Tyson Bees: What’s the Buzz?

If there is one food truck that I frequent the most, it would probably be Tyson Bees on 33rd and Spruce. This colorful truck hasn’t been open for long but has already become one of the most widely acclaimed trucks in the area, winning Appetizer of the Year at Philly Cookout 2010 with its popular steamed pork buns.

Tyson Bees

The Experience
I always enjoy my visits to Tyson Bees. Even though they’re serving a big crowd for dinner (which is when I usually go) , I still get my food in five to fifteen minutes. They have a really efficient way of  differentiating orders — playing cards. They’ll give you a card when you order and pay (I got the two of spades) and when your food is ready they’ll call out the card. So much easier than them shouting “pork bun!” and having twelve people running up to the counter. This time, I was the only customer. It was around 5:30PM so it might have been a little early for dinner. The staff are super friendly, and I got my food in probably three minutes.

The Food
I got the 1 Taco + 1 Pork Bun + 1 Thai Tea or Iced Coffee combo ($8), with the Korean BBQ Short Rib Beef Taco and Thai Tea. I should tell you that whenever I go to any dining establishment (whether it’s a truck or restaurant) more than once, I always try to get something different. But with Tyson Bees, I always get the pork bun. Every single time. It’s essential to the Tyson Bees experience, in my opinion. anyway, the pork bun didn’t disappoint as usual. A chunky piece of slow-cooked pork belly with cucumber, cilantro and sweet-and-salty hoisin sauce over a soft doughy bun–so simple, but so good. The Taco wasn’t bad, but I probably wouldn’t get it again. The beef is cooked perfectly and tastes great with the sliced radish, red cabbage and spicy sauce. It also came with a wedge of lime which gave it a little kick. Even though it still tasted great, it’s not the best thing I’ve eaten from Tyson Bees.

Korean BBQ Short Rib Taco and Steamed Pork Bun

I’ve had Thai Iced Tea probably at least three times this week. But I’ve learned this year that if I consume any coffee after 3PM, I get dizzy and my hands start shaking a little. So I went with the Thai Tea. It’s similar to that of Cucina Zapata’s, but it’s less creamy and has less ice. I like CZ’s creaminess, but I like how TB’s isn’t so diluted with ice.

Thai Iced Tea

Final Thoughts
I love Tyson Bees.  It’s very difficult for me to say anything bad about it. The service is friendly and fast, and although the food may cost a little more than other food truck options, the quality is just incomparable.

Kim’s Oriental Food: Super Fast Chinese

I had to go to TD Bank last week so on the way back to campus I stopped by Pottruck (on Walnut between 37th and 38th) again to see what other food truck offerings there were. Several of my friends had told me about Kim’s Oriental Food and they only had positive things to say, so that was what I decided on.

Kim's Oriental Food

The Experience
Penn had already started their summer break, which meant that lines for food trucks during lunch hour were much, much shorter. For many, lines were non-existent.  This was not the cast for Kim’s. There were three people waiting for their food, which is more than what I can say for the other trucks beside Pottruck. Although Kim is known for their Chinese food, I noticed that they had a good variety of Vietnamese food (one of my favorite cuisines), so I ordered the Sautéed Pork with Lemon Grass on Rice Noodles ($4.25). I ordered, paid and

The Food
The Sautéed Pork with Lemon Grass on Rice Noodles wasn’t quite as expected. I thought it would be a dry vermicelli dish but it was covered with a thick sauce with pork, onions, carrots and bean sprouts. It tasted nothing like lemon grass. However, the rice noodles as well as the pork were cooked perfectly. As a dish, it stands on its own quite well, it just didn’t really taste like how I thought it would. It wasn’t greasy either, which was something that surprised me.

Sautéed Pork with Lemon Grass on Rice Noodles

Final Thoughts
Kim’s Oriental Food Truck  is probably one of the better Chinese food trucks in the University City Area. They have more options such as Mapo Tofu and Orange Chicken. Their prices are extremely reasonable; the majority of what they offer costs between $3 and $5. Their dishes aren’t completely covered in grease and are very filling. I can’t really speak on behalf of their authenticity, but I’ve basically given up on finding genuine Chinese food from a food truck. But for Americanized Chinese food, Kim’s hits the spot. The extremely fast service is a huge plus as well!

