The Big Blue food truck rolls onto UB's campus
UB's first food truck brings a national trend to students
In a city with Food Truck Tuesdays and Food Truck Rodeos throughout the summer, Buffalonians love their meals on wheels. Up until this semester, UB had yet to bring that gastronomy to campus.
Over the weekend, UB’s first food truck was unveiled to the public at the opening home football game against Duquesne. Big Blue, the new truck, will be stationed at North and South Campus at locations that current Campus Dining and Shops (CDS) food stations do not serve.
“It’s certainly a national trend,” said Ray Khol, the marketing manager for CDS as to why now was the right time for Big Blue. “Food trucks, they’re peaking right now.”
The truck will be on North Campus Monday, Wednesday and Friday and South Campus Tuesday and Thursday, according Kohl.
The menu will change during the week. Students can order grilled cheese and mac and cheese Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the truck will serve mac and cheese and the Teppanyaki – a Japanese style of cooking with an iron griddle – dishes.
“Mobile vending,” which was a little-known industry five years ago, has become “one of the fastest growing trends in food service,” according to the National Food Truck Association’s website.
Between 2007 and 2012, the mobile restaurant industry grew by 8.4 percent is valued at $1 billion. In 2017, food trucks are estimated to generate $2.7 billion in revenue, according to aboutfoodtrucks.com.
That’s no secret in Buffalo.
The city has 25 food trucks that belong to the Buffalo Food Truck Association. Big Blue is UB’s twist on the transportable dining trend.
“It’s a mobile kitchen,” said Adam Coats, the assistant director of CDS. “It has everything. We’re 100 percent flexible. If there’s something out there that increases in popularity but we don’t have it in one of our storefronts, we can try it out there [with Big Blue].”
For Ryan Pope, a junior economics major, the menu options were a “little limited” at the Aug. 30 opening. He said he prefers eating at the Student Union because it has more variety.
Neil Tsirkin, a sophomore business major, attended the “secret” pre-opening of Big Blue on Aug. 27 and tried The Pink Goat, a grilled cheese sandwich made with herbed goat cheese on rye bread with pickled beets and arugula.
“It was very refreshing and light,” Tsirkin said. “A nice spin on the typical old school grilled cheese.”
Other dishes on the menu include the Cha Cha Chicken Melt, the Peanut Butter with Sideburns and a Beef on Weck Mac and Cheese.
Big Blue’s menu varies unlike other food trucks in Buffalo that specialize in one type of food – Lloyd’s has its tacos, The Whole Hog focuses on pork and Macarollin’ specializes in gourmet mac and cheese.
Lloyd’s Taco Truck opened in 2010 with OG Lloyd and now has three trucks traveling around Western New York, according to mobile-cuisine.com. The taco truck spends a lot of time around SUNY Buffalo State’s campus and allows students to pay using Bengal Bucks, comparable to UB’s Campus Cash.
As a popular eatery close to campus, Buff State students appreciate both the prices and menu choices.
“It’s fast, convenient and a decent price for good food,” said Elizabeth Lusk, a senior education major at Buff State. “The bean burrito is my go-to. There is always a line of some sort every time I walk by no matter what time of the day it is.”
Food trucks can offer an atmosphere of community as patrons stand outside in line. Jessie Cramer, a senior business major, ate at Big Blue’s opening Saturday and said buying food at the truck creates a good opportunity to meet new people and make friends.
“It’s good [for] camaraderie,” Cramer said. “It adds school spirit to the campus.”
Coats said the truck could help provide food to some of the lesser-served locations on campus.
He said the truck’s goal is to go where there aren’t “any points of sale,” such as areas on the Academic Spine, by the dorms and near UB Stadium and Alumni Arena.
The mobility of the truck gives CDS the opportunity to service new areas, despite being limited physically with stationary food stations, Kohl said.
Coats and Kohl agree Big Blue could present opportunities down the road for later hours – with a late-night menu for late-night cravings – and maybe even another truck.
But one professor isn’t a fan of Big Blue. On Saturday, she noticed some of the menu items were spelled wrong.
“That sign isn’t a very good advertisement for literacy at UB,” said Susan Udin, professor of physiology, about Big Blue’s menu in a comment on a UB Reporter article. “The words mozzarella, beets, peanut and banana are all misspelled. Also, the menu is amazingly high on cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese, with sides of fried stuff. Yikes. I want to head over to Amy’s Place for some of their yummy lentil soup.”
Tsirkin and Rick Larocco, a freshman pharmacy major, don’t agree.
“It tastes fresh,” Larocco said. “You wouldn’t expect that from a food truck. Every time I go to a game, I’m going to go here.”
CDS prides itself on using locally sourced produce and Big Blue will be no different.
“The chef also informed me most ingredients will be grown on campus or locally,” Tsirkin said. “I think if they keep up the high quality and freshness of the food it will be a big hit for the UB community.”
Students will be able to pay using campus cash, dining dollars, cash and credit cards. Meal exchanges will not be accepted.
"It’s a big campus, big college, but it’s not that big though,” Coats said. “It’s still a captive audience. We had to be flexible and keep it fresh for them. When we designed it, we didn’t design it to a menu. We designed it to be able to produce anything.”