News


Food truck fight comes to Planning Commission

By Barbara Wood, Special to the Almanac

You might say a food fight is expected in Menlo Park Monday night. Whether to allow Off the Grid to bring a changing roster of eight to 12 food trucks to the Menlo Park train station parking lot on Wednesday nights will be considered by Menlo Park's Planning Commission on Monday, Jan. 13.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park council chambers at 701 Laurel St. The Off the Grid matter is the fourth public hearing on the agenda.

A city staff report by senior planner Thomas Rogers recommends the city give Off the Grid a one-year use permit.

Off the Grid is a San Francisco-based company that began organizing gatherings of food trucks in June 2010. It now hosts such events in many Bay Area locations including at the Belmont and Burlingame CalTrain stations.

If the communications already received by the city are any indication, the meeting may become heated. Some neighbors and local business owners have complained the food trucks will take business from local restaurants and cause parking, noise, trash and other problems. Others have said they welcome the chance to listen to music and try different foods.

Off the Grid is proposing to use the southern corner of the train station parking lot, near the intersection of Merrill Street and Ravenswood Avenue, close to the West Bay Model Railroad building.

Food would be served from 5 to 9 p.m. most of the year and 5 to 8 p.m. in the winter. Live amplified music would be offered from 6 to 8 p.m., with folding chairs, and lighting provided. A portable toilet would be either brought in each week or left on site.

Off the Grid would be responsible for cleaning up the area and disposing of all garbage by 10 p.m. the night of the event.

A parking survey by Off the Grid shows the area is rarely used for parking and the train station parking lot has the capacity for the number of cars the event is expected to draw. Off the Grid proposes to erect signs banning parking from the portion of the lot that will be used from 3:30 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The city staff report concludes the food truck event "could provide an example of a new connected place of activity and social life that enhance community life and contribute to a vibrant downtown." The event might also invite "strolling and public gathering" and encourage "community life, identity and sense of place," the report says.

The report addresses the issue of competition with local restaurants by saying that the staff "believes the proposed food truck market is not directly analogous to a 'brick-and-mortar' restaurant, as it would be located completely outdoors, offer only informal seating (no tables), and operate for a maximum of four hours per week. Staff believes the relationship between the proposed food truck market and restaurants may be considered similar to the relationship between the Farmer's Market and grocery stores, in that both enterprise types may sell some similar products, but offer significantly different experiences."

An email from Bob Larson, owner of Round Table Pizza on El Camino Real, disagreed. "This may be the final straw," he wrote. "You risk pitting merchants against residents." He wrote of the "the struggle the restaurant community has been through the last few years" and said "we feel very unappreciated and unwanted."

John Beltramo, an owner of Beltramo's Wines and Spirits, also wrote to the city on behalf of local restaurants. "Residents of Menlo Park already have many choices for dining," he wrote. "We should keep our dining dollars within our local economy."

But some neighbors disagree. Mary Salmon emailed the city to say: "I'm very excited about being able to taste different gourmet foods all in one space. And as a busy mom it'd be a lifesaver to be able to count on this one day a week."

Click here to see the city staff report (PDF document).

Comments

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Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:43 am

Off The Grid will destroy Downtown Menlo Park!. They will hurt local jobs and local businesses. On a single evening, they will pull between $30,000 to $40,000 per night from locals and they will leave town. It's a cash base business and the local community will not benefit financially!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 10, 2014 at 9:32 am

Lori, that is a fantastic argument for allowing Off the Grid. If they make that much money, they are outcompeting existing businesses. The only way to do that is if they are offering the customer a better value for the money.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:12 am

Consider that lots of positive scenarios are likely.

--- The food trucks will bring folks INTO Menlo Park at night -- they will shop at Keplers, maybe have dessert at Cafe Borrone, and stroll down Santa Cruz.

--- Commuters returning home on the train may have their families meet them for dinner in Menlo Park rather than going directly home

--- Food truck patrons will see that other eating and shopping opportunities are open at night in Menlo Park and will come back. The food trucks are good for business.

When Santa Cruz has their Community Nights a couple of times a year, it stimulates local restaurant business. This will too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

Joseph, The food trucks are outcompeting existing businesses because they don't have the same standards as a brick and mortar stores. Why does Off The Grid have to be near downtowns. Move them to a off the grid area and not on the grid!


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

So now, rather than succeed or fail by their own merits, businesses need to beg the community to even be allowed to exist? Food trucks are the very definition of small and local businesses. What's next, you can only open a restaurant downtown if the existing restaurants allow it?


