A student-run burger-and-fries joint is receiving rave reviews in its first year of business.
U got Munchies, a food truck located at 1321 Norris St., was created with a college student’s taste buds in mind, mainly because it was started by a few of them. Munchies Financial Manager Adam Zeserman, a senior accounting major, and Brand Manager Alex Kipphut, a recent alumnus, paired up with two friends, Jim Maropoulos and Rob Altman to contribute to the college-food scene.
“We have fresh and homemade ingredients, large portions, late-night ordering and accept credit cards,” Maropoulos said. “That’s what students want.”
The business originally started in March 2010 as an online late-night snack delivery service.
“We filled a room with boxes of food and just hung out all night waiting for people to order food so we could deliver it to them,” Zeserman said. “We decided that we wanted to incorporate hot food into our business. There are not many late dining options on campus and we wanted to do something different. So, we bought a vending trailer.”
The four friends then spent the summer of 2010 building their kitchen and perfecting recipes. It was not long before they discovered all the trials and tribulations that go into starting a business.
“We didn’t know anything about it before we started,” Maropoulos said. “Everyone told us that there was no way we could build our own kitchen and still pass health inspections, but we did it.”
In fact, the creators of U got Munchies said they are very proud of their self-installed kitchen. It is entirely stainless steel and features a full size deep fryer and flat grill. Food handlers wear plastic gloves at all times.
“We practiced all of our recipes and made our friends taste-test them before bringing them into the truck,” Maropoulos said.
The final products illustrate the owners’ love of home-style food as well as a uniqueness that some say sets their food apart from the average burger and fries sold at other trucks.
“My favorite is the ‘Big Wheezy,’” sophomore architecture major Keegan Smoker, said. “It has mozzarella sticks on a sandwich and that’s awesome.”
In addition to mozzarella sticks, the sandwich comes with steak, grilled chicken breast, provolone cheese and basil marinara.
Munchies’ burgers have also brought the business acclaim. The “Munch” and “TropiCali” burgers won first place in the 2011 Allegheny Burger Festival. The “Munch” burger is topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and french fries, while the “TropiCali” burger features grilled pineapple, jalapenos, onions, pepper jack cheese, barbecue sauce and chipotle mayo.
The truck also specializes in french fries loaded with ingredients college students enjoy, including American cheese and bleu cheese, and loaded baked potato fries, complete with bacon, sour cream, cheddar cheese and chives.
And for sugar fiends looking for a jolt of sweetness, the truck sells dessert fries, coated in cinnamon sugar and served with a vanilla icing dip. Deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried Girl Scout cookies, sold at certain times of the year, also top the truck’s list of desserts.
“I once ate a deep-fried Girl Scout cookie from U got Munchies,” junior music therapy major Kelsey Alvarez, said. “It was delicious, obviously, because how could you go wrong?”
For the one percent of the population who might not find their perfect dish on the menu, U got Munchies even invites customers to build their own sandwich, burger or fries, so that they too can drool with all of their friends as they wait for their food to be cooked.
New items are also making way onto the menu soon, including gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and the “Temple Taco,” a bag of crushed up Doritos with a quarter pound of beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese all poured on top.
The road to creating all of these sweet and savory dishes was not always easy.
“It took a lot of money, a lot of luck and a lot of work,” Zeserman said, who explained that he has spent nearly all of his time juggling classes and work at the truck since it first opened on Main Campus last semester.
“I know that it will pay off in the end though,” Maropoulos said. “All of our customers say that we serve the best food on campus. They say they can’t even find food this good in restaurants.”
The owners are hoping to bring delicious food to even more students, as they plan one day to expand to Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. They are confident that their obsession with fresh and homemade food, as well as their late-night delivery business model, will lead U got Munchies to success.
“No one else does what we do,” Maropoulos said. “Try our food, we would put it up against anyone else’s.”
If interested, order online from ugotmunchies.com.
Amy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.