Delectable smells waft from every direction when students walk out onto the library plaza during lunchtime. Each tantalizing scent coming from those beautifully mobile inventions: the food truck.
Though the food trucks are not always consistent in their locations, at least four of the trucks that visit the U’s library plaza rarely miss a day. Bento, Hot Banh, Tandooria and Taco Cartel can usually be spotted during fall and spring semesters around lunchtime, with prices even college students can afford.
Starting just beyond the southernmost point of library plaza, Bento is owned by Tokiko Yamazaki and is probably most well known for its ramen, in both a Spicy Miso ($8.50) and a Noodle Salad ($7) dish. Though the ramen, and specifically the Spicy Miso Ramen, is Yamazaki’s favorite, it’s not all that Bento provides: the menu also includes various dishes from Teriyaki Chicken rice bowls (reg. $5.50, lg. $7.50) to Veggie lunch boxes ($8.50). Julian Hoffmanne, a student at the U, spoke highly of the truck, saying that while it wasn’t the first to be listed among his prized food spots, it has since become a top visit: “This is my recent most favorite place,” he said.
Bento sells a variety of drinks in addition to its rice bowls, ramen and lunch boxes, like coconut water ($1.50), Mr. Brown Iced Coffee ($1.50) and a variety of teas ($2), plus the popular options like Coke ($2), Diet Coke ($2), Crush ($1) and water ($1).
Bento has been on campus for the past three years, and will continue feeding U students Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Hot Banh has the most seniority of these food trucks on campus, at least according to its owner, Chris. “This food truck is the first truck on campus,” he claims. “I’m the first one.”
Whether his truck was the first to come to the U has not been verified, the second claim he made can be, and was: “I’m the cheapest truck on campus, too,” he said. With entrées starting at $4 — instead of the more common $5 of the other food trucks — and extending no higher than $6, Hot Banh is definitely the most inexpensive of the plaza’s food options, though all of the trucks charge less than $10 for each separate menu item.
Hot Banh’s most popular dishes include Lemongrass Chicken ($6), Caramel Pork ($6) and Banh Mai ($4). Drink options include Thai Iced Tea ($2), Coke & Diet Coke ($1) and water bottles ($1). Unlike the other trucks, Hot Banh has a restaurant by the same name located at 2662 S 5600 W in Salt Lake City.
Hot Banh food truck can be found to the south of the library plaza waterfall and is on campus Monday-Friday typically from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day.
If you find yourself craving Thai or Indian food while on campus, Tandooria is the food truck/stand for you. This stand has a prime location, immediately in front of the plaza’s waterfall where stressed-out students can go to recharge after difficult classes. “It’s like a zen spot,” said Stella, Tandooria’s co-owner with her husband, Mitch.
It’s possible the calming sound of the waterfall is behind Tandooria’s positive experiences on campus. Stellas enjoyed the time she spends here: “It’s so nice. We get to meet smart people all the time.”
Stella’s husband Mitch, who has had over 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, is the individual to be credited with Tandooria’s creation. “I started helping a year ago,” Stella said.
According to Stella, the Chicken Tikka Masala ($6) is the most popular for college students. However, her favorite is the Combo Rice Bowl ($6).
Tandooria is on campus Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is a possibility of adding a delivery capability sometime this coming year, allowing students to still enjoy their food without having to walk all the way to library plaza. Check out their Facebook page for updated info.
Located the furthest north of Library Plaza’s food trucks, Taco Cartel is a great place to go for an easy bite. Offering one taco for $1.50, four for $5 and five for $6, you should be easily able to create a meal you’ll feel satisfied by. Eat up the Barbacoa Beef and Carnitas Pork, both of which Kit, the truck’s owner, ranks as among the most popular of his inventions.
As for Kit’s favorites? “They’re all my recipes, so they change every day,” he said, explaining that he can’t narrow his preferences to one or two. He does have a fondness for his Vegetariano Tofu taco, however. Despite what many people may say about tofu, Kit still offers it. “It’s something vegetarian; people like tofu, and what can I say, I think it’s good,” he said.
For those who like free food, Taco Cartel should rank pretty high: every week Kit holds a drawing for people who have recently liked the truck’s Facebook page with the winner receiving six free tacos. Luckily, your chances for free food are not lost following the drawing, after you’ve first liked the page. Kit also offers a frequent customer card: all it takes is 10 visits and those six free tacos, complete with guac and cheese, are all yours.
Taco Cartel can be found on campus Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. during the regular school year, with only a few exceptions.