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Posted by Mary l
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

Yes I agree with lori this will take business from our local restaurant and cafe who will benefit from this idea , traffic already bad on that corner and I do take the train to work every day why here not the other side where more space and parking I don't think the city planing think about how much of a problem this ideal is going to do to our city I vote NO to food trucks and they should come up with better ideal for our city


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rj
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Food trucks are fun. They're only going to be open 4 hours a week. As the article says, it's like the farmers market--yes it competes with local restaurants, but it's a different service with a different experience. I love the quote from Round Table: "You risk pitting merchants against residents." This seems to indicate that residents shouldn't be able to choose to eat what they want. Funny attitude.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Boring, Boring
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Have you been to downtown Menlo Park on a Wednesday night? You could shoot a cannon down the center of Santa Cruz Avenue and not hit anyone. Why should we have to go to Palo Alto to get food choices and life? Beltrano is beefing but I notice they haven't gone out of business since BevMo opened. And Round Table seems fine despite having four other pizza restaurants in Menlo Park. Get over it. What's wrong with having a little fun right here at home? Don't beat it to death until you try it. Hope the council has the backbone to stand up to the usual nay-sayers.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I believe the food trucks will help other businesses in the area by drawing more and different customers to Menlo Park, some of whom will go on to shop at other shops & restaurants after they've sampled the wares of the food trucks. And, having been introduced to MP, some of these new folks may come back again to these businesses in the future.

Palo Alto understands this and that's why their downtown is so vibrant. I think the planning folks are simply trying to bring some of that excitement to downtown Menlo Park. Lord knows, it could use it.

Of course we don't know that these benefits will accrue, which is why the permit is temporary. From the point of view of the food trucks, there's no guarantee that enough people will buy their food to make it worth their while either. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. That's how free enterprise is supposed to work.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 12:43 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

As long as he pay the same taxes, business license fees as the Menlo Park businesses do, then fine. Pay Cal Train rent for the paring lot and have current health dept. license, then fine go ahead.


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Posted by Jack
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I personally love off the grid. Not everyone can afford the (quite expensive )restaurants every night in downtown Menlo Park. People have families with small kids and babies (like myself) and off the grid is a fun experience for the whole family and a great way to meet new people. You can't really do that in any of the current downtown restaurants.


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Posted by LocalResident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:10 pm

The farmer's market analogy is great. I go to the Menlo Park farmer's market every Sunday, and of course I also shop in local grocery stores as well.

As a resident of downtown Menlo Park, I think this is a wonderful proposal and I hope it works out! Would love to see Off the Grid here one night a week.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I can hardly wait for Off The Grid to come to Menlo Park on Wednesday nights. It will be fun to walk down there, purchase a variety of dishes, listen to some music, and maybe even meet some of my fellow residents. At a minimum, this seems like a very worthwhile community-building exercise to me.


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Posted by mike
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

This will not be the farmers market I have great ideal why we don't but another farmers market there by the train on thursday night like san Carlos like this every one will benefit from that NOT food trucks and if you want food trucks go to the willows every one one but you will take from the others if you do this close to downtown at least there more space on the other side of menlo by belle haven you can go in and out easy but if we plan this at the train is the worst location for that and yes I support local restaurant not food trucks


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Posted by joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hey Mike, could you retype your message so the rest of us can understand what you are saying! Holy run-on sentence Batman!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by libby
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm

[Post removed; posters must use one name only in a single thread.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Menlo Park's restaurants feel threatened? Oh please its not like we have any good restaurants to begin with. And the night life in Menlo Park is DEAD!

4 hours a week...really people change is a good thing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm

[Post removed; posters must use one name only in a single thread.]


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm

The only things threatening current downtown restaurants are their high prices and general rudeness. I don't see how 4 hours on a Wednesday night is going to force places to shut down. Also- being a mom with a baby and a big stroller- I can't tell you how many times restaurant and store workers downtown have given me dirty looks for even setting foot in their establishment. I agree with jack--there are no reasonably priced restaurants downtown for young families. Let residents have a choice of where they want to eat!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Off The Grid supporters have Narcissistic personality. They don't care how a small business will suffer from Off The Grid. It's all about themselves and their egos!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carl
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Really people? Would you be freaking out like this if 6 new cheaper and better restaurants opened up? I'd rather have food trucks than the usual homeless people that are there.


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Posted by Smacking My Lips
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Every time I take my kids out for a casual dinner I end up going to Palo Alto or Redwood City because most of the MP restaurants are too fancy or expensive, and we get tired of going to the same few that aren't. We just don't have a lot of variety for casual dining here. If having Off The Grid here 4 hours a week will inspire the local restaurants to offer some more choices, I consider that a good thing. Meanwhile consider that perhaps the money the food trucks are taking out of MP may not have stayed in MP in the first place.


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Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 6:04 pm

It cost a minimum of $300,000 to $1,000,000 to open a restaurant because of local, county state and federal requirements.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 6:08 pm

The local businesses contribute to your community by donating to your local schools and to many other charities. What does Off The Grid do for your community besides taking your money?


