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Food Trucks

More variety than any indoor cafeteria

By Vladimir Zelevinsky

I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful to Aramark. If their food were just a but more palatable, I would simply resign any attempts to find alternative sources of sustenance, and just go to Networks or Walker every time. However, this things being as they are, and with MIT administration kindly extending the Aramark contract for another three years, I feel like everyone concerned dearly wants me to do one and only thing: eat at MIT food trucks.

Which I do, having partaken of MIT food service’s generous offerings only twice in the last three years. Not to disparage the undoubtedly earnest efforts of, say, Lobdell cooks, but the trucks provide food which is better, cheaper, and is served in bigger amounts than what you get in your usual dining hall.

Having spent three years eating from the trucks, I, naturally, developed my personal likes and dislikes. Here is this list of six of them, with degustibus non disputandum being an obvious disclaimer. First four can be located on the parking lot between buildings 20, 57, and 70; last two are located on Mass. Ave., directly in front of the Lobby 7 entrance. Most are open from around 11 a.m . to sometime before 3 p.m.

Goosebeary’s Truck

This one is otherwise known as the “Chinese food truck,” which is somewhat misleading, since it also serves Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. A holy mecca of MIT food trucks, as evidenced by an extended line in front of it every day. The unexpected thing is, of course, that this line moves so fast that it usually takes the least amount of time to get your lunch container.

The menu is somewhere halfway between standard oriental fare as known in America, and somewhat more authentic cuisine, most of the entrees consisting of some kind of meat (chicken or fish) cooked in a bewildering variety of sauces and served with rice and a medley of fresh and steamed vegetables. The menu fluctuates from day to day, but most of the stuff is available daily.

Some standouts include roast pork (which is a bit too dry once in a rare while, but when it’s not, it’s outstanding), seegoo chicken (grilled lemon-pepper chicken breast ), and fried fish (with the same ginger-scallion sauce which goes into General Gau’s chicken). All of the above are $3, and the amounts are sufficient to sate even the most ravenous.

The Pizza Truck

I find it a touch disappointing that out of the long list of pasta dinners announced on the outside of this truck, only a few are available, and even that not always. On the other hand, it would be strange to get anything but pizza here, since it’s truly outstanding. I believe that even The Boston Globe, in its recent special on junk food places around Boston area, mentioned this particular truck as one of three best places to get pizza.

And I agree. Now, when most pizza places fall into one of two extremes -- there’s a grease-soaked version which you get at Uno’s or Pizza Hut, and there’s a paper-thin variant you get at some places like Florentina Cafe -- this one has it just right, with sufficient amount of yeasty dough, which is flavorful enough by itself, and provides an ample support for whatever toppings of the day are available.

These toppings include the regular cheese and pepperoni, which are good, and sometimes sausage, which is as good. I would not recommend getting the mushroom pizza, since the topping tastes like it came out of the can -- but the normal vegetable pizza is a treat, being much less greasy than one would expect.

The price is $1.25 for a large slice, which drops to $1 a slice after 2pm.

Olive’s Kitchen

A relatively new arrival, this truck serves two types of food. At first, one can get an entree ($3.25), which is similar in its composition to Goosebeary’s -- some kind of meat, usually chicken, cooked in various sauces, served with vegetables on the bed of rice. These I would honestly not recommend, with the rice being overly salty, and the meat having a flavor as if it came from the can. Despite the relatively long list of entrees, I failed to find something which would be worth eating more than once.

But the second meal option, salads, are rather good, most of them coming with shredded chicken on top, $3 for a large container. I would recommend getting your dressing on the side, because there’s no better way to turn a healthy salad into an artery-c logging meal than by consuming all of the provided dressing.

Moishe’s Chicken

I am not quite sure why this truck seems to have a steady clientele; it’s menu is limited to the usual kinds of wraps (falafel, chicken and beef kabob, Greek salad , etc), none of which left a particularly good impression on me, especially considering the price. I found the falafels to be a touch overcooked, and the beef kabob to be entirely too salty. There’s also an issue of prices, which start at $2.75 and go to $3.75. At this price, the chicken kabob is very good, but it’s hard to pay this much, when you can get at least a dozen different kinds of chicken at Goosebeary’s right next door.

Two falafel trucks

Two eastern trucks, both alike in dignity, have parked themselves in front of Lobby 7. From forth the fragrant kitchens of these trucks, all day enchanting flavors take their flight.

Ahem. Anyway, there are these two trucks, one to the south and one to the north of the Lobby 7 crosswalk. The menus are rather similar -- falafel, stuffed grape leaves, chicken kabob. The attitudes are rather different.

The northern one serves more different meals; not only is it the only place where one can get honest-to-goodness authentic gyros, but it also has ice-cream and slushies, and the mood is that of your friendly neighborhood hippies, with daily specials announced with felt-tip markers in psychedelic colors.

The southern one distinguishes itself by being a mom-and-pop kind of business, with all the customer treated like family. There’s also an added advantage of a frequent eater card, available upon request, eat seven meals -- get one free.

Concerning the food, I’m very much in favor of the southern one. I found the falafels in the northern truck to be a touch overcooked and overspiced; they are also mor e expensive. At the northern one, you can get the cheapest meal available anywhere, with pita wraps starting at $2 (factor in the card, and you get 1/8 of that off as well).

After this, who needs Aramark?