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on Jan 1, 2014
An astonishingly bad idea.
Wonder how the owners and customers of nearby Cafe Borrone feel about it.
The Planning Commission ought to nip it in the bud.
if you think food trucks are such a bad idea, don't eat off of them. I've been eating off of food trucks, or as we often refer to them, "roach coaches" for over 20 years. Hasn't hurt me a bit. Never have had food poisoning.
I think this is a great way to bring some different food to town. Menlo Park, while it has some very good restaurants, also has some pretty mediocre ones. Frankly, I'm surprised some of them are still in business. A little once a week competition might a light a fire under some of them and maybe get them to produce some better food.
Cafe Borrone's monopoly on informal eating in the area around the train station has always bothered me.
It really bugs me to be paying more than $2 for a cup of regular coffee. I've not eaten there principally because en exorbitant price for coffee indicates to me an exorbitant price for everything else. And why? Because they can.
I may not be able to comfortably afford eating at a food truck either, but I think competition for Borrone on its home turf would be good for everyone.
So how will this work in the train station parking lot? i can't imagine returning home from SF to a parking lot full of people and trucks. It seems to be another way to discourage use of public transit.
Some music is acoustic but some might exceed the city's noise restrictions? Huh?
Wasn't there supposed to be a TRIAL of something in the middle of town, not at the train station?
Joe - did you ever read up on Cafe Borrone's woefully poor record w/the Health Dept? They only corrected it recently due to publicity about it.
My concerns about the food trucks are practical ones - pollution, where people can potty & traffic congestion/parking.
I agree w/Menlo Voter about Menlo food - it needs some competition.
What a wonderful idea! I am not sure that food trucks provide competition for the downtown restaurants. Young people who are not currently eating out in Menlo Park, students or people starting out, would get a chance to eat out in a fun and affordable way. I seriously doubt that this would in any way take away from the brick-and-mortar restaurants downtown, as they at largely not the same people. I do hope that the concerns about noise, sanitation, etc are addressed for those who live nearby, as long as they are negotiated in good faith, but I hope that Off the Grid gets its chance. I say kudos to anyone who is attempting to liven up the place.
Taco trucks. Wistfully brings a tear to my eye. $1.00 tacos. Quatro al pastor con toda. Tasty bits that you first had to hold at arm's length to allow the liquids to drain without hitting your shoes. Breakfast on Fifth Avenue in Redwood City (the best truck if not the best ambiance) Sunday morning for a fix.
Never more quoth the raven, nevermore.
For my take, [See. Web Link]
Where will their customers park? Not under 1010 El Camino. There isn't much pedestrian traffic along Ravenswood except at lunchtime & after school. Are any nearby public bathroom facilities closer than the library? Even event organizers & employees may need rest rooms between 3:30 and 10. Require portable loos.
With no residences within at least 1 block, noise is less problematic than the polluting fumes from gas or diesel engines idling for hours. Or do these food trucks use battery power only? I get a headache from bus fumes if I'm stuck on El Camino behind one, so the emissions from these vehicles can't be pleasant.
What percentage of the CalTrain lots will be closed to public use? Few commuters are back in town to vacate their parking spots by 3:30pm.
Does OtG bring its own security detail or reimburse MP for the cost of cops on site?
A better location might be the MPPD parking lot or at Burgess, where the after-school rec crowd could fill up on eats & MP could offer use of its taxpayer-provided bathrooms.
@ Member- Off the Grid patrons are not going to shop Santa Cruz then, carrying their parcels, cross ECR to wait in line at trucks & sit in folding chairs to eat, still trying to hang on to their recent purchases. We don't have enough arms for that.
@ Joe- $2+ coffee includes rent on the chair you use while enjoying it. There's always McD across the street.
I think this is a great idea. We should give it a try and if it turns out to be a problem or a nuisance then the experiment can be ended. I love the idea of mobile restaurants and the creativity of the chefs. There are only so many restaurant locations in Menlo Park and this brings in something new. Yea for new ideas!