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Posted by kathy miller
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 10, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Ok you want food trucks you already have theme on the willows so you can have theme there again another night but not downtown between el camino and ravenswood traffic is bad and the noise from the generators of this trucks and they all use diesel very bad for our air here in menlo


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Posted by Michelle
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I have been a resident of MP for 15 years and it is long overdue for some change. I support independent businesses and enjoy food trucks as well as brick and mortar restaurants. Did it ever occur to some people that food trucks are small businesses as well and they deserve to be a part of communities too?! Off the Grid helps communities come together by bringing these great markets to cities. People want other options available to them, allow competition; that's what makes our economy thrive! Besides, the Willows Market has the right idea, they bring food trucks out to the community and the trucks join forces with the market, it seems to be working out wonderfully. Food trucks will be the best thing to happen to MP, it's 2014 and all the families here want a change! Make it happen!


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Enough of the sour grapes. The fact that there is demand for something different by Menlo Park residents is a pretty good sign the current restaurants in MP aren't fulfilling the needs of the community.

I suggest the restaurant owners take this as an opportunity to better understand the needs of the community and cater to them. Given Off the Grid will only be around for a few hours a week, the brick and mortar restaurants have a great opportunity to learn from the food trucks and deliver better cuisine with more friendly environments. If they take the hint, it will be much easier for them to eliminate the need for food trucks in the first place.

This is an opportunity for local restaurants to step up their game instead of continuing their slow death. Angelo mio, bistro vida, trellis, juban, lb steak, left bank, carpaccio, Ann's, etc....get out the notebook.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Foodie
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 12:22 am

Every Monday there are four food trucks out front of Willows Market at Middlefield Road and Willow Road. Has it had any negative effect on businesses in MP, EPA, or PA?

Anyone know the following:

1. How many MP restaurants are owned by MP residents or employ MP residents.

2. What tax revenues does MP receive from MP restaurants? What will MP receive from food trucks?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jamie
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 11, 2014 at 6:18 am

I just moved to the area from SF. Used to live by Fort Mason where a huge OTG is held. We looked forward to it every week. Seeing the negative responses from neighbors and restaurant owners here makes me not want to go to their places! I should be able to have options and decide on my own what to do on a Wednesday night. And I would choose OTG. Curry Up Now as well as many other restaurants have both a restaurant and truck. After trying their truck, we seek out their restaurants! Maybe local restaurants should come up with appealing ideas for the locals and non-locals to try their places.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mira adams
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:03 am

I think we need to have another farmers market not food trucks this will be great for our city


 +   Like this comment
Posted by cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:19 am

Downtown Menlo Park is the worst downtown on the Peninsula, by far. Shops are all pretty awful and aside from a couple of ok restaurants, the rest are just no good. Would you ever recommend any store or any restaurant to an important friend? Say no more. Competition in any form is good for the town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

If You want to learn about Off The Grid, read the article below!

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 1:59 pm

We've been to other off the grids. They are generally very good and are great, cost effective ways to do something quick and/or as a family. This is a total no-brainer. The fact that we will go through analysis paralysis reminds us why we have the downtown we do.........


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Lori --
Thank you very much for the link! The article was quite enlightening. A monopoly like OTG is not a good thing for either the food truck operators or their customers.

I had no idea those food truck operators could make that much money! There is absolutely no excuse, then, for them not to pay all appropriate and applicable fees and taxes to the City of Menlo Park, and all other governmental agencies -- and to CalTrain. And their is no reason at all why they should not be required to smog the generators they use to refrigerate and cook their food. Diesel fumes do not add anything good to one's eating experience, nor are they good for the environment. Otherwise -- "Off The Grid -- and Into Your Lungs"!

(And, yes, all CalTrain locomotives are in full compliance with all federal emissions regulations.-- which have become rather strict recently. Look up "Locomotives -- Exhaust Emissions Standards" on the EPA website for more info: Web Link )

About the trash: will customers be expected to sort their trash into the three usual Recology receptacles -- compostables, recyclables, garbage? If not, then there are things that will go into the landfill that should not go there. (I am quite aware that this is a problem at any public event.)

I also think that few, if any food truck customers will bother to cross El Camino to shop here in Menlo Park. Folks, please tell me: am I wrong about this? ECR is a very busy, dangerous street to cross at any time. And if some people do decide to bother to cross ECR, where would they be likely to go? Walgreen's? Trader Joe's? Draeger's?

Also: where will the OTG customers park on those Wednesdays? Or are all the customers always expected to come from nearby residences?

Will OTG provide porta-potties? If people are expected to hang around for several hours, these will be needed. But if they just eat and go -- then there will be no "community-building".

FWIW, I agree that Menlo Park needs more family-friendly and reasonably-priced restaurants and fun things to do.

