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.

El Rosa: Mexican, But Not Really

El Rosa is a little food cart that sits on the sidewalk on 33rd St between Walnut and Spruce, right by the David Rittenhouse Laboratories. Run by an Indonesian woman, this cart sells basic Mexican dishes. I came across it on PennFoodTrucks.com when I was looking for more trucks to check out, and figured I’d go during my one-hour break between classes since it wasn’t that far.

The Experience
The owner greeted me with a friendly hello as soon as I arrived at the cart. I scanned the menu while she served the two customers before me. There wasn’t a lot to choose from–you had a few choices of tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas and tostadas. Everything cost between $3 and $6. The majority of the options are pretty simple, like chicken tacos or bean burritos. And then you had your pick of medium sauce or hot sauce. So I went with the Spinach and Mushroom Burrito ($4.25) with medium sauce. Even though she took a bit of time to warm the burrito, the wait was still very short.

El Rosa

The Food
I love anything with spinach and mushrooms–pasta, crepes, pizza, omelettes…if it’s on the menu, that is what I will order 99% of the time. So I was pretty excited that I could do the same at El Rosa. The burrito was large and generously filled with rice, beans, cheese, spinach and mushrooms. However, it definitely did not taste like a burrito. I guess spinach and mushrooms don’t work for everything! The spinach combined with the black beans created a bitter taste, and even though the medium sauce was just spicy enough to mask most of the bitterness, it still bothered me. Furthermore, the burrito wasn’t wrapped very tightly. It was difficult to eat as it was falling apart. If it tasted really good, then I wouldn’t have minded digging through the mess with a fork. It didn’t really help that the spinach was soggy, either.

Spinach and Mushroom Burrito

Final Thoughts
El Rosa is great when it comes to service. The food, not so much. For $4.25, I wasn’t impressed at all. I can only speak from my experience with this one burrito though, so maybe (hopefully) the other dishes are better! There was also a sign on the cart that said “Indonesian Food on Thursdays” which sounds a lot more appealing than a soggy burrito so perhaps I’ll try that next time.

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!