MARTINEZ -- The hottest trend in dining is rolling east from the foodie neighborhoods of San Francisco and Oakland to the Contra Costa County suburbs.
On the heels of Off the Grid's successful food truck foray into El Cerrito earlier this month, partners Sham Shivaie and Javid Ebrahimi want to bring their "Taste of the World Market," a collection of food trucks representing diverse cuisine, to the Martinez marina and downtown Walnut Creek this summer.
The duo, who launched their Persian food truck in Martinez in April, want to use their experience to help vendors navigate the regulatory process and set up shop in a permanent, organized space.
"Where you run into issues is where it comes to the zoning, getting the actual location," Shivaie said. "The hard part is then establishing a location that you can actually go and operate regularly."
Shivaie said the partners have applied for a special event permit in Martinez and have tested the market concept at their Walnut Creek location, the site of the former Le Virage restaurant on North Main Street. In Martinez, the market would be open for dinner with six to eight trucks; while a smaller number of vendors in Walnut Creek cater to officer workers during the lunch rush. Shivaie and Ebrahimi plan to charge vendors $50 to $75 per day for a space in the market.
"Our proposition has been to cities, you can try to regulate lots of food trucks and deal with them individually," Shivaie said. "Our proposition is we're going to create this designated space and manage the food trucks."
Food trucks have become so popular they are spreading from urban centers, including Portland and Los Angeles, to smaller communities such as Chico, according to Angelica Pappas, California Restaurant Association spokeswoman. With chain restaurants such as Chili's and In-N-Out Burger launching trucks, Pappas believes the mobile food sector will continue to grow.
"What food trucks have on their side is that they're extremely nimble, and if they do it right, they have a built-in following through social media," Pappas said. "I think when food trucks start venturing out and serving those suburban areas, people don't have as far to go. Sometimes they're serving business parks that don't have a lot of options for lunch."
In the past year, food trucks hawking Vietnamese fusion cuisine, kebabs and cupcakes have catered to the tenants of the Shadelands business park in Walnut Creek. Likewise, Shivaie wants to bring trucks serving a variety of ethnic fare to the marina.
Food trucks and brick-and-mortar eateries have clashed in some communities where competition for customers can be fierce. But restaurateur Pat English, owner of Main Street favorite Haute Stuff, isn't worried.
"I would not be concerned about that. I don't know why they see this as a viable business venture because there's not really a market down at the marina," English said.
Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder said he's seen a similar change in attitude among downtown merchants who had been leery about food trucks coming to town. And since Ebrahimi's family owns the Copper Skillet restaurant on Ferry Street, Schroder believes the partners have the best interests of the city and other restaurateurs at heart.
"I'm willing to see how it goes," Schroder said. "Plus the success going over in El Cerrito, let's get it going here in central county before Concord gets it."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.