Archive for the ‘Main Street’ Category

Asphalt Gourmet

Thursday, August 5th, 2010


I’ve written about Treatbot a few times, San Jose’s own Karaoke-enabled ice cream food truck. We first learned of them in April at Calvin’s Second Anniversary celebration. I’m not normally very observant but I surprised myself by noticing that the address printed on Treatbot was the same as Calvin’s! Ryan the owner explained to me that food vans need a permanent address, so his is Calvin’s. Personally, I think Treatbot just wanted the upscale The Alameda address. I was very impressed by the whole concept—and the ice cream sandwich—but I was soon to learn it was just the tip of the iceberg.

A month later while at work I saw a very random message on Twitter retweeted by @aroundfremont:

MoGo BBQ Lunch time! Join us for lunch 12pm at 399 S main st milpitas! Come out be featured in PACMAN”S 30th anniversary video! they will be giving out free stuff today and cool PACMAN gear! 

I like lunch, I like Pac-Man, and I work in Milpitas, so at the appointed hour I was there.  That’s when I learned about MoGo.

CIMG0974Like Treatbot they are a new-wave mobile food vendor. MoGo serves up Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine such as Kimchi Quesadillas and Tofu Burritos. I tried a couple pork tacos with MoGo vinaigrette with a side of Kimchi rice. Very tasty.

A coworker told me that these gourmet food trucks are very popular in Los Angeles and now they’re on the rise up in the Bay Area. They can be found all over the country. They even have their own elimination-style road trip reality TV show, “The Great Food Truck Race” with Tyler Florence on The Food Network. Obviously food trucks have been around forever, known colloquially by an unflattering rhyme I won’t repeat here (hint: it’s not “broach poach”), but they’ve always been plain unimaginative affairs, more a convenience than a culinary experience. This new generation has found a formula to energize the whole concept of meals on wheels.

The first element is food with a hook. Treatbot sells locally-made hand-scooped ice cream, not packaged frozen novelties like your typical music-box-cranking ice cream truck. MoGo and Bulkalbi have the Mexican-Asian fusion thing going on which is exotic even in multicultural San Jose. Other trucks go high-end, serving dishes you’d normally only find in fine restaurants.

The second element is marketing. Each truck works hard to create a unique identity and memorable customer experience. Treatbot…Karaoke…say no more. They have clever names, flashy paint jobs, and bubbly servers. They’re most known for using social networking sites to attract and retain clientele: Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, you name it. (Humorously their mobile nature defeats Foursquare; it can’t keep up.) I follow them all on Twitter and let me tell you, when I get that daily deluge of lunchtime locations and menus du jour, it gets the juices flowing. Last week three of them showed up within walking distance of my job on three different days; I took the bait and ate at all three.

CIMG0830Check out my Twitter list:

Let me know if I missed any. I haven’t tried them all yet, but I will. I know where to find them.

Naturally these trucks often find their way to El Camino Real. Heck, Treatbot “lives” there. The MoGo Pac-Man event was on Main Street in Milpitas. It’s not an opening at The Usuals unless Treatbot is there. A few nights ago MoGo and Curry Up Now were both on El Camino at the same time for dinner, a couple miles apart. They know what’s up.

CIMG0973Here’s what I really like about these trucks: when they show up, they create an event. Namco chose to tag along with MoGo, tapping into some street excitement to celebrate Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary. They filmed this video behind the truck. It works both ways; the trucks go where the action is, often in pairs. Bike Party, National Night Out, festivals, holidays. Social networks in tow, every time they park it’s an instant meet-up.

I feel we’re right at the beginning of this movement and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an explosion of variety in the next couple years. There’s plenty of room for innovation too. This is Silicon Valley. How about online ordering? GPS tracking? Electronic payment? Alternative fuel vehicles? (Treatbot is propane-powered!) Um…chairs! The sky’s the limit and the road is open.


Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

View San Jose robbery and police chase in a larger map

The Milpitas Post reports that an alleged robbery and car theft that started on Sierra Road (that’s Sierra, not Serra!) in San Jose led to a police chase that ended when the suspect was apprehended at the dead-end at Railroad Court, at the northern end of Main Street in Milpitas. That happens to be where the Milpitas Post is located, so you could say the scoop landed on their doorstep. This funny little intersection is where Main Street crosses the railroad tracks, near Judge Weller‘s dairy farm. It used to connect with Milpitas Blvd and continue on to Mission San Jose and other East Bay destinations, but it was cul-de-sac’ed decades ago. If the suspect had been an avid consumer of arcane El Camino Real knowledge like myself he surely would have known this and not snared himself in the trap. Or perhaps that was exactly his problem; he was trying to flee to the mission for sanctuary and was following a really really really old map.


