsula, ever. Twenty-five trucks is pretty big. We’re gonna be here the first Friday of every month from here on out."
Lines are getting long in front of the "An The Go" truck at 5:45
And attendance was pretty big too. Though the event was supposed to start at 5:30, there were plenty of folks checking out the scene at 5:15. By the time I had left at 6:15, the lines for some of the more popular trucks had gotten about 20 people deep, and I estimated anywhere from 1000-2000 people total with many more streaming in. Add to that some local live music on-site, and you’ve got a huge suburban block party.
3 popular trucks at 5:45 = Mama's Empanadas, Hiyaaa, Curry Up Now
The line-up of trucks is intentionally made up of mostly Peninsula and South Bay-based food trucks like Curry Up Now, Mama's Empanadas, Hiyaaa Naked Chorizo and BBQ Kalbi. That's the main difference between Moveable Feast and Off the Grid. OtG features trucks from all over the Bay Area.
But Off the Grid organizer, Matt Cohen had talked a few months ago ambitiously about starting an OtG on the Peninsula. Is there room for both of them?
I estimated at least 1000-1500 people by 6pm.
"People in the Peninsula know there's a huge demand for this and that the food coming out of these trucks is fantastic. This is America and there's room for both of us in a metropolis of seven million people. I have nothing but respect for Matt. OtG is awesome!"
And Ryan has faith that mass food truck events like his are here to stay. "Ultimately, the idea of informal eating is not a new concept and it’s not a fad. When we provide legitimate marketplaces for these entrepreneurs to do business, it helps all of us do better."
San Pedro Square, San Jose, Every Saturday 5-9pm
San Mateo Events Center, First Friday of every month, 5:30-10pm