This is EXACTLY what Menlo Park needs. Downtown is essentially a food wasteland where pretty meager places stay in business because choices are limited. Inject some real competition one night a week and it might inspire new restaurant owners to come to Santa Cruz or existing owners to up their game. Competition is good for our town and businesses.
I agree with Downtown Resident, who wrote:
"The Caltrain parking lot is for Caltrain parking, not for food businesses that may or may not be of interest to most Menlo Park residents. With them they will bring a shortage of parking for the already crowded downtown and probably infringement into residential garages not meant for commercial use, garbage with no where to go overnight, noise in excess of the decibels allowed by zoning laws which will negatively impact nearby residential properties, and a severe lack of bathroom facilties. The nuisance potential for up to ten food trucks where they don't belong is huge, and unfortunately those of us who bought our homes in the downtown area will suffer. And then there are the business people who trusted Menlo Park officials to keep the downtown clean and thought it was a good place to set up their stores and restaurants. We don't need food truck in the downtown area, we need to support the businesses that have worked hard to support the community especially through the economic downturn. This is a very bad idea."
He mentions 10 food trucks, but there could be as many as 12.
That's a dozen generators buzzing away, loud amplified music, fumes, and noise.
Hopefully the Planning Commission will stand up for our residents and business owners and reject the proposal.
Off the Grid in the San Mateo station two years ago was good. Last year in Belmont was great (better parking, more room, closer, etc...)
MP probably doesn't deserve it.
These comments? "roach coaches"? More cops? Noise (at a train station, ferchrissakes?!?!?) Garbage?
Nah, I was wrong -- MP definitely DOES NOT deserve OTG!!!
Especially not Kara's!!
Wonderful! Fresh energy and interesting food - what a great excuse to convince my spouse and 2 little ones to greet me coming off the train on Wed evenings, after a long day at the office. Could MP actually become a hip place to live? :-).
This is a great idea! Why drive and park? A significant percentage of Menlo residents live within a reasonable walking distance of the CalTrain station. Come and eat, and then burn it off on the walk back home.
I too am conflicted. I love food trucks and eat them whenever I can. Yet, it is pretty obvious that 10-12 food trucks just will not work here. If any of you have been to Garden City in San Jose on a Sunday morning, you'd see how just 5 trucks take up an area the size of the CalTrain lot.
Therefore my comments are on the conversation itself. Where are the free-marketeers when you need them? You can't be a small-government economic anarchist type and want to ban the food trucks.
I can't believe there are actually complaints about the noise. The trucks will be at the TRAIN station, you know, where TRAINS stop. I'm fairly certain 12 generators don't hold a candle to one TRAIN engine. Even if they did, it is in the truck's best interest to use a fairly advanced low exhaust and noise generator as they will not distract from the food.
Secondly, yes, they may harm local restaurants, but chances are those restaurants probably wouldn't be around anyway if they had decent competition.
And lastly, y'all need to get out of your perfect little suburb more often.
Maybe starting with fewer trucks would be a good idea to work out the kinks. Planning Commission can always make the permit conditional with a review at one year or something.
Exactly what we need to bring some vitality to Menlo Park. Look at the creative approaches to community living in RWC and PA. Then we have stodgy MP, the town of "no."
Menlo Park is the most boring, anti-progressive, self-serving place I've ever lived -- and I've lived in many places, some considered ultra conservative, coast-to-coast. Menlo Park already has food trucks at The Willow Market on Monday nights with great success and no problems -- just lots of fun and choices. It works well here already, and it's worked to revitalize other neighboring towns.
So why all the crepe-laying and nay-saying? If your restaurant can't stand up to one mid-week night of extra competition then you have a bigger issue. And if there is too much noise or not enough clean-up, the city has a way to provide feedback or ban certain vendors. Don't kill it before you try it.
I love this idea. As to roach coaches--that is a different era and different concept altogether.
Take a look at the Monday trucks at Willow Market--people communing and eating delicious,
Off the Grid would bring some life into sleepy Menlo Park. Both young and old alike can enjoy
delicious, affordable food in a fun, festive environment. Menlo Park kids long for a gathering place with good food. This could be that place.
That said, perhaps starting off with 6 to 8 trucks could ease some people's concern.
