In the past few years, the Bay Area has caught up to the mobile gourmet food cart-and-truck trend that largely began on the West Coast in Portland before trickling upwards to Seattle and down to California.
Despite their popularity, the meals on wheels had yet to hit Half Moon Bay in full force. (from ) had been the only visible food truck in town — until yesterday, that is.
Thanks to an effort lead by aspiring food truck enterpreneur Powell Chee with help from property manager David Seaton, Sunday's visitors to the shopping area located at the entrance to could cruise down a line of offerings that included slow-braised Kurobuta pork belly tacos, Korean BBQ kalbi, empanadas, Indian curry, Hawaiian plate lunch and Kara's Cupcakes.
Though the event started at 11 a.m., there were still a few hundred sitting on hay bales enjoying their food three hours later. Lines queued up 10 deep in front of a few trucks. Many attendees spilled over into the Harbor Village shopping mall.
"Merchants have said that they've never seen as many people here at one time since they've been here," said Seaton.
"We'll have over a thousand here today, easily," Chee said. "And we're expecting even more people tomorrow for July 4."
A 36-year-old Half Moon Bay native, Chee had the idea for the event after researching the industry as part of his plan to launch a truck serving food that highlights his family's Ninja Teriyaki Sauce.
"I was going to a lot of food truck conventions, following the trucks on Twitter and going to events in the Bay Area," he said. "Since we didn't have them in Half Moon Bay, I started talking to David about how we could get the trucks to come over for an event," he said.
Chee was a football coach for 12 years (Occidental College, , Minnesota State and Presentation College in South Dakota) before deciding to start on a new career path. He knew Seaton, 27, because his brother coached Seaton himself in Half Moon Bay, while Chee coached Seaton's brother.
"Everything just took off," Chee said, adding that the two started organizing the event six weeks ago.
"We've had a lot of support from the locals," Chee said. "A lot of Half Moon Bay old-timers have told me that they're glad to see something going on in this space again," he said. "The chili cookoffs used to be here, along with the circus."
Sunday's vendors included Eat on Monday, Tikka Bytes, BBQ Kalbi, Whisk on Wheels, El Empanadero, Iz It, and Kara's Cupcakes. While Eat on Monday and Tikka Bytes will not return today, Sam's Chowdermobile will join the lineup, as will fusion hot dog truck Cali Dogs.
Those who came to the event in the first few hours had healthy appetites. By 2 p.m., most of the shelves in the front of the carts were empty, and there was nary a $3 miniature-sized cupcake to be found in Kara's brown van.
"We sold a few hundred in the first three hours," said Kara's Cupcakes employee Andrew Azman. "The bakery in Palo Alto had to send more up," he said.
Will Chee and Seaton try to establish a Coastside cousin of Moveable Feast, the monthly food truck convergence in San Mateo that kicked off last Friday?
"I'm trying to gauge the interest in this event to see if we can bring this back on a monthly basis, or during upcoming holidays, such as Labor Day," Chee said, who wore fatigue-patterned shorts and outfitted his workers and himself in white T-shirts reading "GRUB TOWN ARMY/PRIVATE" in red stencil font.
In addition to entering the food truck business, Chee is working to resume where his father left off by bottling Ninja Teriyaki Sauce once again. The sauce is an old family recipe of his mother's and a local favorite, having sold in many Half Moon Bay locations including , El Granada Market, Longs (before it became CVS Pharmacy) and Lucky (in the same space that now holds ).
Chee's dad began bottling the sauce in 1989 but stopped in 2007 so he could retire.
"None of the kids wanted to pick up the business," the elder Chee said.
Now, his son is seeking to take the recipe to an entirely new audience.
"Half Moon Bay residents are telling me that they're glad something like this is happening here," Chee said.
The Grub Town Army food truck event at the Shoppes at Harbor Village takes place from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. on Monday at 270 Capistrano Road in Princeton at the grassy area in front of the mall. A band will play all day. Visitors will also be allowed to stay to watch the fireworks that begin at 9 p.m. over Pillar Point Harbor tonight.