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Food Carts and Trucks


jogoode
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I'm researching a story on food carts and trucks on or near college campuses around the country, trying to find carts serving food that is appropriate for the location. That is, are there food carts in UC Berkley selling veggies burgers? Are there carts in Sheboygan selling bratwurst? In Maine selling fried clam rolls? But the location-appropriateness doesn't have to be so obvious. In New Jersey, for instance, there are the infamous grease trucks, which may or may not still be operating. Very Jersey.

In Gourmet, the Sterns wrote about Hot Truck, Cornell's most famous food truck. The universities in and near Philadelphia seem to be blessed with the most numerous and diverse food carts: Check out this thread.

Were there food trucks where you went to school?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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There are at least three food trucks parked on University Avenue on the University of Vermont central campus: Pam's Deli, Blondini's (burgers) and Ahli Baba's. The most fitting for the campus, home of Phish fans and white kids in dreadlocks, is Ahli Baba's, which serves felafel and hefty vegetarian options.

A hotdog cart and a Chinese food vendor occasionally appear, too.

The most fitting for Vermont is Pam's Deli, since every other business in the state has "...and Deli" attached to its name.

The controversy is, if the university takes over the avenue from the town of Burlington according to plan, will the vendors be allowed to stay, or will Sodexho's contract forbid that? Stay tuned.

Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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Were there food trucks where you went to school?

Definitely not but perhaps that has changed? You... of all people Jo - may be able to answer that one. But what the heck would a truck serve to Vassar students?

I don't think Syracuse University has any food trucks but the density of food offerings at the edge of campus on Marshall Street pretty much takes care of that need. Cornell's Hot Truck has always gotten press but they never seem to mention Louie's Lunch Truck, a good and greasy institution. It was there when I worked at Cornell back in the early 90's and is still open.

The newest "truck" option at Cornell is the new Gimme Coffee Espresso Bar Trailer outside of Mann library. Very cool. I wish they'd had it when I was on campus every day!

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The most fitting for Vermont is Pam's Deli, since every other business in the state has "...and Deli" attached to its name.

:laugh: Is that true? Too funny!

Were there food trucks where you went to school?

Definitely not but perhaps that has changed? You... of all people Jo - may be able to answer that one. But what the heck would a truck serve to Vassar students?

Vegetarian and vegan stuff produced by farmers whose ingredients are organic, and whose clothing is made with organic wool or cotton by union workers. :wink:

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Here are some pictures of various food trucks around MIT, including one of the falafel truck that was somewhat famous around those parts in the late 70s/early 80s.

https://alum.mit.edu/postcards/ViewCollection.dyn?id=2

Here's some news about the falafel truck from 1998:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1998/moishe-1104.html

More interesting stuff about food trucks around MIT:

http://www-tech.mit.edu/V121/N17/17food.17n.html

http://www-tech.mit.edu/V120/N7/Food_Trucks.7f.html

http://www-tech.mit.edu/V119/N14/Food_Trucks_rev.14a.html

--

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Rutgers University's College Avenue campus (New Brunswick NJ) is famous for its 'Grease Trucks'!!! I'll try to see if I can send you some links, but of late, lots of news has been about RU trying to get the names of some of the sandwiches banned. :hmmm:

Edit: If you google Rutgers grease trucks, you'll get a TON of links!!

Edited by Curlz (log)

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Rutgers University's College Avenue campus (New Brunswick NJ) is famous for its 'Grease Trucks'!!!  I'll try to see if I can send you some links, but of late, lots of news has been about RU trying to get the names of some of the sandwiches banned.   :hmmm:

Edit:  If you google Rutgers grease trucks, you'll get a TON of links!!

We even have a thread about them. (Some of those names should definitely be banned.)

This story says that some of the trucks were shut down for health violations.

I'll admit to eating a couple of these sandwiches a few years back. A very guilty late-night pleasure: a bacon cheeseburger topped with fried, onion rings and mozzarella stick. :wacko:

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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There are at least three food trucks parked on University Avenue on the University of Vermont central campus: Pam's Deli, Blondini's (burgers) and Ahli Baba's. The most fitting for the campus, home of Phish fans and white kids in dreadlocks, is Ahli Baba's, which serves felafel and hefty vegetarian options.

I'm UVM class of '91, and I remember when I went to visit UVM as a prospective student (that must have been '86) the Pam's Deli truck was celebrating its 10th year in business. It must be almost 30 years now that Pam's has been doing business there. So it certainly qualifies as a part of the UVM campus culture. Over the course of four years, I probably ate my weight in Pam's food several times over, although I favored the now-defunct Monty's burrito truck. But JJ, unless you're hoping for a truck that serves cheddar cheese topped with Ben & Jerry's ice cream and maple syrup, or New England boiled dinner in a cup, or fresh lamprey eels from Lake Champlain, I'm not sure there is any true locally appropriate lunch-truck food to latch on to. I guess the Phish/Ben-and-Jerry's metaphor can be extended to cover anything containing alfalfa sprouts or marijuana, but I'm not sure that makes for local cuisine.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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(Some of those names should definitely be banned.)