Yum Yum Can't wait!
Again - where will the trucks park? We train commuters need and use the parking lots.
Where would the patrons of this park? Will they pay to park in the train parking lot, too?
People live in the complex between Merrill and El Camino.
One of the Almanac's bloggers -- Elena Kadvany, "The Foodist" -- already wrote about this from her point of view, and she, too, said she liked those food trucks. Here is what I commented to her blog,edited to correct misspellings and to add new thoughts:
I am very opposed to allowing those food trucks to do business anywhere in Menlo Park. Why?
1. Those food trucks will make a lot of pollution, because they have to keep their diesel engines running continuously in order to keep their refrigeration units running, so that perishable foods stay safe to eat (below 40 F). This pollution is bad for everyone's health The CO2 emitted by those diesel engines also contributes to global warming.
2. My reply to those who have said that it is silly to complain about exhaust from food trucks in a place that has a lot of diesel locomotives passing through is this: none of you seem to be aware of the EPA's Locomotive Exhaust Emissions Standards: Tier 1 - Tier 4. Tier 1 went into effect back in 1993, and I am sure that Caltrain is in full compliance with these standards. I have no idea what exhaust emissions standards -- if any! -- those food trucks must comply with. I would be very surprised if those standards are anywhere nearly as strict as the EPA's Tier1-Tier 4 diesel locomotive exhaust emissions standards. But I am willing to be educated.
3. One important point: why allow even more pollution? And this pollution will be continuous for 3 hours once a week!
4. I am pretty sure the folks who operate these food trucks are not exactly wealthy, or they would probably be running brick-and-mortar restaurants -- or other fixed-address businesses. They almost certainly do not have to money necessary to add expensive exhaust modifications to their trucks so those trucks would not pollute.
"Off the Grid" -- and into your lungs!
5. The proposed site at the Caltrain station will use up a lot of precious parking spaces. Where are commuters and other Caltrain users supposed to park on Wednesdays?
6. Will these food trucks be regularly inspected by the county Health Department to ensure that the food they sell is safe to eat? These inspections must be a surprise, so that the operators will not have a chance to "clean up their act" just for the inspector --and this is almost impossible to do with food trucks.
7. I do not trust them to leave the area clean.
8. I do not trust that the music will not be too loud. And, for those of you who say that being concerned about noise at a train station is silly, I would reply that train noise is not continuous -- it comes and goes in less than a minute per train.
9. Will these food trucks have to pay any kind of use fees to the City of Menlo Park for using up all those Caltrain parking spaces, and for disposing of the garbage they will generate? There is no room on those food trucks for the many garbage containers they would need, nor should they be allowed to carry garbage in the same area as food, so someone else will have to haul it away. Who is going to pay for that?
No trucks = little garbage.
10. There are ways to deal with each and every one of my objections. But none of those are being done -- or even planned for. None.
I hope any and all permissions for food trucks to operate here in Menlo Park will be withdrawn immediately. (I am aware of the operation on Middlefield at the Willows Market. I don't approve of it, either.)
Food trucks are a very bad idea -- unless all of m y objections are dealt with.
Remember: "Off the Grid" means "Into Your Lungs" (and ears!)
Those of you who disagree with me, please reply to what I said.
Someone already did respond to you, point by point, on another thread.
"1. Those food trucks will make a lot of pollution, because they have to keep their diesel engines running continuously in order to keep their refrigeration units running, so that perishable foods stay safe to eat (below 40 F). This pollution is bad for everyone\'s health The CO2 emitted by those diesel engines also contributes to global warming. "Off the Grid" -- and into your lungs!
>>> they use small generators, do not run their engines during service. Regular restaurants consume energy as well - power provided by power plants, which also pollute.
2. The proposed site at the Caltrain station will use up a lot of precious parking spaces. Where are commuters and other Caltrain users supposed to park on Wednesdays?
>>> Wednesday night, not Wednesday morning and all day... And plenty of room at the Caltrain station every day.
3. Will these food trucks be regularly inspected by the county Health Department to ensure that the food they sell is safe to eat? These inspections must be a surprise, so that the operators will not have a change to "clean up their act" just for the inspector --and this is almost impossible to do with food trucks.
