Street Vendor Start-Ups Under Fire in the City

Unlicensed vendors trying to keep under the radar

By Jackson West
|  Tuesday, May 26, 2009  |  Updated 1:45 PM PDT
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Creme Brulee on the Move Around SF

Andrew Mager

The tamale lady has been successfully evading the fuzz for years.

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Creme brulee, pulled pork sandwiches, Thai curry, sweet muffins -- there's been an explosion in new street food vendors around San Francisco.

Unfortunately, when street food is outlawed, only outlaws will sell street food.

Granted, it's not entirely illegal to serve small bites from a cart in San Francisco.  It's just complicated and prohibitively expensive.

Permits are managed by both the San Francisco Police Department and the Health Department, depending if a cart is on public or private land. The Planning and Fire Departments also have a say.

The BART police ran off a vendor selling amuse bouche treats for a dollar near the 24th and Mission station. And a fight broke out over the siting of a taco truck on the other side of the neighborhood.

But if you're the type who likes to live on the edge, swapping cash on a street corner for a black market sandwich has all the thrills of a drug deal without the risk of overdose. Photo by Andrew Mager.

Jackson West will probably be running from the man with a cooler full of food soon enough.

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