I just need to know that OTG will not be given a free ride by the City of Menlo Park, will not cause undue problems for anyone, and will be good for our city.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Louise:

the trucks use generators and the generators are not diesel. They're gas powered as are the trucks. You can rest easy as they are not producing any more "emissions" than an automobile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by diner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm

As a long time resident of Menlo Park I strongly encourage the planning commission to approve the Off the Grid permit. People like Lori and the others against it don't need to go. I am sure they can find a nice table at a restaurant in Menlo Park that night. I think the competition for good dining options should be encouraged and not discouraged and I think the restaurants in Menlo need to complete on their food and prices not on "the only local option". This is like Beltramo's argument against BevMo "We don't want the competition", Well competition is good, it makes places step up and give customers better food, prices and service.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Off The Grid has a strict policy for the food truck vendors where they have to make a certain amount or else they will be axed from the location. So most vendors to be able to comeback to an event inflate their numbers to Off The grid. The food truck vendors pay 12 to 15% of gross sales to Off The grid. Mafia. Off The Grid rotates trucks so the residence in the area don't get to comfortable with the trucks they like in case the trucks decide to open a permanent location in the area.


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Posted by diner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

One more thing I would add, as others have pointed out, Menlo Park already has food trucks on Monday nights in my neighborhood at The Willows Market. I have gone there with my family several times and I have never seen any problems. There is no trash on the ground afterward, no fumes from the diesel (that would kill appetites anyway) and no real issues with parking. It's a fun event and I often see my neighbors there and catch up with them. As for Lori my guess is that she must own or work at one of the restaurants in Menlo who can't afford to have any more competition. She certainly seems to like attacking the OTG Supporters, too bad she is badly outnumbered.


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Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

This is not about competition. This is about Off The Grid taking precious commodity(parking space)from the downtown restaurants who need the space for their regular customers. What happens when another food truck company wants to have an event once a week on Monday or Tuesday or any other day.


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Posted by Lori
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Diner, You must be on the payroll of Off The Grid. Off The Grid has several people that are active with social media and disguise themselves as residence of Menlo Park and go around writing blogs like "Diner".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

How does OTG take parking spaces from other restaurants, when they'll be at the train station? McDonald's? Caffe Borrone?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Catherine McMIllan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

This is what I wrote to the Planning Commission (I was not asked to do so, have not spoken with anyone involved with this issue, am not on anyone's payroll; just wrote a few posts and wrote to the PC out of my own desire for some change). If you want to write to the Planning Commission, write an email to planning.commission@menlopark.org:

"OTG is not a substitute but an alternative. Downtown MP is not a private club. It belongs to all of us, yet it feels like a good percentage of the residents feel no connection to it. As many have suggested in newspaper posts, the likely scenario is that more people will come downtown; some will discover downtown, and some will come downtown who don't normally patronize downtown restaurants. People will walk back home and have an ice cream or a nightcap along the way, and the smarter brick-and-mortar restaurants will get creative: prix-fixe menus on Wednesday? Or, as I read in one excellent post, how about handing out samples to passers-by?

Younger people are often unable to afford downtown prices and drive to RWC and Palo Alto to eat out. Teens have nowhere to go at night until they can drive. We would love nothing more than to send ours to a food truck event with their friends. Between babysitters and restaurant prices, evenings out for young MP families can be prohibitive.

Others have suggested limiting the number of food trucks, which might be a consideration. Then re-assess in a year. An area brimming with entrepreneurs should be actively encouraging entrepreneurship. Bring some life and diversity to downtown MP, and let's roll out the welcome mat to OTG."

I would also want to discourage residents from knocking what we do have here. If it is not to your taste, don't go, but we have to hand it to anyone who tries to stay in business. Yes, I too would like some variety but I am grateful that many of the shops and other retail operations do employ local high schoolers (including mine). I am glad they are here, I patronize them as much as I can, but also welcome new additions. Let the market speak ...

(Can't help noting that people who identify themselves as being from downtown seem to oppose the food truck idea overall, and talk about parking issues. Wait, aren't those some of the same people who oppose parking structures?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

If you feel so threatened by a one night a week event, maybe you should take a look at your likely failing business. As a young family in Menlo Park, I find downtown to be extremely boring, outdated, and overpriced. Not to mention terrible service. My husband picks up dinner from the food trucks at Willows Market every week. When we lived in the city we went every week. Restaurants were not threatened and it was the biggest off the grid market they have!

I think downtown should take a note from the Willows Market. Not only do they welcome the food trucks, but have a strong social media presence, offer really fun things to do during the week like free beer tastings,and they're now even opening a juice bar. They're putting in the effort to stay hip, relevant, and successful. I don't EVER see promotions from downtown restaurants.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm

The planning commission should try out OTG for 90 days and not allow tables or chairs! When you have table or chairs, your suppose to offer Hot water in the bathrooms. In Belmont OTG bathrooms have no hot water!