Pyramid Pizza: Not Just Pizza!

I have been to Pyramid Pizza (behind the Main Building) several times prior to this visit, but the only thing that I have ever gotten is the famed Jimmy’s Sister sandwich. Earlier last week as I was waiting for my sandwich (ironic, considering the name of this blog), I checked out the rest of the extensive menu. Pyramid has a lot of options, from calzones to falafel and seafood dishes. But one section caught my eye: the Indian Platter Specials. Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines, so I made sure to come back next time to give it a try.

Pyramid Pizza

The Experience
I went after class around 1PM. There were two guys working at the truck, and they were both very quick to take my order. I went with the Makhani Chicken Platter ($5.50), since that is an Indian dish I was familiar with–it’s what I get every time at my favorite Indian restaurant back home! The wait was decent–it was short enough to stand outside waiting in the heat without getting impatient, but long enough for me to know that they were making it to order.

The Food
Makhani Chicken, also known as butter chicken, is a fragrant, flavorful dish. It tastes great over rice or with naan, but I would have to say that the sauce is the highlight. Pyramid’s Makhani Chicken Platter came with rice, salad and yogurt sauce. When I first opened the box, I was a little taken aback. It definitely did not look like the butter chicken I was used to. But I shrugged it off and dug in anyway. And it didn’t really taste like what I was used to either–but it was still good. Just different. It was spicier than expected, and I had stupidly forgotten to get a drink so the salad and cool yogurt sauce was much appreciated. By itself, the salad was nothing spectacular. But with the yogurt…that’s a completely different story. I almost wished there was more salad for the yogurt. It was just that good.

Chicken Makhani Platter

Final Thoughts
Overall, the Makhani Chicken Platter was good, despite being a little different from my expectations. For $5.50 it is a little pricey, but the quality and quantity is definitely there. It’s a great place to grab lunch in between classes. So even though the food costs a tiny bit more than I would spend on a regular basis, I would absolutely go back and try another Indian dish!

Bento Box: Authentic Japanese Food

Hidden next to the David Pottruck Health & Fitness Center on Walnut between 37th and 38th are a few food trucks that have often gone unnoticed. I’ve walked down Walnut Street countless numbers of times, but I had no idea that I was passing by this small group of trucks. Last week I wanted Japanese food, so I figured I’d look on PennFoodTrucks.com for a food truck that could satisfy my craving. And so I found Bento Box.

Bento Box

The Experience
I went at lunch hour around 12:30PM. Although there weren’t a lot of people out getting food, Bento Box had the most customers out of the 4-5 food trucks next to Pottruck.  The truck had a small window, and although I could barely see anything on the inside, I’m pretty sure there was only one person there. I had to wait awhile for the owner to pop up at the window with someone else’s food before I could order. I wanted the Chicken Yakiudon–but they were out. So I settled for the Chicken Teriyaki ($5). Can’t really go wrong with that.

The Food
The Chicken Teriyaki was served over a bed of rice and came with a small Japanese-style salad as well as three cucumber maki sushi rolls. While there wasn’t anything special about the salad and the sushi, I was pleasantly surprised by the chicken. The only chicken teriyaki I’ve had in Philly has come either from a food truck or a food court, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much. But this was probably the most authentic-tasting I’ve had. It was also a lot less greasy than any your typical food truck meal. However, for $5, I would’ve liked a little more chicken.

Chicken Teriyaki

Final Thoughts
Bento Box was definitely a great find, especially for an area like UCity where there isn’t a lot of Japanese options (except for Pod, which is definitely not friendly to a college student’s budget!). There is a lot to choose from, such as tempura, hibachi and katsu dishes. They also have a lot of sushi options, but I haven’t quite decided how I feel about eating sushi from a truck. The wait time wasn’t too bad at all, and the portion was decently sized. I personally don’t think it’s worth the $5, but the quality and authenticity of the food definitely made up for it.

Hanan House of Pita

One of my classes was cancelled earlier this week so I decided to take the extra time to walk over to 38th and Walnut, where many food trucks are located. There were a lot to choose from, but at the end I went with Hanan House of Pita.

