Everyone has to eat sometime. However, as most students know, visiting the Marshall Student Center’s food court for the fourth time in a week can get tiresome. The Oracle rates a few USF area restaurants on criteria including taste, price, service and atmosphere (1 being the worst and 5 being the best). To preserve the authentic customer experience, Abuelenen and Castillo never reveal that they are critics. This week’s theme: food trucks.
913 E. Hillsborough Ave.
Nestled off bustling Hillsborough Avenue, Taco Bus brings diners into a more relaxed, festive environment. Surrounded by cacti, the steady flow of customers to this big, white school bus are entertained with rambunctious Mexican music as they await their meal.
The authentic taste of Taco Bus easily surpasses that of popular chains such as Moe’s or Tijuana Flats. Their taco ($2.69) is full of flavors, containing a fresh blend of cilantro, shredded cabbage, slivers of onions, juicy tomatoes and meat or vegetables. Recommended is the carne asada – grilled steak marinated in Mexican seasonings. Sour cream or a side of creamy refried beans ($1.50) adds even more variety to an already great dish.
The taco, though filling, is the smallest dish on the menu. An excellent option to satisfy voracious hunger is the pollo quesadilla ($5.95). Wrapped in a warm and crispy tortilla with fresh vegetables and tender, incredibly well-seasoned chicken, the quesadilla was undoubtedly appetizing. The Horchata ($2.50), a sweet rice- and milk-based drink served in a giant cup, was a suitable complement to the salty meal. Even the dessert was impressively delicious. The Tres Leches cake ($3.50) was delectably moist after being saturated with sweetened milk. The meringue that topped this dessert was especially noteworthy, with its simple, airy taste and texture.
Verdict: Definitely Returning
Da Kine Hawaiian Caf
6920 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.
The bright orange Da Kine food truck sits adjacent to a large wooden deck filled with colorful tables and chairs, with a pleasant breeze and various Hawaiian decorative signs contributing to a beach-like feel. Their menu is tailored to the customer, offering the choice of small, regular or large portion sizes, and the friendly staff will gladly answer any questions.
One of the more popular dishes available, the Chicken Combo ($12), is a great choice for those that are indecisive or that enjoy sampling several foods. It features three different types of chicken with sides of rice and macaroni salad. The dish features Sweet Shoyu chicken – a signature item marinated in a special sauce – Sweet ‘N’ Hot chicken sauted in a sweet chili sauce and charbroiled Teriyaki chicken. Though the variety offered is great, the chicken itself is not spectacular. The flavors of the sauces and seasonings were not fully infused into the chicken, resulting in an average-tasting dish.
Verdict: Only going back if in the area
Food Truck Square
1901 W. Platt St.
Giving the usually roaming food trucks a permanent home, the Food Truck Square, which opened a week ago, is a lively hub of diverse eateries. Not mentioned in the review are: Tasty Stacy, The Killer Samich Truck, Burger Culture, Mr. Empanada, Maggie on the Move and Fat Torilla’s Southwest Grill.
Wicked ‘Wiches, a large black truck with flashing lights, features more than 10 exotic sandwich options. The portion sizes are generous and each is accompanied by a side of sweet potato chips lightly drizzled with sweet butter sauce, a unique and tasty alternative to the ubiquitous side of fries.
Served in a large bun, the Pineapple Express sandwich ($7) has slices of pineapple, grilled chicken and copious amounts of cheese. The pineapple gives it a sweet, tangy taste that enhances and complements the other flavors, making it superior to an ordinary chicken sandwich.
The Bourbon Mango Pork sandwich ($7) promises a novel combination of ingredients: pulled pork with a zesty barbecue sauce, creamy coleslaw and mango chunks. The sandwich is delicious, yet lacked any mango taste. Upon opening the sandwich, it was unfortunately apparent that it did not contain any actual mango pieces. Overall, it is a satisfying meal that could be excellent with all ingredients present.
Touted as gourmet ice pops ($3), these frozen treats are made of locally grown fruits and vegetables. With an ever-changing seasonal menu, Whatever Pops offers a fresh and healthier alternative to most store-bought pops, which are laden with dyes and preservatives. The menu is full of flavorful combinations, like the noteworthy Coconut Lime – one of Tampa Tribune’s 12 Tastes for 2012.
Eating the coconut lime ice pop is an absolutely delightful experience. The coconut and lime flavors are impeccably fused, resulting in a unique taste. More than anything, however, it is the remarkably real taste of the fruit, especially the coconut, that make it exceptional. Likewise, the Mango Tangerine pop does not disappoint. Instead, it accomplishes a formidable feat: each bite feels like it’s from a juicy tangerine or a sweet mango, freshly picked off the tree. A bonus is that the natural sweetness of the fruits is preserved, thus no additional sugar needs to be added.
The Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownie ($1.50) available at Sinful Pleasures is exquisite. The consistency is perfect – it is soft and moist – and the melted chocolate chips scattered throughout shift all the focus to the chocolate taste of this indulgent dessert.
Verdict: Definitely worth the drive