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Posted by SteveH
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I see lots of comments from those who are not small business owners in Menlo
Park.

Business models like OTG trive by picking low hanging fruit.

Please understand that it takes a lot to establish AND maintain a small business location in this area. Transitory businesses do not contribute to the fabric of the community like brick and mortar businesses. I believe that communities are built around centralized (albeit maybe small, businesses). As a resident of MP, I will never attend an OTG Caltrain Lot event.

I have no problem with Willows Market food trucks, since the Willows (and anything east of the tracks) is a vastly underserved market.

Please consider what your downtown will look like if every business in downtown takes up the "food truck" model. I'm not sure they would bother with us if we did not already have a vibrant community, yet we would not have a vibrant community if it was just all transitory businesses.

I hope to see you at a local restaurant on every Wednesday.


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Posted by Melissa
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:36 pm

I don't think residents should have to cater to the businesses, it should be the other way around. The people who attend your restaurants still will. Why would you go online and fight with the people
who you are trying to get to your establishments? Business owners are acting like having food trucks one night a week is the end of the world. Residents of Menlo pay a lot of money to live here. That's our choice. You chose to open your business and pay what it costs to do so. If other restaurants suddenly opened up would you be up in arms like this then too? Off the grid attracts a young fun crowd, not the people who are eating at your restaurants anyway.

I'm almost positive the permit will be given to off the grid, as it should. If you're so upset about it why don't you try to appeal to customers by offering something fun and new? I would try a sit down restaurant downtown if they made me feel even the slightest bit welcome with my newborn baby, but unfortunately not even the Goodwill store downtown has done that.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm

[Post removed. Discuss the topic, please, not each other.]


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Posted by free market
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:07 pm

So the downtown restaurants want to stifle competition because they're afraid of going out of business? I agree with Melissa: it is not the responsibility of residents to ensure that businesses remain profitable. Perhaps the traditional restaurant model no longer makes social or economic sense. If so, it's time for restaurant owners to rethink that model.

Using a heavy hand to stifle innovation may work in the short-term, but in the long run it's futile. Residents want the product that the food trucks offer. Instead of carrying on like it's Armageddon, maybe the restaurant owners should think about how they can improve their product -- not just the food, but the way in which they provide it -- so as to drive more customers to their brick & mortars.


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Posted by mila miller
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Post removed due to same poster using multiple names.


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Posted by adampinhero
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Post.removed due to same poster using multiple names.


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Posted by vivian jones
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Post removed due to same poster using multiple names .


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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:54 am

Thanks for all the post, both sides. This has been fun to follow.

To those here who own the restaurants in town:

What have you done in the last 5 years to change anything? I walk through downtown daily and have not even seen a coat of new paint, let alone a smile from any of the owners. There is this magical place that you can take a car or even a train to "up north" where there are people putting out great food, every night. Try it sometime, get some new ideas, and maybe even a new attitude. Otherwise, please go out of business. Change is coming, look at downtown Burlingame, even downtown San Carlos is getting new restaurants. Oh, and if you did not want competition, really, why did you go into the restaurant business? In reality, OTG, will do nothing to effect your business because I do not know anybody that eats at your restaurants, I really don't, and I have lived here for 7 years. I am not "young" anymore, but I have been to that magical place in which you cannot comprehend "up north" and experienced good food, smiles from owners, workers, and even a Thank you for coming in. Hence I have never and will never eat at your "established" restaurants. I think you forget the idea that you have to create a compelling and competitive product daily to survive.

To supporters of food trucks:

Please keep supporting new ideas and try new things. My hope is that someone looking to open a new restaurant, concept, etc. who has looked at locations on the Peninsula sees that there is a demand for something new in MP, that there are people, if given the opportunity to eat good food locally, will come out and enjoy building the new community of Menlo Park. Maybe even open a restaurant here.


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Posted by Melissa
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 12, 2014 at 8:14 am

I have a family to feed too, and can't afford to in my own neighborhood. Having a cheaper option one day a week would help. But I appreciate you judging and attacking me and my life. I don't work, I take care of my kid and gave up my life savings to do so. Having food trucks once a week is in no way like taking a day off a week. People aren't just going to stop going to restaurants because such outraged people like yourself will keep going.


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Posted by Melissa
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 12, 2014 at 8:16 am

And by the way, these mom and pop businesses you talk about are going out of business by telling moms with strollers to leave because their baby is crying or taking up too much room.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 9:15 am

Let's talk about the brick and mortar restaurants in downtown.

