Karen Hester: Bites off Broadway – Mobile Food and Family Fun

21 Jul

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

When I started Bites on Broadway last June, I wrote a pretty optimistic blog as it seemed pretty straight forward. We had permission from the Oakland Unified School District  to use the Oakland Tech Plaza for a weekly food pod event, I had a partner in the venture and we had plenty of food trucks lining up to participate.

What a difference a month makes. The risk manager for OUSD ended up denying our permit to use the plaza because of “liability issues” and I got an email from their legal counsel noting that I was engaged in “criminal activity” by trespassing on their lawn. Trespassing in this case means folks sitting to eat their pulled pork sandwich. I kept the event going because I believe that neighbors should be able to enjoy the public lawn that we pay for through taxes and that in fact the connection between Oakland Tech and the community was a positive thing.Next a neighbor filed a complaint that I didn’t have permits which I had not gotten because there was no official permit to pull. To the City’s credit, Arturo Sanchez, an assistant to the City Manager met with me and Pete Espinoza from Special Events for the Oakland police. We worked out a deal whereby I get a weekly special event permit for $100 in order to have the trucks permitted. Did I mention that OPD shut us down one Friday at 7pm even though I had the meeting with OPD and the City set up for the following week?

Last week I got permission from Studio One to set up Bites Off Broadway in front of Studio One at 365 45th St and I hope this will be our permanent home until we can convince OUSD that it is in their best interest to let us use the underutilized plaza with its lovely architecture. I am grateful to all my neighbors who have been consistent supporters by showing up each week and encouraging me to hang in there when the going got rough. The food truck vendors have been super supportive as well. I am happy with the diversity and quality of food they have been serving. Vendors who have come include Tina’s Tamales, El Tacobike, Go Streatery, Breads of India, Doc’s of the Bay, Nick Wheely Breakfast Truck, Cholita Linda, Grilled CheezeGuy, Heaven in a Cup, Fist of Flour, 51st State, Jon’s Street Eats and Boffo Cart.

The press has also been generally positive including Chip Johnson’s column this week (link here) and my favorite, an illustrated review in the Bay Citizen. This was his description of the crowd:

And it looked like Oakland: families of all races and sexual orientations with babys in Bjorns or SUV-style baby carriages, hippies, college kids in flip flops, a few shirtless weirdos and Pixar-ish looking creative-class types.

Maudel Lim from Shia Productions has been releasing short videos on numerous vendors like this one:

For me the event has always been as much about the community as the food, and the food, is well, pretty amazing. Each week I try something new from the trucks I rotate in and out. Last week’s ox-tail over grits from Go Streatery was scrumptious and I don’t use that word often. The Mexican hot chocolate from El Tacobike was perfect for the Bay Area summer night. Also every week we will have a hula hooper at the Studio One location and hopefully live music.

As folks may not know, the food pod policy is contentious among City Council members with Larry Reid and Desley Brooks speaking out against while Ignacio de la Fuente, Jane Brunner and others support it. The proposed policy will come to the Council for a vote someday and I hope Bites On Broadway has shown that food trucks are good for our neighborhoods: they employ folks, bring food culture into food deserts and add to the quality of life that is the beauty of Oakland.

Here are the details on this weekly event:

Where: 365 45th St between Manila and Lawton, just 2 blocks off Broadway, Oakland
When: Fridays all summer through October 21st from 5:30-8:30pm
What: Mobile Food and Family Fun
More Info: Check out the Bites on Broadway Facebook page every week for the listing of of food vendors for that Friday.

5 Responses to “Karen Hester: Bites off Broadway – Mobile Food and Family Fun”

  1. Tricia July 21, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks for bringing this great event to our neighborhood.

    • Casey July 23, 2011 at 6:34 am #

      Yes, it is an awesome thing. Doesn’t OUSD have better fish to fry?

  2. julia September 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Hi I was wondering if you coult advise a good place to eat on Broadway. I am visiting there is 2 weeks and would love to sample some good food, any ideas?

  3. Karen Hester September 21, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    If you want to eat on Broadway, I suggest Mama’s Royal Cafe at 40th and Bdwy and then I don’t really know many of the restaurants until you hit Nex and Mua near Grand but actually on a little side street Franklin that goes into Bdwy. There are amazing restaurants in the Temescal on Telegraph with Burma Superstar still my fave, Aunt Mary’s for breakfast and Tanjia for a lunch on the street. One of my favorites is Manzanita, a macrobiotic gem on 40th near Adeline if you’re willing to stretch out a bit into another neighborhood.

  4. Erica October 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Hi, I went to Bites off Broadway for the first time this Friday. It was great! A lovely night and really good food. I left my yoga mat behind on the lawn of Studio One, unfortunately, and I was wondering if you knew anyone I might contact to see fi someone found it? Thanks!

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