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February 18, 2016

Food Trucks Serve Up Wheely Good Options

Tucked away on a centralized, gothic campus in our cozy Hyde Park neighborhood, it’s easy to forget we are part of a bustling metropolis. But if there’s one thing on campus that reminds us we get the best of campus life and city life, it’s the food trucks.

Picture it: food trucks humming along the curb, friendly cashiers, lunch-rush crowds clumped on sidewalks, and delicious food in minutes. It’s an economic quirk born of high-rent prices, but still continues to be in high demand.

Luckily, the University of Chicago’s campus boasts a high enough demand that it’s become a popular spot for food trucks (between the hospital, graduate and undergraduate students, and administrators, there are thousands of people looking for lunch every day on campus). It is not uncommon to have half a dozen food truck options lined up.

While the food trucks used to line up along Ellis Avenue, this year’s construction encouraged the bulk of them to park along University Avenue instead, on the east side of the quad (though you’ll still find a few on Ellis or over by the Biological Sciences Learning Center). The options change each day, from cupcakes to Asian-fusion to burgers and milkshakes. The magic of the food trucks is that you never know what to expect.

Two of the best trucks—Caponies Trattoria and Mina’s Mexican Home Cooking—offer fast, good food at reasonable prices. Caponies sells real Italian food in pretty hefty servings. Their calzones and perfectly al dente pasta are a taste of home for anyone who grew up with Italian food. The San Pellegrino is a plus too. Mina’s has good tacos and tamales, as well as Jarritos soda and a smiling face inside the truck. But it’s the big tub of fresh guacamole they sell that really puts them on the map. Share it or don’t, but you won’t regret buying it. Mina’s always wins for value.

Paris Ouh La La, easily recognized by the two pairs of fishnet-clad legs dangling off its roof, is another truck to look out for. Their savory crêpes are always satisfying, though the often-long wait for an order can be off-putting. The Pierogi Street truck, a common campus visitor, offers small but delicious pierogis plus toppings—usually better as a snack than a lunch.

There are some trucks that visit campus less often but are worth dropping any plans to go try: keep your eyes peeled for a sighting of Milt’s Barbeque for the Perplexed, which serves delicious kosher barbeque and poses perplexing questions on the side of the truck.

Go check out the food trucks tomorrow. You never know what you’ll find.

Despite the surprise being half the fun, chicagofoodtruckfinder.com offers a fairly reliable—though not entirely comprehensive—list of the food trucks planning to stop by campus each day in a given week. Following your favorites on Twitter will give you a heads up on when to look for them.

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