>>> Food trucks are inspected by county health just like restaurants.
4. These food trucks are bad for our local restaurants, as they do not have to pay rent to landlords, as do local restaurants, nor do they have to follow all the rules that restaurants have to follow.
>>> they pay for their trucks, pay for their supplies, pay sales tax on every sale (take out), pay rent for the location, pay the organizer for promotion, pay their employees...what rules?
5. I do not trust them to leave the area clean.
>>> it will be the diners who leave the trash, which is another story if necessary
6. I do not trust that the music will not be too loud.
>>> by the train tracks? Really?
7. Will these food trucks have to pay any kind of use fees to the City of Menlo Park for using up all those Caltrain parking spaces, and for disposing of the garbage they will generate? There is no room on those food trucks for the many garbage containers they will need, nor should they be allowed to carry garbage in the same area as food, so someone else will have to haul it away. No trucks = little garbage.
>>> I\'m sure they have to rent the space from Caltrain. No doubt MP will charge for a permit, which will include refuse removal. Typically the event organizer provides for additional trash receptacles and clean up - part of the overhead costs that the food truck operators pay to the organizer.
I hope any and all permissions for food trucks to operate here in Menlo Park will be withdrawn immediately. (I am aware of the operation on Middlefield at the Willows Market. I don\'t approve of it, either.)
>>> outside of your dislike for the Willow operation, note that their have been no complaints about garbage, noise, etc.
Food trucks are a very bad idea.
>>> don\'t go. The free market will determine its viability."
No mention in your article about CalTrain approving the use of their parking lot - have they? Who gets sued if someone gets injured?
Have the police weighed-in regarding traffic and illegal parking problems?
Families with little kids next to the train tracks during the heavy CalTrain commute hour with express trains zooming by at 70mph? Wonderful idea.
Two Wednesdays each month the West Bay Model Railroad Association holds events at the their building in that parking lot. Public open-houses from 7-9pm on one Wed (they might like the potential for additional visitors, however the regular visitors will not be able to find parking so they will lose patrons), member only meetings on another Wed night.
Library/Rec center parking lot - it's the closest public lot, but when it fills up with foodie patrons' cars where do the library patrons park?
Lastly, the food trucks themselves - had been to several of these events Palo Alto etc - very long waits for a little bit of very expensive food that just wasn't that great.
"whatever" admits she doesn't like the trucks ("had been to several of these events ... long waits for a little bit of very expensive food that just wasn't that great") yet won't admit that her arguments are biased red herrings!
Like the "tracks will kill kids" argument followed by the "kids that visit the model railroad" argument!! How many kids have been run over at tracks by the railroad club when they run out of the club to see the 7:30 freights roll by?
The model railroaders will LOVE the increased exposure the trucks provide -- if they didn't want more visitors, they wouldn't open it up to the public!!!
Been at OTG in both SM and Belmont - wonderful! They are what they are, and get a LOT of repeat business. "whatever's" very expensive food (really? a $4 gourmet cupcake is TOO expensive for you?) is another's feast, fun and frivolity!
Too crowded? Try those hip 12 seat ramen parlors with the hour wait! For noodles!! "wahtever" would ban them because
san mateo belmont
Sorry, but don't see the logic in causing inconveniences for commuters, library and rec patrons so a few wealthy Atherton folks can get their $4 cupcake fix on Wednesday evening.
And yes I know Lloyden Park isn't the gourmet section of Atherton.
For those who think they have all the answers, please still respond to where we commuters will park and backup if this activity comes to the parking lot.
Also - what impacts on Menlo Park businesses will this have? Most restaurants and retailers have razor thin profit margins.
What impacts on city coffers will this have in comparison to the brick and mortar food establishments downtown? The latter pay sales tax, license fees, and indirectly, property taxes. Shop Menlo.
Am I remembering correctly that during the Specific Plan discussions the train area was explicitly excluded from having a food court or farmers market? If so, what has changed?
@Whatever: I've been to a two food truck venues in Palo Alto and agree, overpriced and I was underwhelmed.
