Sweet Box Truck: Street Treats!

Yesterday, I spotted a cute little truck parked outside of the Monell Chemical Senses Center on 35th and Market on my way back to campus from my visiting a friend at her apartment at Penn. And, if you know me, you can imagine my delight when I went closer to find out that it was SweetBox Truck, a cupcake vendor! Cupcakes are one of my favorite things to make and eat, so I was excited to finally get to experience a cupcake from a truck.

SweetBox Truck

The Experience
The owner was incredibly friendly and helpful. The menu was quite limited (there were about six flavors of cupcakes to choose from), but they all sounded amazing and, how many types of cupcakes can you make from scratch in a day anyway? I wanted to go with the Vanilla 2 (a “classic madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake topped with a sweet vanilla buttercream frosting”) but it was already sold out. Which must say something about it! I ended up getting a Red Velvet and a Dulce de Leche cupcake ($2.50 each). While she put my order into a box, two ladies came and stood in line behind me, giggling about which cupcakes they were going to get and comparing themselves to five-year-olds. And from SweetBox Truck’s Twitter, I gathered that it was a pretty popular lunchtime destination. I got my cupcakes in two minutes and when I turned around, another two people had joined the line.

The Cupcake Box

The Cupcakes
The two cupcakes were packaged in a box. First of all, I thought the box was incredibly cute. But then I opened it and looked at what was inside. The cupcakes were beautifully decorated, but not overly so that they looked completely artificial like the ones I had at Philly Cupcake a few weeks ago. The Red Velvet was probably the best I’ve ever had. And trust me, I have had a lot of experience with Red Velvet. The cake was rich, and the vanilla cream cheese icing was the perfect balance between smooth and creamy.

Red Velvet Cupcake

The Dulce de Leche was a little messy to eat, but it was so worth it. The cake was reminiscent of a yellow cake, but it was sweeter. And the icing–although I couldn’t tell what exactly it was, was the perfect complement. I’m a firm believer that the cake should be good enough to be eaten without any icing, and SweetBox Truck’s cupcakes definitely uphold that standard. The cupcakes stand perfectly on their own, but when you add the icing, a wonderful sweet marriage is formed.

Dulce de Leche Cupcake

Final Thoughts
Yes, $2.50 is kind of a lot for one cupcake. But they’re so good and as the box says, they really are made with love. So treat yourself!  And since the menu rotates, I’ll be sure to go back and try another one…and another one…

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Fruit Cart on 33rd and Market

I haven’t been feeling 100% lately. With finals looming and a seemingly endless list of due dates, I haven’t really been getting enough rest and it has definitely taken a toll on my health. And I know I’m not the only one. My a cappella group, the TrebleMakers, is hosting our final concert of the year this Saturday and with everything that’s going on, it’s hard to prioritize our health. But the last thing I want is to be battling a cold or any other sickness, for that matter. My friend (and fellow TrebleMaker) Marina is a Health Science major, and she reminded me that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. While it doesn’t take a budding doctor to know that, as college students we often forget  how good fruits and vegetables are for us.

With that said, I decided to take her advice and try to eat healthier. There’s a Fruit Cart by Nesbitt Hall on 33rd and Market that I walk by everyday on the way to class. Even though the smell of the fresh fruits are enticing, I had never thought about getting a fruit salad or a blended fruit shake for a snack instead of cookies from the Insomnia Cookies truck outside the library.

I wasn’t able to get a photo of the cart because I had left my camera in my dorm, but I’m sure you have or will see it when you are walking around campus!

The Experience
Because this was my first time here (or at any fruit cart, for that matter), I had no idea what I wanted. However, the menu is pretty limited–it is a fruit cart, after all. You can choose from the four flavors of fruit shakes (strawberry, banana, pineapple and mango) and fruit salad (either with one fruit, or mixed). The owner was incredibly nice and patient, since I asked to see almost every size of the containers. In the end I decided to get a Mango Fruit Shake ($3), since mango smoothies are one of my favorite things on a hot summer day. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a fruit shake, so I got my shake in two minutes.

The Shake
It feels weird to talk about “the food” when all I got was a fruit shake. In any case, it wasn’t the best fruit shake/smoothie I’ve had, but it was 80° out so it definitely hit the spot. There were some chunks of mango, which I loved. However, there was something that was a little off about the taste–she pumped some sugary syrup into the fruit shake making it a little too sweet. It wasn’t really worth the $3, but it could’ve been a lot worse. Next time, I’d probably try a fruit salad and just get my smoothies from Currito.

Mango Fruit Shake

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!

La Dominique Crêperie: Edible Works of Art!

There is a little cart that sits by the Hagerty Library on 33rd and Market that surprises me every time I go. I have been to La Dominique Crêperie several times before, and I am astounded by what owner Zbigniew Chojnacki can do in such a small space. Earlier this week I was rained on while studying in the library, so instead of walking back to my dorm, I decided to go outside and grab lunch for a study break.

La Dominique

The Experience
I didn’t go during the peak lunch hour. I got in line to order around 1PM, and had to wait for almost ten minutes for the people in front of me to get their crepes before I could order. The menu isn’t extremely extensive, but there is a good list of savory and sweet crepes to pick from. The majority of the options cost $5-$7. The last time I visited La Dominique he was out of the Vegetable Crepe ($6), so that is what I decided to get. The crepes are all made to order, so it was a fifteen minute wait (during which six other people showed up to order). However, that gave me time to read the reviews and articles proudly displayed on the window as well as watch the artist at work. Yes, Mr. Chojnacki is an artist–a sculptor, and you can see his artistic expertise in the crepes he creates.

The Food
I always love the crepes I get from La Dominique. The Vegetable Crepe was no exception. In fact, it just might be my favorite so far! Stuffed with creamed spinach, broccoli, green peppers, zucchini, parmesan cheese and topped with a sweet and spicy pineapple habanero sauce and roasted red peppers,  this crepe is an excellent example of Mr. Chojnacki’s dedication to the quality and quantity of his food. The crepes are really big and extremely filling. The vegetables are extremely fresh and grilled to order, and the pineapple habanero sauce added an interesting flavor that gave the crepe some extra oomph.

Vegetable Crepe

Final Thoughts
I love La Dominique. The crepes are definitely worth the $5 or $6, and they make the perfect lunch or dessert. Even though the wait is significantly longer than other trucks, it is completely worth it. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry though, and definitely try to avoid going during a rush hour. Mr. Chojnacki’s beautiful crepes deserve to be served in a nice restaurant, so I am very happy and thankful that we are able to enjoy his edible works of art right on our campus for a college-student-friendly price! Still not convinced? Check out this episode featuring La Dominique on VendrTV!

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.