Music and art may be your main draw in attending Oakland's Art & Soul festival this year - but the festival also will feature a vast array of food trucks, serving cuisine that is nothing short of artistic.
Two new food trucks at the festival this year will be familiar to Oaklanders: The Annakoot Indian Street Food Truck (the mobile unit of Oakland, Berkeley and Walnut Creek-based Breads of India) and the FiveTen Burger truck.
Breads of India has been around 16 years, but the food truck component is only a year and a half old. A food truck, however, had been a gleam in owner Rohit Singh's eye long before that.
As a college student in Delhi, India, he stumbled upon a Volkwagon van serving hot dogs during a lunch break, which he found exciting - sometimes traveling an hour by bus just to eat from the van. It took nine months for him to assemble the food truck he owns today. The truck was "just a box" when work began and now features one of the first mobile Tandoori ovens and an original design by Singh.
Breads of India restaurant has won many awards over the years and boasts a menu of more than 800 items, which are rotated in and out throughout the year. The menu changes daily and each item features a lengthy description written by Singh, who often travels to different locations in India to research local cuisines. For the festival, the truck will serve the most popular menu items, like chicken tikki masala.
"Tikki masala has taken over," joked Singh, adding he hopes to launch another food truck in the near future, which will focus on South Indian cuisine.
The FiveTen Burger truck is about six months older than the Annakoot Indian Street Food Truck, first opening in August 2010. The business (which now has two trucks) has received several awards in the past few weeks, including East Bay Express Reader's Poll Winner for Best Mobile Food and Best Food Truck Burger.
After unsuccessfully trying to earn a living as a musician, owner Roland Robles decided that it was time to try something new. He began working professionally as a chef in Sausalito at an Italian restaurant, where he quickly developed culinary skills.
"I went from not having any real experience to being one of three line cooks in a pretty busy place in about two weeks time," said Robles, a 42-year old Texan native. Robles says the deciding factor in opening up a truck instead a restaurant was the cost. According to Robles, opening a restaurant in Oakland would've required half a million dollars, something that was not feasible for him at the time. Due to the success of FiveTen Burger - the first burger-centric food truck in the Bay Area - he is currently planning to open a restaurant venue, possibly in Berkeley.
Just because Robles food is being served in a truck doesn't mean it isn't gourmet. Robles says he treats the burger the same way he would treat "a filet mignon or a double cut pork chop in a fancy restaurant," and most menu items get a generous squirt of truffle oil.
"We try and make everything from scratch," The most recognizable thing about my burger is that it doesn't have anything on it that you recognize except for ketchup and mustard - everything else is a flavor that we've developed ourselves." Items from scratch include three different mustards and even pickles.
FiveTen Burger will be serving up burgers, chicken, steaks and the Taylor's Sausage sandwich, Robles personal favorite. Robles said vegetarians should look elsewhere as even the grilled cheese isn't truly vegetarian (the truck has only one cooking surface), but there's always the tasty garlic oil fries for non meat-eaters.
The Annakoot Indian Street Food Truck, however, will be offering many vegetarian options: chana masala, pakoras (deep fried vegetable fritters), sabzi (a vegetable curry), samosas, and two desserts - gulab jamun (a deep fried milk ball in rosewater-scented syrup) and rice pudding. For meat eaters, there will be coorgi roast (South-Indian style barbecued ribs), paratha folds (Indian flatbread filled with chicken and rice) and of course, chicken tikki masala, just to name a few dishes.
To learn more about Breads of India, visit: breadsofindia.com
To learn more about FiveTen Burger, visit: fivetenburger.com