1. LB Steak - ridiculous prices for a teak I can make at home. Over salted sides. All of which are a la carte by the way.
2. Angelo Mio - mediocre food. Service was good last time I was there, but that's been quite awhile as the food is so lousy.
3. Carpaccio - seriously dated interior and mediocre food. Average age of diners seems to be 70.
4. Refuge - great sandwiches and Belgian beers at a ridiculous price. Seriously, $15 for a sandwich?
5. Bistro Vida - OK food and good service. A little on the pricey side.
6. Left Bank - Good food which seems to be getting better with the introduction of a new chef. Good service. Loud when crowded. Pricey.
7. Ann's Coffee Shop - decent for what it is. Again average age of diners seems to be 70.
8. Stacks - OK food. Breakfaast and lunch. Not open for dinner. Quick service. Food trucks wouldn't be competing with them anyway.

I know that's not all of them, but it's most of them. So, what we have is either overpriced, mediocre or both. No wonder the local restaurants are worried. We hardly ever eat in Menlo Park anymore because of it. We usually go to Palo Alto where there a lot more options.

Perhaps local restaurants should be rethinking what they are producing. If they're struggling it's because they're not serving the market.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2014 at 10:38 am

Warning Menlo Voter: I'm 70 and my friends and I plan to go to the food trucks.


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Posted by Jamie
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

I think this shows that it's not just young people who are excited about this change, but also older residents and people who have lived here for many years. It seems that this is not really about food trucks at all anymore, but about a community disappointed in it's local businesses and excited about new things coming. Change is inevitable. There's no reason downtown Menlo should be any less exciting and inviting than downtown Palo Alto or others on the Peninsula. It is simply due to current establishments' unwillingness to change. This is clear any night of the week downtown when all the restaurants are empty.


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Posted by menlo voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Post removed due to same poster using different names in same thread.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm

editor:

the last person to post using my name is not Menlo Voter. Judging by the run on sentence its probably someone else that has previously posted using another name.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Post removed due to same poster using different names.


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Posted by Tamera local Mom
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Post removed due to same poster using different names in same thread.


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Posted by Lia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I personally haven't been able to try as many restaurants as I'd like to downtown, mainly for price reasons, but I do love Left Bank and Cafe Borrone. It's always a nice treat to have a nice dinner out downtown, especially on the weekends. I also love Off the Grid and am hopeful it does come to the area. I know that for me personally, I don't eat downtown on week nights and am excited to have this opportunity to have an affordable mid-week meal close to home. I have gone in the past in other locations and I think it's a really great way to come together as a community and meet other people! Having this once a week is not going to stop me from frequenting my favorite downtown spots, and I think most people think the same way. I'm sorry that local businesses are so afraid of this coming here, but hopefully they can start thinking of the positive opportunities it may provide instead of focusing on negative things that have not and may not even happen at all.
I understand that trucks may not have the same tax responsibilities and I'm sure that stings, but a comments section isn't the place to take your anger out about it, it's the planning commission. I think Off the Grid will happen here due to popular demand anyway. With what seems to be a growing population of younger people in the area, I do wish there were some more affordable family friendly options rather than having to go to Palo Alto. I agree with Melissa that a lot of places here make me feel unwelcome with a small baby.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Editor:

you took down the wrong menlo voter post. the guy with the run on sentence is the one who posted under multiple names. That said I'll repost what you took down.

menlo or whatever your name is:

I'm sure the people that work in Menlo Park's restaurants work hard. No one that has criticized our local restaurants has said otherwise. The problem is that these restaurants are not serving the wants of Menlo Park residents. We hardly ever eat downtown any more, we usually go to Palo Alto as there is many more options there. Perhaps if Menlo Park restaurants would pay attention to that they would have more business. The opportunity is ripe in downtown for more variety of restaurants.


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Posted by Dawgs
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Free market baby!! Bring on the trucks!

Anyone claiming it's TOO HARD to open a biz should go buy a truck. Then you'll learn what HARD is! Either way - please your customers, and you win.

The list above does include Juban, where, at very high prices, they'll let you cook overpriced thin slices of food. Wotta deal!! You WORK and PAY!


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Posted by Matt raj
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 12, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Post removed due to same poster using different names on same thread.


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Posted by free market
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I've noticed that some brick&mortar restaurants also have trucks. This seems like a smart strategy to me. If customers want Curry Up Now and it's not a truck night, they'll head to the store.

I do want to comment on this point:

"3. Carpaccio - seriously dated interior and mediocre food. Average age of diners seems to be 70."

Sorry, that kind of talk just makes me ill. I hope to make it to 70 some day, and if I do, I hope people aren't pointing and saying "we don't want to eat where SHE eats." When my in-laws visited a few months ago, we took them to Carpaccio because I knew they would enjoy it (though I agree on the decor and food). And they did. They wouldn't have objected to the food trucks either, but it would have been a different experience.

