Lunchies 2012

Every year, The Temple News dedicates an issue to appreciate the food trucks and vendors that are a staple of Main Campus culture. Whether it’s the no-name carts that make sure the food speaks for itself, the “Buszes” that are slowly monopolizing Norris Street, or one of the veteran food spots on the 12th Street Food Vendor Pad, there are options for everyone.

In this year’s Lunchies, you will learn about new trucks that have opened in the last year, find out how to eat on any budget and spend a day with the couple that runs the Five Dollar Foot Long truck. Most importantly, once you flip the page you’ll be introduced to the winner of this year’s Lunchies Awards and the rest of the Top 10, which features new trucks that have knocked a few Lunchies regulars off our list this year.

Join The Temple News as it continues to be the eyes, ears and taste buds of the Temple community.

—Luis Fernando Rodriguez, Living Editor

You put them on the map

Dining on any budget

Whether students are scraping by or in the mood to splurge, there’s an option on Main Campus.

Namesake greets customers in more than one way

The large cartoon face of a laughing Vietnamese woman with a red hat is the first thing that greets students at Tai’s Vietnamese Food at the 12th Street Food Pad Vendors.

The cartoon image is in fact a depiction of the restaurant’s namesake, Tai, who greets everyone with the same wide smile as the one in her cartoon – hat included.

This cartoon – as well as the large visual menu and electronic signboard plastered across the front of the vendor  – was implemented just before this semester. This was a pleasant surprise for returning students.

Standing in a crowded line, Dionna Davis, a senior criminal justice major, said she believed the new design was nice.

“I think it attracts more people. I don’t remember it being this crowded before,” Davis said.

Tai reaffirmed this sentiment.

She could not, however, give any details on how much the renovations cost.

“I don’t know, my boss paid,” she said with a laugh.

Robert Schmidt, a senior history major, said he thinks the vendor’s display looks a lot better.

Nearly all the items offered by this popular food stop have been strategically photographed with bamboo place mats and ceramic plates.

“I like that they’ve got better pictures of the food,” Schmidt said. “The menu is generally much easier to deal with.”

This Vietnamese food vendor is one of the only restaurants on 12th Street that has most of its food options featured in photos – a perfect match for the visually inclined.

-Hayon Shin

Rookie trucks put twist on traditional food items

New and soon-to-open trucks make their way into the campus lunch scene.

K-Town Express

If you’re interested in breaking the usual lunchtime routine, look no further than K-Town Express on North 13th Street, across from Barton Hall. Rolling in last April, K-Town has steadily been gathering more attention.

Featuring burritos, wings and tacos, its menu boasts such novelties as kimchi fries, short ribs, potato shrimp and the Korean hoagie creation known as a “koagie.” The concoction is made using chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu, and topped off with a choice of sesame, honey wasabi, ranch or a variety of other sauces.

The food had junior biochemistry major Janette Pham returning for her second visit.

“I realized it was here during my second summer session,” Pham said. “I tried it recently and it was pretty cool.”

Pham brought along her friend, senior chemistry major Linh Duong, who was happy with the first bite of her beef koagie.

“I like it,” Duong said. “It’s new. I like traditional Asian food.”

The girls couldn’t help but be attracted to K-Town’s “poppy,” eye-catching design.

“No truck has images like this,” Pham said, pointing out the colorful display on the truck donned with large pictures of menu items.

“It’s like you can point and say, ‘I want that one,’” Pham added. “It’s a little expensive, but I’ll come around again.”

K-Town hails from Chinatown with two other locations in Cherry Hill and Cinnaminson, N.J. Worker Chris Liao has been impressed with the new Temple spot.

“So far, so good,” Liao said, glancing at the crowd surrounding the truck.

As accessible as it is delicious, K-Town conveniently delivers, caters and has the option to order online.