Hanan House of Pita

The Experience
The line for Hanan was non-existent, which made me a little skeptical. It was 12:15PM, where were all the hungry undergrads? Then I remembered that Penn students are all inside, taking their finals. And I tried not to be bitter about the fact that I’m not even done with my midterms. Anyway, I spent a few minutes looking at the menu which is extremely extensive. There were probably over thirty options, the majority of which were combinations of chicken, baba ghanoush, feta cheese, grape leaves, falafel, shawarma and other Middle Eastern dishes; and everything was between $4 and $7. I was curious about the grape leaves and was about to ask for her recommendation when one of the two ladies running the truck looked at me a little irritatedly and asked for my order. Flustered, I asked for a Shawarma Platter ($5.50). There were no other customers (except for a man who came to pick up an order) so I didn’t really see why she was so impatient. However, almost all of the reviews I’ve read online about Hanan mentioned how friendly the ladies were, so maybe it was just an off day.

The Food
The Shawarma Platter–hummus, tabbouleh, lamb gyro, yellow rice, lentil-and-rice and a pita–was done in five minutes. I wasn’t amazed by it at first, but I did notice how fresh and authentic everything tasted. The hummus tasted a little bland, but it was definitely homemade–not like the store-bought kind that I’m so used to; which is probably why I found it a little tasteless. The tabbouleh–a Lebanese salad with parsley, mint, cucumbers, tomatoes and bulgur wheat–was a bit of an acquired taste. However, I was impressed by how fresh all the ingredients were. The lamb and two kinds of rice were the best part of the dish, and the hot sauce added a little kick without completely diluting the flavors of the meat and rice.

The Shawarma Platter

Final Thoughts
Overall, the portion size was quite decent. Even though everything was so light, I still felt full after only eating half of it. It was definitely different from most food truck experiences I’ve had, since I’m so used to greasy dishes smothered with tons of hot sauce. Hanan’s food was filling and definitely much healthier than most, and I thought the price was very reasonable. I don’t know if I would make the trip just for their food, but if I happened to be in the area I wouldn’t be opposed to stopping by. Maybe I’ll try the grape leaves next time!

Cucina Zapata: Tacos With a Twist

I’m a huge fan of fusion food, so when my friend Andrew told me about a new food truck that served Thai-Mexican cuisine, I couldn’t wait to try it out.  When I found Cucina Zapata at the end of the so-called “Engineering Line” (aka 31st and Ludlow, right behind the Main Building), I couldn’t believe I had never seen or heard of it before. The brightly colored truck was pretty hard to miss, and it definitely stood out among the line of plain silver or white trucks.

Cucina Zapata

The Experience
I went around noon, so I expected a large crowd. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so new (they opened about a month and a half ago) or maybe it’s because it’s all the way at the end by 31st Street, but there were only six people before me. I placed my order pretty quickly, and sat down on one of many crates stacked up against the wall—a simple, but brilliant idea. I got my Thai Iced Tea ($2) in two minutes and the Thai Taco and Chicken Satay Taco (one for $3, two for $5) in ten.

The Food
The Thai Taco and Chicken Satay Taco tasted just as good as they looked, if not better. Both had lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, tomatoes and avocado, but they each had a unique taste thanks to the different sauces on top. The tacos were a little spicy, just enough to excite the palate without overwhelming the flavors of the Asian-inspired slaw and strips of meat. The Thai Iced Tea—a sweet and creamy blend of black tea, condensed milk and half-and-half—was a great complement to the zesty tacos, and a great refreshment for a hot day.

Thai Iced Tea

L: Thai Taco. R: Chicken Satay Taco

I could barely finish the tacos, but I forced myself to because I didn’t think that they would taste as good later. Who knew $7 could be so filling?

Final Thoughts
Personally, I think that Cucina Zapata is just what the Drexel food truck scene needed. It definitely offers something that I’ve never seen elsewhere on campus (maybe with the exception of Honest Tom’s or La Dominique). The food is delicious (and of great quality), and I will most certainly be back to try some of their other dishes, such as the Chicken Curry, or the Tilapia Katsu Taco. I highly recommend this food truck—the food may cost a little more than what you’re used to but it is completely worth it. The owners are friendly and more than willing to help you out if you’re new to Thai cuisine, so stop by between classes for a great meal! Make sure you ask for extra napkins, though—the tacos can get messy!