Surprise! I know I said my goodbyes yesterday, but I guess I couldn’t stay away. I answered the call of food duty and resurrected Hollieats to dish out on the Student Union Board of Governors’ Food Truck Festival, which was part of the University of Connecticut’s Spring Weekend on Saturday, April 23. Planned through SUBOG’s special events committee but pulled off by the whole organization, the Food Truck Festival advertised over 12 trucks, which was much more than last year’s four and even more than 2019’s 10. Offerings ranged from drinks to desserts to full-on meals from various cuisines, all free of charge to students with Spring Weekend wristbands. Vendors like Fryborg, Lizzie’s and Uncle D’s BBQ returned from previous years, while some like Los Mariachis on Wheels sold an expanded menu at UCONNIC and others like Bubble and Brew Boba, Claypot Truck, Kona Ice, Relish This, Clyde’s Cupcake, Teriyaki Mania and Wing It On were new. Returning truck Whey Station was advertised, but did not seem to be present at the event.
“From a committee standpoint, we talked about all the options we had for the food trucks in the area and what types of food would interest the student body,” Kyle Robin, a fourth-semester plant science major and SUBOG special events chairman, said in an email. “This event had a lot of behind-the-scenes work including calling vendors, figuring out what vendors to bring, and the amount of food from each food truck.”
Lines wrapped around the street and surrounding area. Students milled around with bubble tea, fries and cheeseburgers in hand, strategizing which line to spend their hard-earned time in, since most waits seemed to surpass half an hour.
“Last year we had to scale back and add more structure with time slots due to COVID-19 and University guidelines,” Robin said. “So this year we were able to go back to the normal scale for this event. [The time slot system] was not considered due to the number of students.”
Thanks to SUBOG, I was able to try selections from all trucks but Bubble and Brew. The pulled pork mac and cheese from Uncle D’s BBQ, which I ordered last year and in 2019, always hits the spot, and I’m sure the other selections such as the barbecue wings and pulled pork rice bowl are equally as delicious. I enjoyed three freshly fried pork buns from Teriyaki Mania, which I usually order from when they are stationed at Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets. You could grab the buns and chicken dumplings at the side window, while most students were waiting for freshly made halal chicken teriyaki.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was handed a whole tupperware full of basmati rice and chicken tikka masala from Claypot Truck, which also gave away paneer tikka masala and samosas. At Lizzie’s, I tried something new: the vegan soba noodles, which had a nice freshness with cilantro, green onions and a creamy peanut sauce. I was happy to see a local favorite from my hometown, Los Mariachis, and ordered a steak burrito with onions, cilantro, rice, and green sauce. You could order a burrito or tacos with steak, spicy pork, chicken and regular pork. Although cheeseburgers aren’t my first choice, I thought the one I ordered from Relish This was perfectly cooked.
Fryborg offered a scaled-down list of sauces from last year, with classics like ranch, mayo and ketchup, as well as fun mayo variations like balsamic mayo, herb mayo and mango mayo. Other sauces to order with fresh fries included honey mustard, smoky bbq, chipotle bbq, buffalo ranch, dijonnaise and 1000 island dressing. I thought the curry ketchup had a nice kick to it.
The one savory option I didn’t totally enjoy were the chicken tenders with hot honey sauce from Wing It On. I usually love hot honey and chicken tenders, but I felt like the tenders could have had a crispier exterior and the sauce had a sickly sweet flavor I didn’t love.
As for sweet stuff, Clyde Cupcakes offered edible cookie dough and ingeniously served their cupcakes in an upside-down cup and lid so the cupcake stayed intact. Although most of the flavors were basic, there was a good variety including vanilla, red velvet, marble, chocolate peanut butter, Oreo, confetti and mocha. I thought my confetti cupcake had a substantial consistency and the frosting was perfectly sweet. Kona Ice offered a dizzying amount of syrup flavors, from blue raspberry to monster mango to pina colada, allowing students to customize to their hearts desires.
“Kona Ice was definitely my favorite food truck at the event!” Robin said.
Although the promise of free food, especially such an abundance and variety compared to what’s offered in the Storrs area, is enticing, my feeling behind the Food Truck Festival remains as it did in 2019: it truly is only worth it to wait in one or two lines unless you have friends waiting in other lines, and only for trucks with larger portions, such as Claypot Truck, the full-size burgers and hot/kielbasa dogs from Relish It or Lizzie’s and the offerings from Teriyaki Mania. As much as I love Lizzie’s, the amount of noodles I got was fairly small, and the same could be said for the fries from Fryborg, both of which had sizable lines. And as nice as it is that Los Mariachis makes the tacos and burritos to order, that made the service a bit inefficient for such a large crowd, and the line was extremely long for fairly small portions. I was even slightly disappointed in the serving I received from Uncle D’s, which I remember had given more meat and mac and cheese in the past.
The time slot system last year made for a much more streamlined process, but I understand that there was a much reduced capacity of students on campus last year, and that could not be maintained this year. I had friends express similar sentiments to me about what is worth it to wait for and the limited variety available to those with food accommodations such as vegetarians, but we agree that the promise of free food was strong and we enjoyed most of what we ate. In the end, the weather was beautiful, and if you were waiting in line with a friend, the free food may be worth it to you. The Food Truck Festival seems worth experiencing at least once in your time at UConn.
“I haven’t been to a UConn food truck festival since freshman year and once again, I really enjoyed myself,” Jessica Daley, an eighth-semester nursing major who attended the Saturday afternoon event with Berry, said. “I appreciated all the delicious vegetarian options and the portion sizes as well. It will be a great memory I have related to UConn-sponsored events.”