A beautiful day on Ellis for a food truck lunch. (Photography by Claire Zulkey)
A food truck first-timer
Braving campus parking in order to explore the burgeoning Hyde Park mobile food scene.
Why did I think I’d be able to find a parking spot near campus at lunchtime? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. On a warm day in early October, I promised College web manager Avi Schwab, SB’03, that I’d meet him at 11:45 a.m. near the admin building so that we could eat lunch and talk about his work covering food trucks for the Twitter feed @UChiNOMgo. I gave myself 20 extra minutes to find parking, but ultimately, I needed 30. I was five minutes late, hustling over from 57th, and by the time I met him I was sweating and frantic. Schwab was magnanimous, however, waiting in line for Roost, a fried chicken truck. He suggested that I catch my breath while surveying the options and choosing a truck. What did he recommend that was healthy-ish? I had a long-distance race coming up and didn’t want to stir my stomach with anything too fatty or exciting. Pizza was probably out, as was barbecue. “Do you believe that the longer the line, the better the food?” I asked. “Definitely,” he said, so I picked Haute & Ready, a new truck. Waiting in line, I finally began to relax. It was a beautiful, sunny fall day, and the enticing meaty steam from the trucks wafted up and highlighted the sunbeams that filtered through the trees on Ellis. The order taker seemed to remember the name of the guy in front of me from a previous visit. I ordered a Mediterranean chicken pita sandwich and tipped $2 on my $10 lunch. “Thanks,” said the food truck guy. “We really appreciate it.” He really seemed to.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1125","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"257","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"460"}}]] One meal; two sandwiches. (Photography by Claire Zulkey)
Finally Schwab and I sat down on a nearby stone bench and swapped halves of our sandwiches, so he got some of my chicken/vegetable/hummus/feta sandwich (which, while perhaps not necessarily mind-blowing, was flavorful and substantive enough that I didn’t feel deprived), and I tried one of his jealousy-inducing fried chicken tacos with a spicy, creamy sauce (probably slightly less healthy but topped with some sort of slaw so ... kind of healthy?). We talked about his work on the Twitter feed and at the University, and he revealed his favorite food truck entrées. The minutes flew by and in a panic I realized that I had gone over my parking time. I speed walked back to 57th Street, where I saw a parking attendant standing near my car. “I’m here!” I called, and he merely looked at me. I couldn’t decide whether it was better to beg for forgiveness or simply drive off and hope that I’d escape. I chose the latter, peeling off and heading home. (Note: thanks to technology, this is not an effective way of dodging a ticket.) Fortunately, our offices have since moved down to 53rd Street, so for my next food truck excursion, I won’t have to find parking, which means I’ll have time for dessert.