It’s way past lunch hour and you’re stuck on campus for the day, famished and looking to grab a bite to eat. Luckily, at UC Davis, there is a wide selection of food places available to students, staff, and visitors alike. You can swipe in at the Residential Dining Commons, opt for a variety of choices at The Silo and student-operated CoHo, or stroll into town and eat at a local favorite less than a mile away. Not really feeling these options? Fortunately, UCD also partners with eateries in Sacramento to give locals a food truck, food experience.
Hesitant to try them out? Not sure if they’ll be any good? No problem–we tried one of the most popular items from each food truck and rated the quality of each below.
1. Shah’s Halal Food Truck
If you’re passing through the area between the ASUCD Bike Barn and the Craft Center, you’ve likely seen Shah’s Halal Food at its primary location by the Silo. Around noon-time, there’s usually a massive line of students waiting to get a taste of their ever-popular Mediterranean-inspired, Middle Eastern cuisine. However, the line tends to move quickly. You can also catch them during off-hours between 9:30 am and 8 pm.
For those unfamiliar with halal food, the term comes from Islamic culture, meaning lawful. Typically, for foods to be halal, they can only contain ingredients and be prepared in ways permitted by the religion of Islam. At Shah’s, they carry two main menu items: rice platters and gyros, with your choice of chicken, lamb, or falafel.
From this food truck, we had the Chicken Gyro with spicy sauce, which was priced at $6.25 for cash, and $0.27 extra with card. It comes with spice-rubbed chicken that looks like it’s been cooked in a tandoor, a slaw of red and green cabbage, and zucchini on a warm, chewy pita. All this of this is heavily lathered in a white, yogurt-based sauce, and a spicy sauce that packs a punch. Meals also come with a fountain drink or bottled water.
The success of Shah’s Halal Food can be attributed to the fact that it’s family-run under owner Tory Mashriqi, who actualized his food vision through Shah’s in 2009. He continued to open Fusion Fresh Café, Shah’s Indian Cuisine, and El Rapido Grill, as listed below, in the years to follow.
2. Star Ginger Food Truck
Star Ginger, like Shah’s, has seen its fair share of customers since establishing its food truck services in 2011. It offers Vietnamese-Thai food created by Mai Pham, chef and owner of its restaurant equivalent in Sacramento. Grab a bite of their Asian fusion cuisine between the hours of around 11 am to 3 pm at the Silo, or at the side of Hutchinson and Storer Hall. If you’re passing the residence halls, drop by the truck at Tercero on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Segundo on Tuesday and Thursday evenings after 5 pm.
This food truck used to offer its popular Banh Mi sandwiches, but as of lately, the item has been removed from the menu. However, they’re still serving up tasty rice bowls, noodle salads, and Thai tacos.
We caught them at their Silo location and tried the Chicken Rice Bowl under recommendation by their friendly staff. This menu item comes with coconut curry and lemongrass-rubbed chicken atop a bed of rice. It’s complemented by an Asian slaw of shredded red and green cabbage and carrots, drizzled in toasted sesame vinaigrette, all for $6.50. Drinks are not included, but you can order some Thai Tea on the side to round out your meal.
While the curry part of the chicken was a little lacking, spice it up with a dash of Sriracha. In between bites, cleanse your palate with a forkful of salad, which yields a refreshing crunch.
3. Fusion Fresh Café
Fusion Fresh Café can be spotted in front of the Robert Mondavi Center for Performing Arts from 7:30 am to 5 pm. In the evenings, you can find them at Segundo on Mondays and most Wednesdays after 5 pm. Its location makes it a hot spot for the nearby graduate student programs, administrative staff, and visitors coming through the Welcome Center. While these reasons rank this food truck a tad pricier than its competitors, it does not disappoint in terms of quality and service.
Fusion Fresh Café rolled onto campus in 2012 as the only food truck to offer breakfast items until 10:30 am, and lunch items thereafter. Some things listed on the menu include: breakfast burritos, pancakes, rice platters, Tex-Mex items, coffee, and tea. In terms of the type of food offered here, Fusion Fresh is best described as a mixture of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, much like Shah’s Halal, but with an American-style flair.
We opted for the Chicken and Rice Platter for $7.75, one of the truck’s most popular items, which is also offered at Shah’s Halal. Though these trucks are under the same owners, the execution is slightly different, and dare we say, better. This dish came with cubed, tandoor-style chicken on top of fragrant, jasmine-style rice. It’s paired with a salad of iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and zucchini, dressed with a yogurt-based sauce with bits of dill. Meals come with a soda or bottled water.
4. Shah’s Indian Cuisine
Shah’s Indian Cuisine entered the food truck game in the winter of 2015, to the delight of many students who were looking for something new. You can find the truck in front of Hutchinson and Storer Hall, or sometimes the Silo, from 10:30 am to 5 pm.
Like the name suggests, this food truck offers Indian cuisine, with vegetarian and meat-based curries and naan. They also expect to be serving up breakfast sometime in the future, with items similar to its competitor, Fusion Fresh Café. While Shah’s Indian is not the most authentic Indian food around, the overall quality of their dishes makes up for its lack in traditional flavors.
We tried their most popular item, Chicken Tikka Masala, a dish recognizable to both frequent and infrequent connoisseurs of Indian food, for $8.25 cash and $0.25 extra with card. While the sauce imparted a heavier tomato flavor than most tikka masalas, it had underlying hints of cayenne. It was soaked up by the large, tender cubes of tandoori chicken and jasmine rice, which was likely colored with saffron or tumeric. A salad of chopped lettuce and shredded carrot dressed in a tangy white sauce, plus a soda drink or bottled water, was paired with the dish.
5. El Rapido Grill
Despite being the most recent food truck to make its campus debut, El Rapido Grill has already captured the attention and appetites of numerous college students. It came onto the scene this past February, establishing its place in front of the Arc, a frequently visited location by many, which resulted in its heightened popularity. Grab something to eat between around 10:30 am and 11 am to 3:30 pm and 4 pm.
Unlike its competitors, El Rapido Grill brings something new to the table with its south-of-the-border, Tex-Mex food. Its menu consists of burritos/bowls, tacos, quesadillas, and nachos. Furthermore, if you’re a Freshman or have swipes and Aggie Cash handy, El Rapido Grill allows you to split payment options with one swipe equating to a $4 value.
At this truck, we got the Chicken Tacos for $6 cash and $0.25 with card, which come with four tacos on corn tortilla, each topped with corn, chunks of tomato, red cabbage, cheese. The chicken is lightly rubbed in flavors suggesting paprika and cumin, which was a nice contrast to the sour cream and Thousand Island-Sriracha mayo-esque sauces. The chewiness of the tortilla left something to be desired, but each bite gave a satisfying mouth-feel that made the meal worth it.
Try these dishes out for yourself and see if you agree. Your campus food truck experience is waiting for you.