Say Cheese

Family owned and operated, the Say Cheese food truck, which is occasionally found between 12th and 13th streets off Norris Street, is bringing back childhood memories to many students. Serving up its second year at Temple, its comfort food menu is a haven for grilled cheese lovers. The “standard issue” sandwich is comprised of three slices of bread, two types of cheese, two vegetables and a sauce with the option of adding bacon. For those with smaller appetites, the $4 “recruit” sandwich only takes the normal two slices with one choice of cheese, one veggie and a sauce. Described by critics as “comfort food at its best,” the truck lists gourmet sandwiches for $6, like the spicy, chip steak sandwich called the “El Duke,” the grilled buffalo chicken sensation known as the “Wild Bill” and the classic Mary D, made with provolone, parmesan, marinara sauce and meatballs. Sides include the soup du jour, french fries and sweet potato fries. Compared to the usual meal combo, Say Cheese is a real bargain – adding chips and a 12-ounce soda tacks on 75 cents to any menu item.

Cookie Confidential

Watch your back, Insomnia Cookies, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sitting on 12th Street between Norris and Berks streets, Cookie Confidential is a local and organic cookie food truck that caters to a very unusual variety of tastes.

Taking the tail end in the line of seasoned Polett Walk trucks last April, Cookie Confidential sells such audacious flavors as peanut butter hot dog, cheesesteak, chipotle chocolate chip, peanut butter bacon, bacon chocolate chip and maple bacon oatmeal. While appealing to some very strange tastes, the truck also offers classics like snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, ginger snaps and sugar cookies.

“Well, I wouldn’t have any of those flavors,” said freshman Valeria Chernaya, gesturing to the list of unusual cookies. “But I’d probably try the normal ones.”

Apart from the alarming menu, Cookie Confidential has some killer prices. Cookies only sell for 95 cents each – $5.50 for a half-dozen and $10 per dozen. It also has such yummy creations as cupcake push-pops for $3 and cupcake jars for $3.50-$5.50. The prices just edge out Insomnia Cookies, but Cookie Confidential’s hours don’t honor the plethora of Temple night owls. It remains to be seen whether its expansive menu will give Insomnia a run for its money or send customers running in the other direction.

Wingo Taco

There’s been a buzz around Main Campus about the not-yet-opened food truck, Wingo Taco, located on the corner of 13th and Norris streets. With only whispers of rumors about when the truck will open, its website plays coy, displaying only the Wingo Taco logo and the epic promise of “coming soon.” The menu displayed on the side of the truck looks promising with items such as tacos and burritos, accompanied by Korean-style garnishes of kimchi, sesame slaw and kimchi fried rice or Mexican-style garnishes of rice, tomato salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream or corn salsa. With sides of crab sticks, scallops and potato wedges, its featured advertisement for Korean fried chicken with soy, garlic or spicy sauce is a teasing temptation for the puzzled students.

“I’ve been curious,” said junior journalism major Justin Wagner, while ordering from the nearby Burger and Cheese Busz.

“I walk by every day and wonder when they’re opening,” he said. “I think they’re slowly working on it, though – there have been some changes.”

Only time will tell what to expect from Wingo Taco. The only precursor we can give to eager Lunchies readers is that it’s coming soon. We hope.

Jessica Smith can be reached at

Nardolilli: Couple serves up low prices and personality

Guest columnist spends a day aboard the Five Dollar Foot Long Truck.

Annie NardolilliYou should have been here earlier! The construction workers were some comedians today.”

As I stepped into the Five Dollar Foot Long truck, located at 12th and Norris streets, this was how I was greeted by the two people inside. Sylvia Ndreu, wearing a Temple basketball T-shirt, worked at the front window handling the orders. Billy Ndreu, the chef, unpacked a box of eggs.

“The construction workers earlier this morning were a riot,” Sylvia said. “I told them they should hang around until you get here!”

As I looked around, it was immediately apparent that the couple takes particular care of their food truck.

“Food safety is our No. 1 concern,” Sylvia said.

