Food Trucks Serve Up Alternative Dining Options at UVa

Students at the University of Virginia have more options for lunch. Food trucks selling a variety of offerings are now doing business in the area of the university's amphitheater. Credit: Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

By  Ted Strong | The Daily Progress

Students at the University of Virginia have more options for lunch. Food trucks selling a variety of offerings are now doing business in the area of the university's amphitheater. Credit: Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

Food trucks, already gone from on-the-fly hotdog-slingers to civic status symbols in foodie-packed cities around the country, are once again breaking new ground.

The latest frontier: the University of Virginia.

Campus officials are allowing the trucks on Grounds — in the amphitheater to be exact — for a yearlong trial intended to alleviate pressure on dining facilities in Newcomb Hall while the building is renovated.

“I like the idea,” said Nik Philipsen, a second-year from Richmond. “And I’m mostly just happy that Virginia Dining is trying something innovative.”

Students cited novelty and convenience as factors in favor of the trucks, which offer food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Friday.

The initial six carts include two UVa Dining offerings — Steak Me Home Tonight (cheesesteaks, etc.) and Ka-Pow (noodle bowls, quesadillas) — as well as four independent offerings. Those are Carpe Donut (doughnuts, etc.), Last Call Dogs (hotdogs, barbeque), Nacho Panda (Asian-fusion) and Got Dumplings.

The trucks pay a commission in exchange for being allowed to participate, and will accept plus dollars (flexible spending dollars from student dining accounts) and Cavalier Advantage (a student spending account that can also be used for things such as laundry and printing), as well as cash and cards, said Brent Beringer, director of dining at UVa for Aramark.

There could be changes in the lineup as the year goes on, and officials are looking at the possibility of adding guest carts from time to time, he said.

Officials worked with truck owners to make sure they met standards for everything from fire safety to truck weight (there are steam tunnels below), Beringer said.

Last Call Dogs is owned by Joseph Mills, who also owns the Wahooptie taxi service. And he’s in a partnership with The Box on one of the other trucks in the amphitheater, Nacho Panda, the Asian-fusion taco truck.

Mills said he likes working with food trucks because they offer low initial investment, low overhead and lots of interaction with people.

One of the big draws was the exposure the amphitheater offers, Mills said, allowing him to show off his distinctive, brightly painted food trucks to students.

Ben Travis, a fourth-year from Williamsburg, prowled the food trucks for a while before settling on a quesadilla from Ka-Pow, one of the UVa dining-run trucks, as his first meal from the new setup Thursday.

The verdict: “It’s good. It’s a little expensive.”

Menu price for a Korean barbecue quesadilla was $6.79.

Travis said he expects the amphitheater will be a particularly nice place to eat once the weather cools down.

He said he’d come back and try the trucks out at least once more, if only to sample a dumpling truck that was doing booming business.

“I think I’m going to have to hit that one up at least once,” he said.

Irene Vieth, a first-year from Louisville, Ky., was drawn to the trucks by the convenience, she said. Also, she heard the dumplings were really good.

“And they are,” she said.

http://www2.dailyprogress.com/news/2011/aug/28/food-trucks-serve-alternative-dining-options-uva-ar-1268530/