I don't get it. I did a google search, and the only vaguely offensive name I could find was the Fat Bitch, and even that is only offensive in a minor way unless you are overly sensitive. Where are the really bad ones?

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

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Hot Truck was definitely a favorite when I was an undergrad, although we're having them for our 10th reunion this summer, and I'm not sure I'll be able to scarf down a WGC like I did in the old days.

There are a bunch of food carts on Library Mall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I remember Thai and Jamaican food, although I think there were others as well. Evidently there is a very heated debate about late-night carts in more residential areas near campus.

allison

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I guess the Phish/Ben-and-Jerry's metaphor can be extended to cover anything containing alfalfa sprouts or marijuana, but I'm not sure that makes for local cuisine.

I'm not necessarily looking for local cuisine -- though I'd love to find a truck selling po' boys and boudin at Tulane. I'm looking for any notable food trucks, and especially those whose food is connected in some way to the culture of the college or the culture of the state that the college is located in -- is it likely that Grease Trucks would exist anywhere but NJ? I don't think it's too much to ask for a brat cart in Sheboygan! Actually, I'm surprised Ben & Jerry's doesn't have carts on UVM's campus.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I'm not necessarily looking for local cuisine -- though I'd love to find a truck selling po' boys and boudin at Tulane. I'm looking for any notable food trucks, and especially those whose food is connected in some way to the culture of the college or the culture of the state that the college is located in -- is it likely that Grease Trucks would exist anywhere but NJ? I don't think it's too much to ask for a brat cart in Sheboygan! Actually, I'm surprised Ben & Jerry's doesn't have carts on UVM's campus.

most of the food trucks at penn, here in philadelphia, sell cheesesteaks of some sort or another. the quality varies, as you might imagine.

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I'm not necessarily looking for local cuisine -- though I'd love to find a truck selling po' boys and boudin at Tulane. I'm looking for any notable food trucks, and especially those whose food is connected in some way to the culture of the college or the culture of the state that the college is located in -- is it likely that Grease Trucks would exist anywhere but NJ? I don't think it's too much to ask for a brat cart in Sheboygan! Actually, I'm surprised Ben & Jerry's doesn't have carts on UVM's campus.

most of the food trucks at penn, here in philadelphia, sell cheesesteaks of some sort or another. the quality varies, as you might imagine.

It seems to me like the offerings at Penn and other Philly schools go beyond cheesesteaks. It's the most diverse food trucks presence I've come upon.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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In SoCal c. mid-70s, given the rampant car culture, food didn't come to campus, we drove to it -- to Drive-Ins -- but I guess that is not the focus of your research.

Oh, J[esus]. You may be omnipotent, but you are SO naive!

- From the South Park Mexican Starring Frog from South Sri Lanka episode

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most of the food trucks here on the university of toronto campus are chinese ("wokking on wheels" etc), where the primary food ingredient appears to be grease. there are also a couple of hot dog tents and a few coffee & donut trucks. nothing particularily notable though

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Hmmmm....well there are Mexican foodtrucks at the FDIC construction site next to the GMU Grad and Law Schools in Arlington, VA. Does that count? heh. Its odd, actually, sometimes there are three of those trucks, sometimes one, sometimes none. And when I do see them, they are usually serving the constructing workers lunch at 10am. I think they follow each other to the various construction sites around here.

I did try the tamales at one twice, but it turned out to be some sort of greasy cornbread. I liked it. :)

-Jason

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most of the food trucks here on the university of toronto campus are chinese ("wokking on wheels" etc), where the primary food ingredient appears to be grease. there are also a couple of hot dog tents and a few coffee & donut trucks. nothing particularily notable though

I'm sorry, but I forget whether Toronto is the Canadian city known for its excellent Chinese food. If it is, then these trucks might be significant, because I haven't come across any other Chinese food trucks near campuses in my search.

Hmmmm....well there are Mexican foodtrucks at the FDIC construction site next to the GMU Grad and Law Schools in Arlington, VA. Does that count?  heh.  Its odd, actually, sometimes there are three of those trucks, sometimes one, sometimes none. And when I do see them, they are usually serving the constructing workers lunch at 10am. I think they follow each other to the various construction sites around here.

