I’m sure you’ve noticed an abundance of food trucks both on and around Cornell’s campus. My goal is to visit each and to try their most popular item, but in this article I decided to focus on just a few that are more accessible to students. They are listed in the order I ate at them, not based on quality. Each has its own unique culinary point of view and is able to accomplish something the others can’t.
Where: between Sibley Hall and Milstein Hall
When: Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Popular items: Korean bulgogi tacos, Korean rice bowls
The first truck I sampled was Franny’s, which is run by the Statler and located near the Architecture school. It is fairly new, having opened last August, and designed so that Architecture and Art students could quickly grab a bite to eat amidst their hectic schedules. I was welcomed at the order window with a warm smile by a student who described the type of food she served as “Asian-Mexican fusion.” She proceeded to tell me that a new item this semester, the Korean Bulgogi Tacos, currently held the title of most popular. So naturally, I decided to order them.
Let me set the scene: Before me sat three perfectly-sized tacos, each layered with rice, beef spare rib and kimchi, thinly sliced pickles, carrots, cucumber and jicama and garnished with cilantro, all inside a beautiful flour tortilla. “Bulgogi” is a beef marinade in which soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame seeds and sesame oil are combined and allowed to sit with the beef overnight. Franny’s use of this marinade with the ever-so-flavorful beef spare rib made the meat incredibly tender and juicy. As I took my first bite, I realized the brilliance of including rice in the taco: I expected taco juice to gush out everywhere, but the rice had soaked it all up, allowing me eat semi-cleanly. The slight acidity of the vinegar in the rice cut through the fattiness of the beef, while simultaneously bringing out the sweetness of the pickled vegetables. The veggies gave a nice crunch to contrast the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the beef and rice. If you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed these tacos and highly recommend them, along with anything else Franny’s has to offer.
Where: across from Risley Hall
When: Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m.-3:00 a.m., Saturday 12:00 p.m.-3:00 a.m., Sunday 6:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.
Popular items: chicken parm, pizza sub, maven
This truck has been feeding freshman on North Campus since 1918 and is well-known for operating long hours from Monday to Saturday. Because of its hours, Louie’s is one of the more popular places on campus to grab a midnight snack and lines can be seen at any point during the day. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve gone to Louie’s to satisfy a late night french fry or milkshake craving. This truck is also known for having a secret menu featuring options put together by customers. (It’s real, but good luck finding it). I was told their most popular items were the chicken parm, pizza sub or maven. Apparently, the maven started out on the secret menu and was so good that Louie’s decided to move it to the main menu. I clearly had to try it.
It turned out to be a sub sandwich with chicken, lettuce, barbeque sauce and buffalo sauce with spiciness options ranging from PG, R and X to XXX (not for the faint of heart). It isn’t the prettiest thing on the planet, thanks to the sauce stains all over the bun and lettuce oozing out the sides, but just because she isn’t the prettiest girl at the ball doesn’t mean she can’t dance. After being dealt a rather humbling backhand from the buffalo sauce, the sweetness of the barbeque whispered that everything was going to be okay; I call this the “good cop/bad cop” dynamic. The chicken tasted like standard chicken fingers (which I enjoyed) and the lettuce added a little crunch that balanced the ocean of sauces. Everything worked together very nicely and left me with a dangerous craving for more. Though it isn’t the healthiest option, every now and then you need to treat yourself to something different and the bold combination of barbecue and buffalo sauces fits the bill.
Where: the corner of Eddy and Dryden
When: Thursday-Saturday 10:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.
Popular items: Chicki Minaj, steak and mushroom quesadilla
My journey next took me to the streets of Collegetown as I decided to investigate the new Mexican taco truck I had been hearing about. Dos Amigos opened this past August and is open late on weekend nights if you’re craving a late-night snack. It’s a rather large blue truck, with one window for ordering and the other for picking up. One of the students who came up with the idea of the truck told me that he “genuinely missed Mexican food, and … [the] Mexican food here [is] just not as authentic as [he] is used to.” As a result, he and a few friends got together and started Dos Amigos. The student also told me that while the Chicki Minaj was one of the more popular options, he would recommend a steak and mushroom quesadilla for newcomers. I ordered the steak, while my friend ordered the Chicki Minaj.
The first thing I noticed was the perfect handmade tortilla. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, when my abuela would make me tortillas con mantequilla blanca y frijoles refrido.
These tortillas were firm enough to hold the fillings, but also had a whisper of flakiness. The steak was perfectly cooked and added a solid bite, contrasting with the melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms. The soft earthiness of these mushrooms cut the heaviness of the melted cheese and, in turn, brought everything together in its beautiful cheesy glory. Everything worked the way it was supposed to and everything tasted good; but there was something missing — it didn’t quite stand out from all the other steak and mushroom quesadillas I had tried. I then realized I had been given two different salsas: a red one and a green one. I proceeded to dip the quesadilla into the red one and felt like I was biting into a fresh tomato that also tasted like garlic and cilantro. It was a little sweet and there was just enough kick to keep me wanting more. The green one, I learned, was a cilantro and ancho chile pepper salsa. It was just as good as the red, with a little more spice but the same end product: perfection. Both salsas enhanced every aspect of the quesadilla and made my mouth dance with the Cali-Mex flavors.
My friend said her Chicki Manaj was amazing and after a minute or two of silently scarfing down the churros she ordered, she gave me a grunt of approval. The food at Dos Amigos is clearly made with love, making it even more authentic and perfect.
That’s How I Roll
Where: across from Risley Hall (Sunday-Wednesday 11:00 am-9:00 pm),
College Avenue (Thursday-Saturday 5:00 pm-2:00 am)
Popular Items: Spicy Tuna Lover, Out of Control, Fire-Cracker
“The Sushirrito Truck,” as people have been calling it, opened in April and is located next to Louie’s when on North Campus and a little past Insomnia Cookies when in Collegetown. The truck is owned by Woepa Zegid, who used to work as the head sushi chef at Plum Tree in Collegetown. Woepa informed me that he buys his ingredients fresh every morning. While Franny’s combines pan-Asian cuisine with Mexican styles like tacos or quesadillas, That’s How I Roll focuses specifically on sushi made with the aesthetic of a Mexican burrito. In Japan, there is similar item called Temaki: seaweed shaped like an ice cream cone, with the sushi and rice inside. The sushi burrito here is thicker and a lot more filling, allowing for quick lunch between classes. Chef Woepa told me the most popular items are the Spicy Tuna Lover and Out of Control burritos, which have the same filling, but differ between spicy tuna or spicy salmon. It was a tough decision, but I decided to go for the more PG-13 option.
The Spicy Tuna Lover was simple yet satisfying. The perfectly cooked rice, combined with the crunchy seaweed wrap, created the perfect combination of textures. The spicy tuna tasted fresh and the avocado brought out its flavor. The shrimp tempura and kani (fake crab meat) added a nice solid bite, which contrasted with the spicy tuna, avocado and spicy mayo mixture. The fried flavor of the tempura also helped bring out the freshness of the tuna and the slight acidity of the rice cut the fattiness of the avocado. A good sign is when you don’t need soy sauce to eat sushi, and this burrito was more than able to stand on its own.