Secret box truck festival comes to SF


When I was at Maker Faire New York in September, a stranger asked me to follow him to a parking lot and get into the back of a white truck. I did as he said, and was surprised to see an Asian noodle restaurant inside. There were two rows of seats and tables, menus, a waitress, and a small kitchen with a chef preparing bowls of udon and Hong Kong style noodles.

I sat down, ordered a bowl of ramen and tea, and asked what was going on. They told me that the truck was part of the Lost Horizon Night Market, a loosely organized group of people who rent out 20-30 box trucks every few months and hold a magical event.

Each truck has a different theme. In addition to the restaurant truck, there has been a rocking chair truck, a shooting gallery truck, a Japanese soaking bath truck, a dancing truck, and a stripper truck (I'll save you a Google search; here's a photo).

The Lost Horizon has been branching out of New York, and recently celebrated in San Francisco. Todd Lappin of Telstar Logistics went and took some excellent photos. He writes:

Here's an unusual formula for a very unique night in the Big City:

25 Cargo Trucks + 200 Amateur Artists + (Burning Man - RV Park) + Foggy Darkness + An Industrial Part of Town = Box Truck Night Market

Got that?

If math class is too hard, here's the version for poets: Last weekend in San Francisco, an unusual event took place. On the city's southern waterfront, a colorful collective of interactive artists amassed a fleet of 25+ box trucks, ranging from small step vans, to medium-duty rental trucks, to a 53' freight trailer. For four hours on a misty winter night, each box truck was transformed into an elaborate event space.

A Box Truck Is Just a Room on Wheels: Scenes from San Francisco's (Secret) Lost Horizon Night Market

UPDATE: See also Jessica Bruder's article, which appeared on Laughing Squid.


  1. Is there a mirror you get to fall into and have to resist Tom Waits on the other side before you can come back?

  2. I there used to be some artists doing a similar thing in Santa Fe, with multiple rental trucks used to host a temporary festival of art installations and performances. I was in town once when it went down and it was super fun. If I recall they would move the trucks around over the course of the weekend to different arts venues.

    1. Awesome. And props for the props, the Letterman jacket is perfect and there’s a certain interesting beauty to the same sweater being worn by so many people differently.

  3. I was at the first instance of the noodle truck at Burning Man Decom 2008 in New York. A friend was associated with the purveyor of said noodle truck and told me to just go THAT WAY and keep walking into a darkened parking lot. I found these two trucks in a T with the back of one of the trucks opened up along the side of the other. I climbed between these two trucks and into the noodle/soup truck. We were handed laminated menus with dry erase markers and told to check off what we wanted in our soup. He came back in the next round and picked up all our menus and in mere minutes, custom miso soupy bliss! It was pretty fucking amazing to have real, good food thoughtfully prepared at what amounted to a large art infused dance party.

    The guy was super cool and told me and my friends that he was working on this idea where he’d have events all over with a bunch of trucks all offering something for people. It’s very much in the Burning Man spirit where someone is really passionate about one very specific thing and creates an event/sculpture/experience for everyone to share. By itself, it’s a fun treat, on a larger scale, it seems like a pretty great testament to what a small group of people can do for many when they simply share the one thing they really enjoy. There’ve been a couple in NY so far (with some coverage here and there) so it’s cool to see that it’s starting to get going in more cities. Can’t wait for the one in my neck of the woods. :-D

  4. Hi. We’re planning a mobile food festival in Sacramento in April 2010 – a sort of proof-of-concept to help the city council and local restaurateurs (and consumers!) see the utility in relaxing the city’s currently-stiff anti-truck-vending rules.

    I’d love to include a few of these box truck restaurants – if any of you folks can serve as intermediaries, please contact me at Thanks so much!

  5. I might have to change my “follow strangers into the back of a truck in a dark parking lot”-policy.

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