Every Wednesday night, those passing by the Menlo Park train station can smell the sweet, spicy, and savory aromas of food filling the surrounding air. People can spot seven different food trucks taking over the Caltrain parking lot. Locals form large lines in front of each truck, with many others enjoying their delicious meals on the fold-up tables off to the right.
If you’re unfamiliar with this weekly event, Off the Grid comes to the Menlo Park Train Station at 1120 Merrill St on Wednesday nights from 5 to 9 PM. According to the company’s website, its mission is to “group street food creators together to create an experience that allows neighbors to connect with friends, and families to reconnect with each other.” In Menlo Park, those “street food creators” take the form of food trucks, selling many different varieties of food to customers.
On April 13th, there were many options for people to try: Indian kati rolls, poke, tacos, fried chicken, boba, rice bowls, and more. Future lineups can be found here.
Aside from simply serving food, the trucks provide a sense of camaraderie and community to its enthusiasts. Lots of families with kids of all ages can be found there. As one parent mentioned, “the food trucks are great because my two boys don’t have to fight about where to eat. Instead, both of them can pick what they want.” Likewise, lots of M-A students can be found at any Off the Grid event; consistently lots of M-A students wearing bearwear can be seen at and around the trucks. Another important factor for some is the number of people who live in other areas but come to the Menlo Park/Palo Alto area for their work. As noted by event manager Renee Frojo, “the hope is that people find the trucks to be a convenient location to grab food on their way home.”
The food vendors operate on a rotating schedule. Some of them have priority over others and others come less frequently. Frojo added that “[Off the Grid] has certain anchors that are popular in certain locations who also like to have the consistency of a regular schedule.” She added, “the food truck schedule is a constant puzzle that’s worked out every season with our network of food trucks based on availability and fit.” Additionally, the trucks are only available from the spring through the fall. The reason for this is that, according to Frojo, “not enough people come out to sustain the market throughout the winter. So [Off the Grid] closes its summer markets in October and then reopens them in March or April!”
If you ever find yourself hungry and looking for a good time on a Wednesday night, you’ll be more than satisfied with your experience at Off the Grid.