Hopefully no one was seriously hurt (the police had to use a stun gun), property is rightfully restored, and justice will be served.

[Source: Milpitas Post]

Geek Dad: The Book

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Geek Dad.indd

Saturday night my family was delighted to attend the private book release party for Geek Dad hosted by author Ken Denmead. The party was held at Dave & Busters at the Great Mall in Milpitas. Ken is a close longtime friend, and this book launch was the culmination of an exhilarating, transformative journey for him, a dream coming true. We relished sharing this special moment with him, and rejoiced in his excitement. It was a special treat for me because I was credited as a contributor to the book.

Ken and I have known each other since the eighth grade, went to high school together, and have been good friends all along, more than two-thirds of our lives now. We got married around the same time to amazing wives and our kids are very close in age and are growing up together. (They might tell you they’re already grown.) He’s a professional engineer but he harbors many passions including movies, science fiction, internet trends, and fine food. Frankly, he’s a geek.

“Geek” used to be an insult but today it’s been reclaimed and is a self-identifying term of pride used by those whose personalities, by Ken’s definition, achieve balance in the following traits: knowledgeability, obsessiveness, and social skills. In short geeks know a lot of stuff, throw themselves with abandon into that stuff, and enjoy sharing that stuff with like-minded friends. That’s Ken.

In 2007 the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, Chris Anderson, started a blog under Wired’s web site called GeekDad to celebrate the intersection of geekdom and parenthood. (Despite the name, Geek Moms are equally valued, if slightly underrepresented.)  Geeks get married and have kids, and the blog is a forum for exploring ways for geeky parents to share their interests with their kids, benefiting all. Ken joined the blog as a contributor and was shortly named its editor. Under his direction the blog and accompanying podcast have exploded in popularity with dozens of writers and millions of visits, being frequently referenced by major internet and traditional media outlets. In 2008 he was approached to propose and write a book which he did with amazing vigor. About one thousand gallons of sweat and two thousand gallons of Peet’s coffee later, his baby is done and its official release date is May 4, 2010, having been duly fêted on Saturday, May 1 by his supportive family, friends, and colleagues.

CIMG0119The book is organized into fun, engaging projects geek parents can undertake with their kids. They are geek-tested, kid-approved, and vice-versa. Ken included a project I conceived to create electronic flash cards on a Sony PSP hand-held video game system to help my son study for tests without the waste and expense of old-school paper cards. He also describes a project to launch a video camera into the sky for aerial videography by attaching it to a flock of helium balloons. I spent a fun day last year helping him prototype that project; call me “Partner P2.”


CIMG0951Naturally there are El Camino Real connections here. The book release party was at the Great Mall, which is on Main Street in Milpitas. This is part of what I call “El Camino de San Jose,” the historic road linking the San Jose Pueblo to Mission San Jose in Fremont. The Great Mall was built from the old Ford assembly plant. Further, one of the chapters in the book details a fourth-grade school project wherein his oldest son built an amazing model of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia made entirely out of cake and other edible ingredients. This model was inspired by the masterful cake creations of Charm City Cakes featured on the television program Ace of Cakes starring Geek Chef Duff Goldman. Mission San Luis is the largest in the California mission chain, founded in 1798 by Fr. Fermín Lasuén near present-day Oceanside in Southern California. By Ken’s taxonomy I’m an El Camino Real nerd today, but I aspire to be an El Camino geek. I have been to several El Camino community planning meetings, which are the closest things we have to conventions. El Camino Con?

Watch on YouTube

I asked Ken if with its tech-savvy focus this book could have been written anywhere else besides Silicon Valley. (He and his family live in Fremont which is a city that bridges Silicon Valley and the East Bay.) He believes it could have. The GeekDad blog has contributors scattered throughout the world, reflecting the fact that although so much technology innovation is centered here, content is king and is being created everywhere. I asked him how he felt at this moment and he replied, “scared and excited.” He’s always been a creative force and he has accomplished much with the blog, but having written and published a book is a milestone on a different level, a game- and potential life-changer.

I’ve read a few chapters so far and I recommend this book whole-heartedly, and not just because it was an awesome party. I should also disclose that Ken graciously gave me a complimentary copy for contributing the flash cards project to the book. It’s an enjoyable read, infused with Ken’s signature dry wit and winking geek culture in-jokes. Mother’s Day is nearly here and Father’s Day and graduations are not far behind; the book is a great gift for all occasions. The projects it contains will be perfect for upcoming summer days, ways to forge family memories more lasting than video game high scores. My son, thumbing through it, exclaimed, “This is so cool. I love this book!” It will be available starting this week from a wide variety of online and real-life retail outlets. Ken deserves every success in this remarkable endeavor. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer Geek or a more beloved Dad.