Food trucks make a splash on a rainy day

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor | Food Truck Fridays are back on the Bluff. Rain or shine, this spring semester will be a little brighter with the return of one of Duquesne students' favorite weekly traditions.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

March 16, 2023

The humming of motors clashed with the patter of raindrops on the pavement. The intensity of the wind carried the aroma of jerk chicken across campus. Despite the weather, students and faculty braved the elements to take part in what is becoming a tradition at Duquesne University: Food Truck Friday.

Friday kicked off the beginning of this semester’s Food Truck Fridays. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., students and faculty can enjoy the cuisine of local vendors on A-Walk.

Providing a wide variety of options, from chicken tenders to crepes, there appears to be something for everyone’s palate.

“They have vegetarian options so I got the fried green tomatoes,” said Victoria Oliverio while waiting for her order at the Foxy Fran food truck. “I just came back from class and a strawberry lemonade sounded refreshing.”

The event, which was started by the Office of Greek Life as a part of homecoming festivities, has become a campus favorite.

“Previously there was one large food truck even on campus each semester,” said Scott Richards, the assistant vice president of auxiliary services, “but we were looking to expand and build a series that today is appreciated by the campus community.”

The rise in popularity of Food Truck Fridays has increased so much that President Ken Gormly asked the Center of Student Involvement and auxiliary services to make it a more frequent occurrence for students and faculty, according to the Dean of Students and the assistant vice president of student life, Adam Wasilko.

On the surface, the event appears simple enough, but there was a lot of planning that went into making the weekly event happen. Logistics along with parking and scheduling vendors go into providing students and staff to experience Food Truck Fridays.

“Auxiliary services does an amazing job working out the contracts and scheduling the trucks,” said Wasilko. “We historically look at what trucks are most popular and invite those. We also strive to offer vegetarian, kosher and halal options.”

Friday saw the return of some of the more popular food trucks PGH EATZ, Foxy Fran and PGH Crepes truck while welcoming Yovi’s, famous for their Chicago style hotdogs, for the first time on campus.

Lee Yovanaf, the owner of Yovi’s, started out Downtown in Market Square, but he pivoted to food trucks because of Covid-19.

“When the pandemic had all the restaurants closed, food trucks were like the Red Cross,” said Yovanaf. “We could go to neighborhoods and do events that other restaurants couldn’t do anymore.”

For those looking for a more spicy or greener option, Foxy Fran provided a Caribbean food option for patrons. Monica Johnson, the owner and operator of Foxy Fran was inspired by her grandmother, Frances Catherine Harper, to cook for customers.

“My business is inspired by my grandmother, who taught me how to cook, who I assisted in the kitchen when she did catering services,” Johnson said. “So I said to myself when she passed away in 2018 that I would find a way to not only heal from her death, but to keep her alive in some shape, form or fashion.”

PGH EATZ, known on campus for their pulled pork mac ‘n cheese, made their spring debut on the Bluff. What started out as a whim for the Markisotto family has now become one of the most popular food trucks in Pittsburgh.

They are currently nominated by Pittsburgh Magazine for best food truck along with catering major events such as Steelers Training Camp.

“The beauty of our truck is that everything is homemade,” said business co-manager Jennifer Markisotto. “We don’t just go and buy freezer food, outside of the hotdogs, everything is homemade.”

And for those with a sweet-tooth, PGH Crepes Truck had plenty of desert style options for customers.

“At Duquesne university it’s always strawberry or banana nutella crepes,” said, PGH Crepes truck owner, Ilmir Akhmetzyanov. “It’s always a dessert Crepe.”

For those that may have missed Food Truck Friday, they will be returning throughout the spring from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday, except on April 7 for Good Friday.

Wasilko said the university plans for previous food truck favorites PGH EATZ, Auntie Anne’s and Nakama to be joined by new vendors, including Tocayo Tacos and Aviva Brick-Oven Pizza. Brother Andre’s Cafe from Epiphany Church will also return starting in April.