The inaugural Off the Grid Telegraph attracted a large, enthusiastic crowd. Photo: Nancy Rubin

By Hannah Long

Haste Street was crowded with Berkeley residents and students for the inaugural Telegraph Off The Grid street food market last night. Long lines of customers formed for each of the eight trucks, which served everything from Filipino fusion to southern-style sandwiches to crème brûlée.

Telegraph Off the Grid (OTG) joins similar events in San Francisco, Marin County, Alameda and North Berkeley. In fact, some customers were drawn to the Telegraph premiere because of enjoyable past food truck experiences.

“It always seems like the food the trucks serve is really interesting, and the people making it seem to really care,” said UC Berkeley student Tim Woods. “I think that food from food trucks is better than food from restaurants.”  “The trucks are great because there is so much variety and so many options, while restaurants are nice because you can settle down and a server will take care of you,” said Gale, a Berkeley resident who didn’t want to use her last name. “On the other hand, at restaurants you are pretty committed to one thing, while at the trucks you can have as many things as you’re willing to wait in line for.”

“There is a real feeling of community at the food truck events,” said student Bhavna Sharma. “This seems almost like a neighborhood barbeque.”

When Berkeleyside broke the news of the new OTG on Telegraph, founder Matt Cohen said he hoped it could bring much-needed foot traffic to the avenue, which has suffered from fire and closed businesses. Last night’s debut certainly met that goal. It’s harder, however, to figure out the longer-run impact.

The style of OTG is sit where you can find a space. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Because the food truck and restaurant experiences are so different, it seems unlikely that OTG will detract from the business at restaurants in the area (especially because the food truck event only happens one evening a week). However, the popularity of Telegraph’s OTG may impact the number of customers at the North Berkeley location. Gale, for one, says that she will probably only come to the food trucks at Telegraph because they’re much more convenient to her home in South Berkeley.

The OTG organizers work to have a different mix of trucks at the two events, so there is little overlap.

“I’ve seen a few trucks here that have never been at the North Berkeley location,” said El Cerrito resident Evelyn Blackford. “As long as they can keep a good variety of trucks, it seems like it will be nice for people to have some options, and for Off the Grid to be available in Berkeley two days a week.”

Finally, while North Berkeley’s Off The Grid draws many older Berkeley residents and families, it seems that the Telegraph location will provide a casual, fun, and rather affordable food experience for students, especially come September.

You don’t have to be young to go to OTG Telegraph. Photo: Nancy Rubin
You don’t have to be young to go to OTG Telegraph. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Off The Grid food truck fest to launch on Telegraph Avenue [06.22.12]
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]
Why does the street food scene bypass Berkeley? [10.18.10]

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