Not exactly what I'm looking for but interesting nonetheless. If construction at GMU takes as long as it does at Vassar, where I went to college, then they'll be around until the class of 2030 graduates. Perhaps college students will develop a taste for the trucks and they'll stick around campus instead of haunting construction sites.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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most of the food trucks here on the university of toronto campus are chinese ("wokking on wheels" etc), where the primary food ingredient appears to be grease. there are also a couple of hot dog tents and a few coffee & donut trucks. nothing particularily notable though

I'm sorry, but I forget whether Toronto is the Canadian city known for its excellent Chinese food. If it is, then these trucks might be significant, because I haven't come across any other Chinese food trucks near campuses in my search.

FWIW, one of the food trucks I mentioned in my previous post as adjacent the Harvard campus reportedly serves Chinese food. Boston does have a small but active Chinatown, but I'm aware of no great regional significance of the Chinese food truck. One of the other trucks, though, does serve subs and pizza and lasagna, which *possibly* could be an influence of Boston's North End/Italian population, I dunno ...

Edited by mizducky (log)
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I know you saw the Philadelphia thread already, but I figured I'd throw in my two cents as a current Penn student. We really do have a lot of food trucks -- including Chinese, so Toronto wouldn't be unique in that respect. I think Berkeley also has numerous Chinese food trucks.

What's on Penn's campus? My favorite* are:

- Greek Lady: The owners are Greek, but most of their food isn't. There's the original small cart which serves mostly hoagies (Italian, tuna salad, chicken salad, etc.); around 2002 they opened up a larger truck that served souvlaki and gyros off of a spit, plus other hot items like cheesesteaks. Now they actually have a restaurant (still on campus) serving basically the same stuff as the big truck. See www.greeklady.com for the menu. The original cart is still around, though I haven't seen the other truck in a while -- probably because the restaurant takes a lot of work to run. They make a good cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak, and cheesesteak hoagie (god, I hate to think how many calories are in those things).

- KoJA: Bulgogi, "teriyaki", etc. served out of a truck. Nice sticky white rice, deep fried "dumplings" (I think they come from Wal-mart), and two very nice Korean men running the place. They stuff large styrofoam clamshell containers with rice and bulgogi for $5.50.

- Yue Kee: Probably has the most disreputable appearance of all the trucks on campus, and service is extremely slow (you can call ahead to place an order, but it'll still take half an hour to get your food ready) but it's the best Chinese truck...

- The Original Le An: I think I'm misspelling this since I haven't eaten there in over a year. While they claim to make Chinese food, you're better off going with Vietnamese stuff (a decent pho, chive dumplings, sweet rice in a bamboo shoot for dessert, bubble tea)... The "Real" Le An is across the street, so it can be confusing. I think one of our local papers did a story last year about the difference between the two carts.

- The fruit salad ladies: There are probably four or five of these carts within a five-block radius of each other. The basic fruit salad is a clear plastic clamshell container with slices of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, grapes (red and green seedless), navel oranges, pineapple, mango, kiwi, and either strawberries or cherries. Excellent when most of this fruit is in season, and still pretty good even in the middle of winter. $2.00 for a small, $2.50 for a medium (16 oz?), $3 or $4 for a large.

- Bui's: I feel like they're a campus institution. You can technically get cheesesteaks, hoagies etc. here, as at many other trucks (as mrbigjas mentioned), but people come in droves for the egg sandwiches, especially on weekend mornings (well, really more like noon or 1PM, but that's "morning" for a lot of people). It's basically two eggs on an Amoroso roll, with cheese (always white American) if you want it, any kind of breakfast meat you might want, and "salpeppakechup?", the trademark line of the people at Bui's, who are extraordinarily nice as well. You can try to make a sandwich that's vaguely healthy here by ordering egg whites with fresh tomatoes on a roll. And I think it's impossible to spend more than $4.00 on a sandwich here, no matter how much junk you load it up with. A standard egg and cheese runs you $2.00.

There's also Magic Carpet (for vegetarian items, like falafel and spinach pie), Hemo's (for grilled chicken sandwiches that are good when you add spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, and "Hemo sauce" -- really just like a runny Dijon), MexiCali, Indian trucks, crepe trucks, various hoagie trucks where you can always get a hot dog, meatball sub, cheesesteak, etc., other Chinese trucks...the list goes on and on. Most undergraduates seem to live off of food trucks (which makes sense, given that a meal in the dining halls costs something like $10 or more). There are also several interesting food trucks near Drexel that I haven't had a chance to try yet -- soul food, barbeque, and Jamaican stuff. :smile:

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When I was in college at Carnegie Mellon, the food trucks seemed to be mostly indian food. Makes some sense, there's a significant Indian population in Pittsburgh, especially around the universities and hospitals. The two that stand out are Sree's at CMU, with vegan south Indian food; and Kashmiri at the University of Pittsburgh, probably the best street food in the city. The local newsweekly had an article about campus street food 1-2 years ago, but it's not available on their website anymore.

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