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Monday, July 12, 2010

51st State: A Roving Taste of American Regional Food Downtown

Posted By on Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge The truck parks weekdays in three downtown locations. - 51ST STATE
  • 51st State
  • The truck parks weekdays in three downtown locations.
The 51st state: Would that be Puerto Rico? Gitmo? According to Francesca Salcido, the 51st state is a state of food.

Salcido and partners Nathan Smith and Daniel Gutierrez rolled out their downtown mobile eatery two weeks ago. She calls 51st State "a metaphorical road trip," a brainy way of saying that the short menu focuses on regional American cooking, which, when you think about it, might be one of the most underrepresented cuisines in the city.

"Here in San Francisco we obsess about Burmese food, but we don't even know about American food," Salcido says. Case in point: Brunswick stew. These days, the Virginia set piece is an amalgam of chicken and sausage, but how many times have you ever tasted it?

Brunswick stew is on 51st State's current seasonal menu. So's a wild rice and potato pancake and spinach salad with blue cheese, smoked trout, and marionberries (both representing for the Pacific Northwest), and crispy cornmeal quail with grits, and black-eyed pea salad, aka Texas caviar, both, naturally, from the South.

Smith and Gutierrez were college buddies at U.T. Austin a decade ago, before Smith went on to culinary school at CIA in Hyde Park, N.Y. Salcido grew up in San Francisco, studied PR at San Jose State, and went to work for Silicon Valley tech companies. She calls 51st State a five-year pipe dream.

As with all first-time entrepreneurs, it's been a process of learning.

click to enlarge Wild rice and potato pancake with mushrooms. - ALEX K./YELP
  • Alex K./Yelp
  • Wild rice and potato pancake with mushrooms.
A taco truck they were test-driving caught fire on an East Bay freeway ("it was pretty epic," Salcido says); the one they ended up with was in the shop last Friday. Otherwise, 51st State parks at three lunchtime locales downtown. Weekends and evenings will come, eventually. The truck has signed on for Oakland's Eat Real Festival in late August, and the odd event ― it's catering the Yes We Can Trotters workshop in San Mateo this Friday. Apart from those appearances, look for 51st State to be navigating the American culinary imagination.

51st State Truck parks Mon. and Weds. at Steuart and Howard Streets; Tues. and Thurs. at Drumm and Washington; and Fri. at Green and Front. Follow on Twitter for daily updates, and check in on Facebook.

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