Each morning they meticulously check the temperatures on all of their appliances to ensure they’re up to the standard. The vending machine must be below 40 degrees, the steam table above 155 degrees.

“All of the machines have to be bleached down daily,” Sylvia said. “It takes time, but it’s worth it.”

As Billy stepped outside to move the couple’s pick-up truck to a closer spot, Sylvia stepped in his place to prepare an order — a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a Kaiser roll. As the bacon sizzled on the griddle, she told me it came from a farm in Haddonfield, N.J.

“Everything is fresh,” she said. “We get the freshest bread, freshest produce — all from Jersey.”

“We know it tastes better, and the kids keep coming back,” Sylvia added.

Billy came back into the truck to finish the sandwich Sylvia started to make.

“Billy used to be a gourmet chef,” Sylvia said.

I asked him why he left, and he said that the catering business just wasn’t fruitful anymore.

“Our landlord decided to hike our rent, so we decided to try a food truck,” Sylvia said. “It’s only five days a week. It’s perfect.”

As the two shared a brief conversation, I began to realize that a few of the words they were using were not in English. I asked them what they were speaking, and Sylvia told me it was Albanian.

“I was born in Albania, but I came here when I was 6 months old and I haven’t gone back,” she said. “Billy’s from Naples.”

As an Italian minor, I was immediately intrigued.

“Naples?” I asked.

“Yes,” Billy said. “In 1958, I caught the very last boat to Ellis Island. No joke, the very last one.”

Living only a few feet away from the streets where the famous Feast of San Gennaro is held, it was in New York City that Billy learned to cook from a Neapolitan woman named Anna.

“She taught me everything,” he said.

Billy showed me a box of his chicken tenders — not pre-packaged from a factory, but individually hand cut and breaded by him.

“People from other trucks are always trying to get a peek at how he does it,” Sylvia said.

Besides being known for its good prices and good food, Sylvia and Billy’s truck is known for something special — their interaction. Part loving couple, part irritated friends — any given conversation between the two of them can go from complimentary to downright petulant in a matter of seconds.

The pair met in New York City 30 years ago, and have been together  since.

“That’s what happens when you sneak out to the club when you’re underage,” Sylvia said. “I say we’ve been married for 60 years because we work together. It’s like overtime.”

As one kid stepped up to the window to pay for a sandwich, he asked Sylvia whether they take debit cards or Diamond Dollars.

“Sorry sweetheart,” she said. “We don’t take either of them.”

Realizing he had no cash to pay for the sandwich that was just made, Sylvia told him not to worry.

“If you don’t have it, dear, I’ll just put your name down,” she said.

He thanked her and walked away with his breakfast.

I told her that was an awful lot of trust to put on a college kid.

“Yeah, but what are you going to do?” she said. “Should we let a kid starve? Ninety-nine percent of the time they come back, and they appreciate what you do for them.”

As she looked out the window at a crowd of students, it is apparent how much she appreciates Temple folk.

“My regulars, I can tell when they’ve just gotten a bad grade on a test or something, but I tell them they’ll get it next time,” Sylvia said. “They always do.”

One man came up to the window and before saying anything, Sylvia called out an order, “Ham and cheese, no ketchup.”

The man smiled and walked away.

Sylvia shook her head like a knowing mother.

“He gets it every time,” she said.

It’s apparent that the operation has devoted fans. I asked Billy what his secret is, and he told me, “It’s all in the hands. You can give two pizza guys the same ingredients and the pizza will come out different. It’s all about who’s making it. I think these Temple folks like us just like we like them, you know? We care.”

Suddenly, Sylvia got excited. “Ah, here comes one again! How you doing, dear?”

As I looked out the window, I saw it was one of the construction workers Sylvia had mentioned earlier. While chatting, Sylvia made him a cup of coffee.

I asked the gentleman why he keeps coming back to the truck.

“That’s easy,” he said. Sylvia hands him the fresh coffee, and he takes a sip. “They make it just like I would make it.”

Annie Nardolilli can be reached at

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