Yumtown USA rolled into Main Campus last fall and its owners have pledged their dedication to buying locally produced goods.
Tomatoes lead a hard life. Aside from a fruit-or-vegetable identity crisis, tomatoes are one of the many products that can grow locally, but instead import from Florida, Mexico and elsewhere.
Several years ago, America’s eaters jumped on the organic bandwagon in an attempt to stop the farm industry from spraying harmful pesticides on its produce, growing with antibiotics and irradiation and genetically modifying. The organic fad is still vibrant today, but is losing followers quickly to a new trend in farming: local.
In its most basic form, the local food movement promotes purchasing produce grown within the area, so as to support regional farmers, discourage trans- or international food shipping and encourage eating only what is in-season.
While the local movement is well-developed in the city, from farm-to-table restaurants, regular farmer’s markets and the rising popularity of food cooperatives, it’s only been within the last year that Main Campus has witnessed the arrival of several locally-minded food trucks and eateries. And students are taking notice.
Andrew Tantisunthorn, co-owner of Yumtown USA, said the local food movement is very important to him and his co-owner, Lanie Belmont.
“I think it’s important to support smaller farms, to support people who are doing their best to figure out what their impact is, and how they’re then able to improve farming practices,” Tantisunthorn said.
“I think in general, people have grown out of touch with how they get their food,” he added.
Yumtown, the brightly painted lunch truck often found at the corner of Norris and 13th streets, features an entire menu of locally grown produce and raised meats.
Menu items include The Joy, a hoagie filled with beer-braised pulled pork, pickled jalapenos, red cabbage slaw, cilantro lime mayo and spicy barbecue sauce, and the Edgar Allen Potato, a sandwich of roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, hummus, cheddar cheese, tempeh, spinach and Sriracha sauce on a baguette. The truck also features a daily soup and bread, various empanadas and cookies for sale.
Compared to many of Main Campus’ lunch trucks, Yumtown tends to stand out, not only for its dedication to locally grown food, but also for its unconventional menu items.
“Temple seemed like an open market,” Belmont said.
“We didn’t really see anybody else serving the kind of quality and the eclectic flavors that we do,” Tantisunthorn said. “And we didn’t see anybody up on the local or organic bent at all. It seemed like there’s a lot of the same up here.”
With an overwhelming array of french fries, cheesesteaks and a variety of pizza flavors, the trucks of Main Campus often have a difficult time differentiating themselves. In fact, the truck’s former owner was selling deep fried chicken-tender tacos out of his cactus-decorated truck, Burrito Mike’s, located on Drexel’s campus.
“He was selling the worst Mexican ever – white-man Mexican food – to drunk frat boys,” Belmont laughed.
After she and Tantisunthorn bought Burrito Mike’s off Craigslist later last year, the pair fixed up the truck, inside and out.
Now, the pair has dedicated themselves to serving only locally grown fare.
In addition to their hours on Main Campus, Yumtown is expanding to Clark Park, at Baltimore and 43rd streets on Saturdays.
Once the owners phase out the truck’s winter menu, they said the menu will feature more fruits and vegetables.
“We’re going to have lots of salads,” Belmont said. “Basically our menu is going to explode with so many more options.”
“We want to keep a small, thoughtful menu,” she added. “But in spring and summer we’re going to have so many more options so we can change…and create things.”
For a full list of Yumtown’s produce sources, as well as its seasonal menu, locations and contact information, visit yumtownusa.com.
Alexis Sachdev can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.