Last month, the college where I work lost its cafeteria staff. It was a planned loss, mind you, with the current vendor’s contract expiring and a new vendor due not to arrive until the fall semester, leaving a summer-long gap for the school to reconstruct its cafeteria, hopefully for the better. But, this move didn’t ignore the need for faculty, staff, and students to eat, especially when there’s so little time in a lunch break to go off-campus for lunch, so the school was nice enough to bring in food truck vendors from all over south Florida to service its lunching needs. One such food truck was from Chick-fil-A. The rest were from vendors I’d never heard of before, at least not until they came back for seconds.
This past week, one of these unknowns caught my attention. It had an attractive food menu that looked like it wouldn’t saturate me with grease and leave me feeling sluggish the rest of the day (unlike the all-fries food truck that was booked to provide food at the other location). It featured unique hits from gyros to salads (what, no burgers or hot dogs?), and listed three distinct sauces: yogurt (meh), tahini (eh?), and pepperoncini (yay!) as its choice of toppings.
This unknown French-Mediterranean restaurant on wheels is called OliveOnion, and I’d spent all week waiting for it.
Thursday Lunch Surprise:
The day of the OliveOnion truck had finally arrived. It was on a Thursday. Due to conflicts with other items on my schedule that day, I had to move my lunch ahead 45 minutes and ensure that I got my food, returned to the office, and finished eating by 12:30. It would be tight. But, it was always tight. I was prepared to buy now and eat later if necessary. I wanted to enjoy this one.
I went to the fountain plaza first and saw the food truck that sold only fries. Not what I wanted. So, I changed direction and headed for the other location at the other side of campus, passing by an old friend I hadn’t seen in months along the way. No time to talk! Must get food! We said hi, so I wasn’t a jerk. Anyway, minutes later, I reached the other truck. High-top tables were erected around it. A handful of people were loitering as they waited for their orders. The olive-colored truck stood against the clear noon sky. The backdrop was set. I was ready.
“May I sample the pepperoncini sauce?” I asked the man who was sitting at the front of the truck when I got his attention.
All business, the man agreed, then ducked into the truck’s production cavity and returned less than a minute later with a small plastic cup filled with pepperoncini sauce (a green sauce with “medium hot, fresh herbs”) and a pita chip dipped inside. I scraped the chip through the sauce, getting as much of it on there as I could, and took a bite.
By this point, the higher-than-desired lunch prices, which had been in the back of my mind until now, were no longer a factor. I’d come for the sauce, and the sauce delivered. I was convinced. Now it was time to order my food.
“I’ll have the chicken gyro,” I told the man.
He held up his hand.
“Hold on, just one second,” he said.
He ducked back into the production cavity. What just happened? Was someone else’s order ready for delivery? Would I now have to wait my turn?
No, the man came back with another cup, this time filled with a juicy beef brisket topped with my pepperoncini sauce that I couldn’t wait to consume more of. He also gave me a plastic fork.
“The chicken is okay. Try this instead.”
Not one to deny a free sample if it looks delicious, I took the bite. I immediately handed it back to him.
“Okay, you made your point,” I said. “I’ll take the brisket.”
It was an extra dollar, but let’s credit the man on the upsell. A good business man knows his customer’s heart, and my heart was in my stomach. Pretty soon the beef brisket gyro with the pepperoncini sauce would be in there, too.
I ordered the gyro with everything but the tomato (I usually order food without tomato), swiped my card, added the 25% tip because the sample was just that worth it, and headed for the window where my food would be coming to me. The other man on the truck, the one who was preparing the food, apologized for the wait (I’d been waiting maybe a minute), and was going to have my gyro ready as soon as possible. I probably waited no more than three minutes between order and delivery. The weather was warm and the sky cloudless. The handful of people hanging about were mostly quiet. I still had plenty of time to get back to the office. All was well.
The second man stuffed a foil-wrapped brick into a paper bag and handed me the bag.
“There’s pepperoncini sauce on this, right?” I said.
Yes, there definitely was. Satisfied, I headed back to the office, entered the breakroom, rolled out a layer of paper towels across the table, then watched as extra virgin olive oil leaked out through the foil and the paper bag and onto the table. Guess I’ll need a plate, I thought.
The brisket gyro came on a pita (I chose white, or maybe it was wheat, but I had the option for grain), and was topped with lettuce, black olives, onions, cucumbers, feta cheese crumbles, extra virgin olive oil, and pepperoncini sauce. Every bite drizzled onto my tongue with juicy, meaty flavor. By the time I’d taken my last bite, the clock struck 12:30. Finished right on time. I smiled. Then I retrieved a breath mint and popped it in my mouth. I’d definitely need it.
All told, I’d spent about $15 (including tip) for restaurant quality food, even though I didn’t order any sides or drinks (the drinks in the vending machines are a bit cheaper). On my way back to the sign-in computer (where I get paid), I approached my coworker whom I had been talking to about the food truck schedule and simply nodded.
Expensive, a little bit, but definitely worth it. If I’m ever down in the Hollywood region (Hollywood, Florida), I know where to go for lunch. Hopefully I won’t have to wait that long. Hopefully they’ll come back. I keep saying the same thing about that Chick-fil-A food truck that came to school that one time several weeks ago. But that’s a story for another day.
Photos Retrieved from Pixabay.