Cracking the mold of college dining


By Rebecca Kapolnek

It’s 2:00 a.m., Joe’s just closed, and you have a case of the munchies. Second Story is too far away, Papa D’s has a long line, and there is only so much Antonio’s one can handle. 

Then you see it, a beacon of hope, parked right outside the Joe’s entrance: The Cracked food truck. 

Fear not Illini, a different food option is on the rise on campus, satisfying hungry students day and night: Food trucks.

Trucks such as Cracked, which serves low-cost breakfast food throughout the day and after hours, and Pandamonium Doughnuts, which serves creative and tasty doughnuts during the day, are parked in random spots on campus.

Food trucks are smaller businesses that run on student support since they operate out of a truck and are not based in a sit-in restaurant. Whether it is convenient to grab a doughnut near Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on your way to class or grab a breakfast sandwich after a night at the bars, students should support this unique way to eat on campus and also expand their palates. With 13 food trucks on campus, there are options for everybody’s different preferences when it comes to going out to eat. 

Food trucks are an easy and unique way to grab food, and students should make it their goal to try out these hidden gems on campus. They give students an opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Green Street and explore new foods that they might not have tried before. Most of these food trucks are not chain restaurants, and they are not commonly known around the country, unlike places such as McDonald’s, Panera and Jimmy John’s. One food truck, the Empanada House, which also houses a dine-in restaurant in Urbana on campus, offers a variety of empanadas on their menu, ranging from BBQ pork to spicy chicken — which is much more creative than the average burrito bowl from Chipotle.

Trucks like Cracked and Burrito King also have unique features that draw in customers. Typically, late night food places on campus consist of deep fried foods and pizza. However, food trucks offer a variety of different options. Cracked provides eggs, bacon and hash browns to customers; Burrito King offers grab-and-go burritos and nachos.

Unique features like this are why I believe students should make an effort to support the food trucks on campus when they are deciding where to eat. 

In addition to the variety of choices these food trucks offer, their proximity to hot spots on campus adds to the value of their services. Derald’s Café, a food truck typically parked outside of Krannert, serves as a convenient outlet for hungry students to grab lunch or breakfast before heading to class. This is especially convenient because it is located just off the quad, and it is easily accessible for all students at the University that are always on the go. It is crucial to have options like this on campus because most students do not have the time to run to Green Street or wait in lines at the Union in between classes. 

The small businesses running some of the local food trucks deserve student support just as much as the corporate restaurants lining Green Street. Food trucks could promote their business more and add more hours late at night around the bars as they empty out, but we should still take advantage of them while they’re open. Cracked, for example, operates 11:00 p.m. — 3:00 a.m. on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and is usually parked outside of Joe’s, which attracts students who might not want to make the walk down Green Street.   

Like any business, exposure to the product is key, and if more students had the opportunity to experience the food these trucks have to offer, I believe they would be even more popular than they already are on campus. 

So when you exit Joe’s at night and are on a mission to find a late night snack, consider venturing out and trying one of the food trucks. After all, breakfast food at 2:00 a.m. is never a bad idea.

Rebecca is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]