@San mateo belmont:
I can go directly into Kara's for my cupcake for the same price daily. Doubtful that 'whatever' was referring to the cupcake, and I'm sure you KNOW this.
I've tried the Willows, three times. Found that eating at a rickety table at Middlefield Road in the midst of 5PM traffic with the crowds of people bumping into each other between the trucks and the few tables wasn't too enjoyable.
For food at comparable prices at a sit down restaurant with a server, etc.
Whenever Lowes and Home Depot can, they put their stores up across the street from each other. Why? Business is always better when similar services are in close proximity. Emerson St. in downtown PA is called restaurant row. These businesses thrive compared to MP because they are close to each other.
Bringing in food trucks encourage people to eat out, more than they compete with existing businesses. I have never eaten at a catering truck before. I may try it.
I expect the residents of Menlo Park to reject this concept and continue to miss the vitality this city desperately needs. When the citizens of Menlo Park want to do something exciting and fun, they go to Palo Alto and Redwood City.
Don't see my logic? That's good, because I don't see facts in your post, either:
"- have they? "
"Have the police weighed"
"trains zooming by at 70mph? Wonderful idea."
"they might like the potential for additional visitors"
"where do the library patrons park?" (my favorite!!)
"very long waits for a little bit of very expensive food that just wasn't that great."
Yep. Pretty fact-less. I'll let you label the logic of "Have the police weighed-in regarding traffic and illegal parking problems?"
Please: keep attacking neighborhoods that aren't your own! Maybe the year after, OTG will choose Atherton station! Would love to walk to OTG on a summer evening.
Do the food trucks collect sales tax with their hot food sales? If not why are they exempt or why does the state franchise tax board not enforce it? If they do collect how does MP insure it gets its sales tax share as the businesses are transitory?
Do the trucks have MP business licenses?
Does the city apply and enforce the same code requirements as they do on physical address restaurants in the city?
And as mentioned by others what does CalTrain say about all using their land?
All questions I hope the Planning Commission and Council consider.
Let's try it at least. Lord knows Menlo Park needs some kind of activity downtown after 6 pm. As a SCA business owner and a homeowner in 'Menlo Park Downtown' I'd love to have something else to do downtown.
I am really looking forward to Off the Grid coming to town and can't wait to try the food trucks offerings! This will bring some life and activity to Menlo.
I now do most of my shopping in Menlo Park, and would love to have a fun light dinner there on Wednesdays.
Almanac: Please keep us up-to-date about his great development.
Our restaurant has proudly served Menlo Park for 50 years we have been through many changes over the years but this maybe the final straw with increasing cost and diminishing returns the worst recession in my lifetime and a city who boast on pulling itself out of its overspending by raising fees on businesses and the public (better call it a fee then a tax) and now us restaurant owners are supposed to embrace an enterprise that will reduce my sales (please see Burlingame)and have every advantage by not paying any of the fees that I am assessed for having a brick and mortar business?(please see Amazon Argument)this is not about not wanting competition this comes regardless this is about fairness this is about someone pulling in front of your business and taking money out of your pocket only to slouch back to there parking lots in low cost areas for us restaurant owners this along with other upcoming regulation is the biggest threat we face its simple the city of Menlo can decide if they want more closed restaurants or more food trucks?the last I looked downtown retail or restaurants weren't doing gangbuster but I do agree that downtown Menlo is boring but the powers to be don't want us to be like Burlingame, Palo Alto, Los Gatos all these places have a bustling night life apparently this will take away from our village character??? also none of these cities have food truck night events that infringe on there core businesses fortunately I have some ideas for the employees I will lay off that night or have there hours reduced they can use the dollars not earned at the event also lets make sure we get all the food servers, cooks, busboys in Menlo Park to be on board on forgoing there tips and wages for the evening this will certainly help those who need it the most.
Not trying to be a jerk...but Robert, have you considered doing your own food truck instead of barely getting by with your current restaurant? Are the margins better?
Just a thought - not trying to be antagonistic at all.
Burlingame, Palo Alto, Los Gatos "also none of these cities have food truck night events that infringe on there core businesses"
Whaaaaat???? I've eaten at Los Gatos food trucks. A couple years ago, IIRC, off LG Blvd (south side of 17).
