Off the Grid coming to Telegraph Avenue

Popular street food trucks to set up at intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street starting Thursday, July 12.

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A new weekly gourmet food truck market is set to open on Southside in July.

The popular street food vending organization Off the Grid has 18 weekly markets in the greater Bay Area, and its latest addition, Off the Grid: Southside Berkeley on Telegraph, will take place Thursdays near the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.

Created by Matt Cohen in 2010, Off the Grid utilizes space that is unused in the daytime and strives to provide opportunities for local businesses while offering communities a convenient and pleasant way to connect through a shared food experience.

The Berkeley opening will take advantage of unoccupied space in the aforementioned intersection. Two corners of the intersection are vacant due to devastating fires that took place in 1990 and 2011. Another corner has been unused since 2006.

According to Cohen, the company only works “with small chef-driven businesses.” There is currently an Off the Grid market in the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley that features businesses such as Liba Falafel and Streatery. Local businesses that have signed up to participate in the new Berkeley location include El Sur Empanada and Old World Food Truck. Cohen said that 8 to 10 trucks will participate in the weekly events.

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the summer and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the winter.

Cohen said that Telegraph is a good fit for his organization “because of both the proximity to campus and the proximity to the Elmwood and Rockridge areas. We’re also glad to help in reactivating a historic intersection of Berkeley following the fire that profoundly affected the district last winter.”

Roland Peterson, executive director of Telegraph Business Improvement District, said he hopes the success that Off the Grid has experienced in North Berkeley will be replicated on Telegraph, as “this is the part of Telegraph that could really use a boost.”

“The event is creating buzz and interest, as it provides another dining alternative for people who want something fun and inexpensive to eat for dinner,” Peterson said.

The opening of Off the Grid: Southside Berkeley on Telegraph is expected to rein in a positive effect on local businesses. Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the intersection at Telegraph and Haste is in a crisis.

“For years one corner has been blighted, and last year’s fire ruined another major intersection,” Worthington said. “Now, the residents are gone, businesses are gone. Bringing life and activity to that intersection is really vital.”

Worthington said he recognized that there are minimal inconveniences to this opening such as an increase in noise level, frequency of cleanups and parking concerns.

However, Peterson said Telegraph will remain open with only a section of Haste closed off, and Worthington said “the city has come up with conditions as a part of permitting this opening that will make sure that the events are 99.9 percent positive.”

Local businesses have expressed their support for additional activity in this intersection. Gene Barone, manager of Moe’s Books, said that he hopes the company does “enough publicity to make it successful, but generally we are extremely excited about this opportunity.”

“Anything that would bring some activity to that corner would be really helpful,” said Marc Weinstein, one of the owners of Amoeba Music in Berkeley. “We’ve been living in a post-apocalyptic state as the only building standing on that corner, and we feel that the least the city could do would be to support the opening, though that will certainly not solve all of our problems.”