Author: Bart Miltenberger, C’97
Since the spring semester ended, an eerie quiet has descended on campus. And, though it’s strange to head down Locust Walk and see only a few summer students around, there are certain aspects of life at Penn that do become a little easier when the students are gone. For me, one of those advantages is short lines at the food trucks.
When I first came to Penn, I was a little skeeved out by the concept of the food truck. Where these things even remotely sanitary? Well, maybe, maybe not. But I can tell you that since my first food truck meal back in 1993, I have probably eaten from food trucks a couple thousand times and never gotten sick once. I absolutely can’t say the same for restaurant eating.
Here are my current top three recommendations in case you happen to be near West Philly any time soon:
Don Memo’s (38th Street just north of Walnut) – corn flour tacos and burritos as big as your forearm. The ingredients are fresh. They cut up the avocado and chop the tomatoes and cilantro right there in front of you while they make your food. It’s not the cheapest truck around, and the workers are fairly slow, but when the lines are short, you can get your order in ten minutes. Much better than the usual 45 minutes during the school year. If students are willing to wait that long with their busy schedules,you know the food is good. In fact, it’s easily one of the best trucks at Penn and probably in the whole city.
Magic Carpet (at the bottom of Locust Walk at 34th and Walnut) – the line for this vegetarian food truck can be 25 or 30 people long during the school year. At lunch today, there were only five or six people in line. The food is prepared fresh every morning at an off-site kitchen. The workers are friendly (one is the owner), and they always play music to listen to while you wait. My favorite dish is the Magic Meatball “meal” which consists of tofu meatballs cooked in a marinara sauce served over mixed rice (brown and long grain) and vegetables. And a nice warm piece of pita bread. It’s delicious, although the garlic and onion content is rather high so when I go home and kiss my wife she always seems to know when I’ve had the Magic Meatball. Even gum doesn’t help. Oh, well. It’s a fair price to pay for a great and healthy meal.
Hemo’s (on Spruce Street just below the 37th Street entrance to the Quad) – this truck mainly features grilled chicken sandwiches served on long hoagie rolls. On the surface, nothing all that special…that is until they top it off with “Hemo Sauce.” My discriminating palate tells me that Hemo Sauce is probably a mix of mayonnaise and a sweet Dijon mustard. That’s it. But somehow, it does make the sandwich taste really good. And Hemo’s also makes a delicious egg and cheese breakfast sandwich too.
Check them out, if you can. Just keep it between us, so we can keep the lines manageable over these next few student-free months.