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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Come on, let’s go food truckin’ by Sam M. '07

Where to find some cheap, reasonably tasty, and sometimes even healthy eats on campus.

DID YOU KNOW? The Natural History Museum in London has a giant squid on display with 20-foot-long tentacles.

Last night in my dorm we had a going-away potluck dinner for Julian, who’s heading back to France on Friday morning, which featured a stunning international menu. I had this great Portuguese rice dish made with salt cod, a cheesy risotto, some Swedish meatballs (made by a real Swede!), a professional-looking German chocolate cake, a French pasta salad (huh?) and a metric ton of scallion pancakes made by Ling ’07, who hails from Taiwan by way of New Jersey.

And me? Well, I only found out about the dinner about two hours before it started, so I set out to make a great American delicacy: Sloppy Joes. Sam’s Mom and I have actually always called this ground beef and tomato sauce sandwich “barbecue”, but I called it Sloppy Joe in front of the Europeans to avoid confusion, and because I thought it sounded more American. Now, I usually like to make something more complicated for potlucks, but I was limited in time, ingredients, and cooking implements, and it seemed like a pretty easy thing to make on zero notice. Basically, I browned some beef with onions, poured in two cans of tomatoes, dumped in half a bottle of grill seasoning, which is the only spice that I have bought all summer, and let the whole thing simmer for two hours.

It turned out alright and went over pretty well, even though nobody quite got the hang of using the meat to make a sandwich and then putting barbecue potato chips inside of it like a real American would do (Cheez-Its are even better, but you can’t find them in Germany). The general consensus was that it was pretty similar to a Bolognese sauce for pasta, except a little spicier. But the quote of the evening, for me at least, came when Andreas from Germany got my attention from across the hallway to ask “Hey Sam! What did you call this again? Slappy Doc?”

Yes, that’s worthy of a second-rate 1950’s sitcom, I think.

And so amidst all this sumptuous international food, I thought to myself, “Hey, the ’10s are getting to campus just about now, maybe I should give them the word up on where some of the best places to get food are.” So here are five of my favorite everyday things to eat on campus, so you don’t fall victim to ordering overpriced pizzas at Alpine Bagel (do they even still exist?) or going to some other dorm’s dining hall and paying $10 for a three-course dinner.

I love lists.

1. Small chicken burrito from Anna’s Taqueria, no cheese, black beans, lettuce, salsa, hot sauce, and guacamole if you can afford the extra 55 cents. I have somehow convinced myself that Anna’s is actually pretty healthy–at least you know that the ingredients are fresh, and nothing is really too fatty as long as you skip the cheese.

2. Brown rice from Steam Cafe. For 75 cents you get as much brown rice as you can fit on a plate! It’s hands-down the best calorie-per-dollar ratio you can find anywhere in Boston, and an invaluable source of carbs for marathon training. I usually get a small soup or entree to go with my gargantuan plate of rice–Steam Cafe offers two of each per day, one vegetarian and one meat. They change every day, so I can usually find something that looks good among the four choices, but it’s becoming more difficult due to their recent trend of putting escarole in everything.

3. Peanut satay tofu from Goosebeary’s (the pan-Asian food truck behind building 68) with brown rice for 50 cents extra. They only offer it about a few times a week, but on other days the viet curry tofu is great, too. You get the tofu, some fresh steamed vegetables, a giant hunk of rice, and sometimes even a little salad for only $4. Goosebeary’s actually makes some of the best tofu dishes I’ve ever had. And if you don’t like tofu, teriyaki chicken also rocks. And some days when I’m not too hungry I get two banh bao. OH WAIT, but don’t ever miss the Fried Chicken Wontons when they have those on special! I love Goosebeary’s.

4. Falafel from the Middle Eastern food truck at 77 Mass Ave. If you buy 7 falafels, you get the eighth one free! How bad could that be? Everything at this food truck is pretty good, but beware of a similar truck behind building 68–I got violently ill from their chicken shawarma one time.

5. Turkey sub on wheat from LaVerde’s. Not for lunch, because the line is always too long, and Anna’s is both faster and less cramped. But on those days when I’ve been on campus for 12 hours or so and don’t feel like opening up the fridge after my 6.002 lab, nothing is more comforting than a LaVerde’s sub and some kettle chips with black pepper.

Also, take note: La Verde’s has made a chicken parmesan sub for over 10 years but never thought to put it on the sub menu. The only way you would ever find out about it is by reading the bulletin board outside, where people ask “Why don’t you make a chicken parm sub?” and LaVerde’s answers “We have made them since 198x! Just ask!”

Other than these… all the Building 68 foodtrucks are pretty good except the Middle Eastern one. The Tex-Mex one has nice mole enchiladas. The Italian one has tasty pizza for $1 a slice after 2:30 and decent, large subs for $3 on Fridays. The Building 4 Cafe is an okay choice for coffee or breakfast pastry, but their sandwiches and stuff are a little expensive unless you’re really in a hurry between classes. Rebecca’s Cafe and Au Bon Pain in Kendall Square are good places to go if you’ve got friends around, but usually I just want to grab something quick and get back into lab if I don’t have class.

Some places I never eat on campus include: the Stata Center cafeteria (their sandwiches and pizza are good, but a little too expensive when the food trucks are 50 yards away), Lobdell in the student center (I’ve heard that it’s gotten a lot better, but none of my classes are near the student center and by the time I get over there I usually just get Anna’s), the Chinese food truck at 77 Mass Ave (looks a little greasy for me), the food court in Kendall Square (a little more expensive and not much better than the nearby food trucks) and BioCafe (overpriced, but you can bring your food truck lunch inside when it’s cold!).

Wow, I eat at food trucks a lot. Probably because all Chemical Engineering classes are a two minute walk away from them.

3 responses to “Come on, let’s go food truckin’”

  1. Mollie says:

    As one of three official Student Bloggers on Campus This Summer, I can authoritatively report that Alpine Bagel is currently closed for its renovation to a Dunkie’s.

    Sic transit gloria mundi.

    My favorite Gooseberry’s entree is the aloo palak tamatar — it’s steamed tofu with peas, potatoes, and some kind of ridiculously delicious sauce. They only have it, like, once a month. I was once in line when they had it, and the guy in front of me got the last one, and I very nearly punched him in the face.

  2. Ling says:

    BioCafe has AMAZING chili. That is the only thing I have ever gotten from there, and it was after every day being in 7.13 pre-lab discussion time with my lab partner Lauren sitting next to me wafting the delicious delicious aroma of chili.

    Also, Gooseberry’s has good pad thai too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, I decided “significant other” is probably the best term to use, because I like to be safe and I have horrible gaydar.

    Case in point. Me and a friend have been hanging out a lot and he confesses he has a crush on me. First words out of my mouth: “But, you’re gay! Further examples include me hitting on a gorgeous guy who was actually shopping with his boyfriend, not his equally attractive brother. =/