Point is, there's room for everyone. The farmers' market didn't drive the grocery stores out of business -- if anything, it's brought more customers to those stores. And the more dining options available in MP, the more people will spend their money in our town. Win-win-win.


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Posted by loyal to menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Post removed due to same poster using different names in same thread


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

free market:

sorry that kind of talk makes you ill. My wife will be 70 in a few months and she doesn't like Carpaccio's either. The point being that there are an awful lot of people that seem to like it and from what I've observed the average age of those folks is 70. That doesn't mean they can't eat wherever they want. For whatever reason it seems these people will pay a lot to eat lousy Italian food in a dated atmosphere. My point being that younger people are interested in better offerings. Yes, older folks are too, but a certain segment of that population is content to go to Carpaccio's.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I have a solution, If the community wants Off The Grid bring them to the industrial section of Menlo Park it's where it's off the grid!


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Posted by free market
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:44 pm

MV, maybe I misunderstand what you're saying. When we went to Carpaccio recently, I noticed quite a few other multi-generational groups. If you want to have a nice sitdown with grandparents and grandkids, it's a great option.

I think our city has the capacity to accommodate the old school places as well as the trucks and other types of dining experiences currently unavailable in MP. What I don't want to hear, though, is people saying "we don't want that kind of restaurant here because old people like to eat there." Well, so what? There are plenty of niches to go around, and not every establishment has to be a fit for every diner. But the more options, the better.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 12, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

free market:

you and I are in full agreement. The market is ripe for more variety in this town and it's a shame when someone tries to provide it they confronted by the naysayers.


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 12, 2014 at 8:16 pm

If Menlo Park downtown has a moratorium on restaurants, remove the moratorium and fill the vacancies with food truck style restaurants.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Stop with the 70 old folks nonsense. Age-ist junk. I am 70 and go to just about every one of the Menlo and Palo Alto restaurants that serves good food. Have never been to Carpaccio because it doesn't appeal to me. I especially like sushi, Thai, Indian, French and Italian. I like to mix it up.

I don't like to cook and love to go out. So, younger people....you can expect to see this 70 year old at any restaurant you go to.


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Posted by kevin diaz
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Yes I agree with you tim we can have them at the industrial part of menlo it will be fine there away from traffic this a great solution


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Posted by diner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Lori, You are funny, I say you might be the owner or employed by a restaurant in Menlo Park afraid of competition and you accuse me of working for Off the Grid. Well I am willing to at least tell you that I do not, nor have I ever worked for Off the Grid or any food truck or food service. Can you say the same about not working or owning a restaurant in Menlo, I notice you did not deny it. I am a resident of Menlo Park and have been for a very long time. I support OTG because I like the food and the atmosphere food trucks bring. I am not afraid of them or the competition they will provide. You talk about parking and taking away spaces from restaurants, I thought it was called "Public Parking" for a reason? Am I wrong?

Many people seem to support OTG and I see that as a really good sign. I hope the Planning Commission approves it. It won't stop me from going to other places in Menlo Park (Mardini's, Cook's, Cafe Barrone, Left Bank, Su Hong but it does give me an alternative for one night. I work in down town Menlo and being able to grab a quick reasonably priced meal will be a novelty in Menlo Park.

I honestly do not see any legitimate argument against giving OTG a permit to operate one day a week for a year. Sure there are "Protectionist arguments". We see those in Menlo Park all the time. Beltramo's against BevMo (last I looked Beltramo's is still in business) and if I remember right Draegers was threatening to leave if a new grocery store was approved on El Camino (still hoping it is approved). Giving people dining choices is a win for Menlo Park residents. It could also be a win for Menlo Park restaurants if they were smart.


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Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 9:52 am

If a trial permit is granted, there must be a way to ensure that OTG's operations are good for Menlo Park.
It would be unfair to local businesses our community should support if OTG can escape paying city fees that other restaurants here must pay. Our local restaurants do help support our local community, through the taxes and fees they pay. Newcomers should also, at a minimum.

BTW - perhaps the permit should be non-exclusive so that any local restaurant that might want to offer take-out at the train station could also do so.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:33 am

Menlo Voter - was that really you commenting on all of the restaurants upthread, mentioning Carpaccio patrons age of 70? If so, you say the food is mediocre. I thought that you were a fan!? Remember a couple of years ago when you, Jennifer and I were informally reviewing many local restaurants here in Town Square? I was critical of Carpaccio and you seemed to really like it. Has it changed? Just curious, as I haven't been there in several years.

What about Jason's on El Camino? I've had decent breakfasts there and I like that it has a lot of options, but is no nonsense. Mediocre coffee, but in a way, that's almost retro!

Did anyone else read Dave Price's editorial in that other paper? He actually said he's "outraged" about OTG, since the CalTrain lot is public and other restaurants pays rent. Sigh. I admit that OTG won't make me frequent downtown Menlo restaurants even less than I already do.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Off The Grid obviously believes that they are filling an unmet need in Menlo Park, otherwise they wouldn't be coming here. I'll be glad when the City approves their permit.