Restauranteurs complaining is the norm -- see the ones in SF that complained about the minimum wage driving them our of business, and then going out of business yet again with the SF health care requirements. All they did was pass the costs off on their clients (mere pennies, in the case of McDonalds and the QSRs) and in fact many set up the health care costs as a profit center.
Woe is me!! I'll have to lay off workers!! And big government is killing me!!! We need more free market!!!! Then tell the city to ban trucks!!! Oh, wait...
Perhaps if you find an editor that understands paragraph breaks and run-on sentences, and re-did your menus....
I knew I would be attacked by just telling the truth about the restaurant business but how would you react if after working over 35 years in building your business that someone can pull up in an adjoining parking lot and take your sales? and buying a food truck is not an option for my business I have already invested 500,000' in cost not to mention personally guaranteeing my lease to my landlord.
Also those who say its 1 night a week are not telling the truth the reality is that it is 5 days a week for lunch because we use to cater to all of our tech corridors Sand Hill, Willow, and Marsh now food trucks are present everyday if this is going to be the way forward how do restaurants and food trucks co-exist? I am actually concerned for my employees?
I recall a few years ago when a Whole Foods wanted to build on El Camino and Draeger's put the kibosh on that. Please don't let the restaurants do the same to the Food Trucks. It's not like they're going to be there every day, and it's about time there was something like live music and affordable good food being offered in Menlo Park. A little competition might wake up the businesses in Menlo and keep them on their toes - otherwise it's dining in Palo Alto for me. Way better selection of food choices and more fun than Menlo Park. Kinda stink, but without some change ups like a once a week food truck, Menlo Park is doomed.
A food truck night is a great idea, and is likely to be more of a benefit to local business (foot traffic! exposure!) than a problem. We're talking once a week, on what's normally a slow "eating out" night, with likely more interesting food than downtown MP (why does nobody in downtown MP serve food aimed at people under 60? There are about twelve choices for blue-hair italian food, of course)
Downtown MP is desolate at night, and the lack of foot traffic hurts the restaurants. The fact that most downtown MP business are things like furniture stores with low traffic, low turnover, and very infrequent repeat business (how many sofas do you need?) is not good for restaurant business either.
We live in MP, near downtown. Our family tends to go to Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Los Altos to eat out, because there are vibrant downtowns with interesting restaurants. I'd be delighted to walk to, say, an actual decent Mexican place, a Thai restaurant, something mediterranean that's well executed and tasty, or perhaps an Indian restaurant. Failing that, I'm 100% in support of food trucks making up the gap in interesting and reasonably priced food in MP.
What a great idea. finally something interesting coming to Menlo Park. Our family and friends try really hard to patronize Menlo Park restaurants but there is very little that is interesting. We end up going to downtown Palo Alto 9 out of 10 times. This could bring more customers for everyone. Anything that injects a bit of energy would be a great welcome in Menlo Park. such a sad, sleepy, dated, downtown.
I love the idea...gee different choices instead of vacancies on Santa Cruz Ave! Music too? Recipe for a winner. Nay sayers are the losers...please stay away.
@ commuter- OtG will be a block away from the Merrill/Oak Grove condos, at the Ravenswood end.
The operational hours are 5-9 but another article said they'd start setting up at 3:30, thus earlier than many commuters get back to MP. Does that mean the lot will be blocked all day?
People who want to stand in a parking lot next to a busy street, or sit on a folding chair & balance paper plates will like OtG. I do not think that people who want to sit at a table & be served will desert downtown restaurants for OtG.
I am concerned about a lack of restrooms for OtG patrons & workers. I'm also concerned about the possibility of jaywalkers attempting to cross Ravenswood from the parking lots on the south side.
Please make it a 6 month trial, not 1 year. Yes, I've been to food truck "events" in Palo Alto & Redwood City. Long lines. Courthouse Square is an enjoyable venue. For me, a parking lot next to Ravenswood & CalTrain tracks isn't where I want to eat. Depending on the available culinary options, it might be worth a "to go".
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