New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers’ Own Food Truck Hits the Streets

Credit Nick Romanenko

By Andrea Alexander |

Credit Nick Romanenko

The food truck craze that fast became the hippest way to grab a gourmet meal or artisanal snack on city streets has found its way to Rutgers.

In February, university dining services unveiled its own food truck, the Knight Wagon, with a menu that is more gastropub than greasy spoon. Students will be able to grab a “twisted gyro burger’’ (ground lamb stuffed with baby spinach and feta on a toasted brioche roll), or a tandoori chicken and grilled shrimp shish kebab wrap, on their way to class.

Rutgers decided to invest in a food truck last summer after hearing how much success the University of Massachusetts had with theirs, said Nicholas Emanuel, assistant director of Rutgers Dining Services.

“This is creative and something different,’’ Emanuel said. “Students can go to the Douglass Café for a hamburger or they can go to the food truck and get a twisted gyro burger. There is nowhere else on campus students can get a sandwich like that.’’

Gourmet food trucks, which offer anything from cupcakes and homemade ice cream to Asian fusion tacos, have exploded in popularity since Kogi Korean BBQ rolled out its trucks on the streets of Los Angeles in 2008.

In the last few years the trend has spilled over onto college campuses, and the growth has happened so fast it’s been hard to track, said Rachel Warner, spokeswoman for the National Association of College and University Food Services.

“The food truck trend at colleges and universities has followed the food truck trend nationwide,’’ Warner said. “It’s taken off so quickly, and colleges are clamoring to jump into it because it’s a nice convenient way for them to serve students on campus.’’

Although exact figures aren’t available, Warner estimates that about 100 food trucks operate on college campuses and the number is growing quickly. More than a dozen opened since the fall.

The 20-foot long scarlet red truck that will make its debut on Wednesday is equipped with a 50-inch screen, a satellite TV and a sound system and is decked out with neon lights. Emanuel said the goal was to create a fun and convenient experience for students.

“I want students to go to the truck and see that it has that wow factor, big shiny rims and the whole thing,’’ he said.

Even with the glitz, the truck cost less than $200,000 and is the fraction of the price of opening a new dining hall, which runs in the tens of millions of dollars, while expanding options to students. The Knight Wagon will accept cash, credit cards and student meal card swipes for the menu items that will range from $3.75 to $6.50.

Students will be able to follow the Rutgers food truck on Facebook and Twitter to track its location daily.  The truck will park at assigned locations on all campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway, off of city streets. Students will be able to stop by the food truck for lunch and dinner at the bus stop off Allison Road on Busch Campus, at the corner of Dudley and Biel roads on Cook, near the student center on College Avenue, across from the Douglass Campus Center and on the Livingston Campus.

The Knight Wagon will be staffed by three cooks and serve an eclectic menu that is more street fare than the food students find in the dining halls. Need a filling meal on the go? Grab the “King’s dinner” (a smoked turkey leg) or the “the bent Excalibur,’’ marinated sirloin grilled to perfection. The food truck will also serve soup, deli sandwiches and chili in a bread bowl.

Emanuel said the Knight Wagon is different from the grease trucks on College Avenue, which are independently owned and operated and do not travel.

“We will serve hot, fresh meals that students can carry and go,’’ Emanuel said. “A lot of students want to get in and get out when they grab food, and I think they are going to enjoy this.’’