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Posted by Aly
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

It's about time that Menlo Park welcomes some change. How else can this boring little city thrive and prosper? Palo Alto has so much to offer in its downtown. Every time that Menlo Park is offered a grand opportunity, it refuses to allow change. That is why it is boring, underdeveloped, offers few restaurants, and keeps its residents going elsewhere for a good time. Come on, people. Expand your horizons!


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm

A few months ago was looking at buying and operating a food truck. English Meat Pies with chips, the idea was to build a costomer base, a loyal following and a demand for my product. Hard work, good food will lead to brick and mortar location. You still a permit to operate a food business, a business license, food truck is a vehicle. DMV, repairs and it needs to be parked, food needs to be stored and prepared if not cooked on site. The cost of buying a food truck proved quite costly and just couldn't get the money. Other costs like finding a off site place that is cheap proved to be real challenge, finding places to operate.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Part 2 of the comment, I started eating at food trucks, found them to be clean, cheap not so much but reasonable and limited in choices. Lets face it is a truck, not a whole restaurant with all the choices. I still have my favorite places to eat and yes older people and so do causal dinners. In and Out Burger has a very large truck, you could hire out better restroom and hand washing stations.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Hmmm:

Carpaccio's has gone downhill the last couple of years. The food is just not as good as it once was. The economy I guess.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I am not the counterfeit "Downtowner" upthread. I'm the one who's been here for several years.

OtG needs to provide potties. Workers will be there from 3:30-10. There are no public bathrooms & patrons of B&M establishments shouldn't have lav access impeded by OtG transients who aren't customers. Parking under Kepler's is NOT public. It is paid for by the tenants, in the form of rent, for customers of the businesses in that building. Will non-McD customers monopolize those restrooms? People are going to bring their pets. Who cleans up messes?

Not all train commuters are back by 3:30 to get their cars out of the OtG designated area. That lot was was still half filled last Tuesday when I went by at 5:20 pm.

A place for young teens who can't drive to hang out? They get there how? I'm sure the children of all the posters here are very well-behaved in public with no parents around but will there be some security presence in case it's needed?

Sit down restaurants will not suffer losses because the customer base is quite different. Eating at OtG from compostable plates with plastic utensils while standing or sitting on folding chairs isn't for everyone. The infirm are not likely to go nor are people who can't safely corral their small kids in a crowd. People who don't want to hear trains in very close proximity won't be there.

As long as they bring their own bathrooms, give it a 6 month try. Pizza, pasta, & bistro patrons will still go to their usual restaurants. Bar business is big at Carpaccio & Left Bank & those customers won't drift away to OtG. Ann's closes early. There's a very rude proprietor on ECR we won't patronize. Most people go eat where they can get food they like in a pleasant surrounding. It all depends on what we find "pleasant."




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Posted by Very long time resident-
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Wow!

I agree with some of the other posts-

Well, from my experience living here for decades I can certainly tell you downtown needs help- and if Off The Grid adds a Spark or different Flavor once a week.... Then I'm happy.

I will also add periodically we may eat at downtown restaurants just to see if anything has changed, but sadly it is the same- So downtown Palo Alto and surrounding cities get my business.

Here's an idea--- perhaps the restaurants downtown can "jump in with both feet" "drink the kool-aid" etc... and have their own mobile truck? could be a draw to their restaurants-- Just saying...



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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm

If, as Garrett & a couple of web links indicate, the set up cost for a truck is about 60K, I don't see how downtown restaurants are going to pitch in & set up their own. Lori's link explains clearly the many steps required to get permitted & why OtG is basically the manager/agent for indies.

There are definite improvements to be made in some B&M restaurants, such as updating menus, improving service (Ali), cleanliness (Trellis) & welcoming "non-regular" customers who don't go in every week. They could also offer & advertise discounted prix fixe menus during certain months, as many SF, Berkeley & Oakland restaurants already do.

Web Link

My friends & I explore new & revisit old ones during this regular event and often find new favorites.

OtG will flourish, or not. My hope is for mandatory portable loos & 6 month, not 12 trial. Then reevaluate.


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Posted by Tom Van Horn
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Everyone has forgotten the West Bay Model Railroad Assoc., mentioned in the plan. They meet every Wednesday night where the trucks are planned. The club has been there for sixty years. They are now in the process of building a new, modern operating model railroad, that will be open to the public. How will the club meet or have open houses if the trucks are in their space? Whether or not the trucks are a good idea, Wednesday night in that exact location is at best totally inconsiderate of the existing community use.
Thank You


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 13, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Tom:

you make a good point. Perhaps Tuesday is a better night?


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