Food Truck Festival

Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER
Richard Lin/HIGHLANDER

With spring quarter in full swing, everything is on a roll — including lunch options. There wasn’t an open spot around the Bell Tower last Wednesday, April 16, as UCR hosted the second annual Food Truck Festival. Some of the veteran food trucks got comfortable at their regular spots outside the Rivera library. Students got reacquainted with the classics of Rice and Fire Balls, Baconmania, Meat the Greek, Waff-N-Roll and (one that never fails to please) Potato Tornado; all who have graced R’side with their presence in the past from last year’s festival or other various events. But they all made room for the newbies as Yalla Truck, Game On Gourmet, Farmer’s Belly and many more nestled between them. Students either watched the crowd mosey from truck to truck or cleared their schedules to experience the body-to-body movement as they waited for anything other than Panda Express.

Waiting in line for food or an opening attraction? Guests pondered the question as they skimmed (and eventually memorized) the menus that hung outside the food trucks. Since the Food Truck Festival started as an accessory to the traditional Nooner, this year did the festival justice. Twice as big as last year, hungry guests were treated to twice as big of a show by special guest and recording artist, T. R@bb. T. R@bb spat his rhymes to the infectious beats that had anyone who could keep a beat moving. Clubs and organizations tabled around the performance and got into the show as some even broke out the rave whistle, which got everyone pumped. Dancers and eaters were found in every corner.

Waff-N-Roll provided shade for the determined guests who waited for the “world’s best waffle sandwiches.” Some didn’t know if waffle sandwiches even existed and others were regulars to the unique treat. Amanda Bigart and Spencer Saks, first- and second-year political science majors, enjoyed the pulled pork and fried chicken sandwiches after the 40-minute wait for around $8.50 each. Even though they sound like questionable choices, both said the price and wait was totally worth it. Both students seemed like waffle sandwich vets, but this was their first time participating in the Food Truck Festival and would like to see it happen even more often.

Many agreed on wanting the festival to occur more often. The recurring thought filtered through the buzzing crowd outside every food truck. Many suggested having the event quarterly rather than annually. Even though a quarterly festival wouldn’t be the show-stopping event that calls for roaming police like this one did, it would definitely provide the extra chance to try something new.

Fourth-year psychology major Lauren Torres had the thought while waiting for her lobster burrito from the Japanese fusion truck “Let’s Roll It.” The self-described “not so sushi” truck served up unique and tempting orders such as its Bulgogi Quesadilla (a type of Korean BBQ) and Sweet Lobster Pocket with prices from $6.00 to $7.00. “We’re so used to, like, Panda … it’s nice to try something different and multiple things that are different,” Lauren explained. Something that offers more food options and accessibility may be something everyone is in favor of; many grew impatient as orders went in but many hesitated to come out of line. This affected third-year history student Deanne Elliot, as her stomach mimicked the sound of a dying whale while waiting in the blazing sun for her turkey sandwich from Game On Gourmet. She counted down to her next class with the 20-minute expected wait time just for the sandwich. Thirty minutes later, no Deanne and no sandwich. When she eventually got it after her lecture, she explained it was pretty good “despite being cold. The jicama and onions are pickled so that’s different and interesting.”

As the crowd grew restless, picking a truck was then determined by the length of the line. However, lines were a bit deceiving. The Game On Gourmet, for example, got through its line like a turnstile, showing off the special of the day: Corned Beef Brisket Grilled Cheese. With the news that they stopped serving the special shortly after they opened up shop, the next-most popular item was the pulled pork sandwich. John Garcia, psychology fourth-year, ordered the sandwich and said the coleslaw “is the part that impressed me. Pulled pork is pulled pork … but I normally don’t like coleslaw so enjoying that was interesting.”

And with that, I joined armed students in the quest for something new. I ordered the pulled pork the other student talked about to see if the fuji apple slaw was worth it. After 40 minutes of sore feet and sizzling cheeks, my name was called to receive something closer to a sloppy joe than a $13.00 sandwich. With a glance, I noticed it seemed to have missed one key aspect: the freaking slaw. I asked, for good measure, if it was indeed missing. The cook flicked the top bun off and toyed with the makeshift patty to make sure I wasn’t ripping off any apples. “Oh my bad,” she giggled, “it’s just running around crazy back here.” She plopped the slaw on top and replaced the bun and left me meandering through the rest of the crowd. If it wasn’t for the refreshing crisp of the apples, it would be just a sloppy joe. The line may be something to consider when making a decision. Don’t be shocked with the prices and outcome.

Some trucks could not face UCR’s heat as some trucks closed a little bit sooner than hoped. Cupcake Bar moved the line along rather quickly as it popped out its $3.00 treats like bubble wrap. But the five-option selection ran out a little too fast and had its doors close only an hour and a half into it. One truck that could have taken all of those guests shuffling away from the closed trucks was Rolling Sushi Van. From beginning to end, the truck, which looked more like the Red Cross van parked outside Olmsted, only saw students pass it right by, taunting it while they enjoyed the grilled cheese from its neighbor — Grilled Cheese.

Food truck connoisseur and third-year biochemistry student Karen Huynh waited in line for Rice Balls of Fire, as the hot wings and boba were her favorite out of all the food trucks she had tried at the festival (which was almost all 20 trucks parked). She explained how the elevated prices for the food are “worth it because they are always on the go. You can’t really experience it all the time.”  Karen hinted that prices tend to drop at various trucks near closing time, so if guests manned their stations and struck when the stove is hot (or cooling down in this case) they may have gotten lucky with cheap entrees.

“I like food, so it’s worth it to me,” is something we can all relate to as we contemplate if the wait and prices are worth it. However, it is almost unanimous that next year’s Food Truck Festival is definitely something to look forward to. Bigger and better than last year, we can only hope we can see more as time goes on.

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