Magic Carpet Foods
36th and Spruce streets. Mon.-Fri., 11am-2:30pm.
If you’ve ever been afraid to try vegetarian dishes or eat from a food cart, a single forkful of food at vegetarian food cart Magic Carpet Foods will abolish both fears. A five-minute walk from the 34th Street and Market El train stop and a few feet away from Penn’s Perelman Quad, the cart’s mix of Middle Eastern cuisine with classic Greek staples provides customers with a bevy of colorful, bold flavors to choose from. Slip your friend that swears against tofu the Bella Donna ($4.25), a tofu “meatball” dish. Served with multigrain rice, a mix of veggies and a sprinkling of freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, the meatballs have a rich, hearty, even meaty flavor very reminiscent of a traditional beef stew or thick chili that remained moist and flavorful. The veggies and the rice maintained their individual flavors and crispness, never becoming soggy and overwhelmed by the sauce that accompanied the meatballs. Then there’s the Greek Pasta Salad ($4), served as a refreshing, light counterpart to the robust meatballs. It’s nothing that’ll knock your taste buds into the stratosphere of originality, but the pasta’s cooked perfectly, the tomatoes are ripe, sweet and juicy throughout, and the feta cheese isn’t overpowering. The Dervish Delight ($7.50) is served as a platter and includes hummus (with plenty of pita to share), falafel and tabouli served over a bed of romaine lettuce. The hummus was spectacular, far from containing that one-note flavor usually found in grocery store dip. The tabouli was bold and minty, made in a very traditional style. The falafel had a nice flavor but was a bit mealy. The super polite staff kept the line moving quickly, and its location next to the Quad—full of benches and shade—is ideal. The best part: lunch for two for less than $16, with a TON of leftovers. (D.W.)
Sat.-Sun., 11am-4pm; Second and Poplar streets. la-copine.com
The breakfast sandwich—a morning staple for those on the go—is nothing new to the lunch-truck repertoire. Take a bagel, croissant or long roll, slap on eggs, American cheese and your choice of meat, and voila, you have a heart attack wrapped in foil. Why not just eat a stick of butter every morning? But if you’re seeking something a little more gourmet and a little less greasy, look no further than La Copine, a brunch truck situated on the patio of its sit-down restaurant sister of the same name. Entering the Northern Liberties restaurant’s colorful patio filled with an eclectic mix of mismatched chairs and tables can transport you to a serene alcove far from the daily bump and grind. Take your breakfast on the go, or sit and relax for a Sunday brunch with friends outdoors.
The truck offers a breakfast special ($10) consisting of a scrambled-egg sandwich on a whole-wheat English muffin with carmelized onions, sharp cheddar cheese and your choice of sausage or veggie sausage, as well as a side salad or hash browns and a drink. The veggie sausage is a blend of mushrooms, barley and oats with the same consistency as the sausage but with a spicier kick. The side salad, made with quinoa and rainbow chard, nuts, cherries and a basil mustard vinaigrette, is a sweet, fresh and surprisingly well-matched companion to the eggs. For a more classic brunch, opt for the hash browns, which La Copine tops with a chipotle ketchup ... which is incredible. They have sweeter options, too. Imagine a PB&J—the way mom used to make. Now envision mom using homemade banana bread instead of Wonder. To. Die. For. As for the drink, I recommend their daily brewed iced tea; I ordered the hibiscus and mint blend, which was the perfect cold refreshment for the steamy afternoon—also good for hangovers. And don’t feel guilty if you need a refill—it’s only a buck! The two gals who work the truck are friendly and provide fast service, which is truly a one-two punch in the mobile-meal line of work. Check out the truck’s Twitter, @philacopine, for menu updates. (A.S.)
Mon., Love Park; Tue.-Thurs., 38th and Walnut streets. sugarphillytruck.com
In Philadelphia, the conundrum of what to have for lunch isn’t affected by location so much as it is by cuisine … and certainly not for the lack of it. From all-American to Vietnamese, lunch options are endless, but the variety often falls short when your sweet tooth starts screaming for attention. That’s where the rising trend of dessert trucks comes in. But forget the cookies and cupcakes, folks, I’m talkin’ about Sugar Philly. This cute blue truck is raising the bar with French macarons in a dozen flavors and other gourmet desserts like Pineapple Custard, Vanilla Crème Brulee and Crème Fraiche Cheesecake in the summer, and a winter menu with items such as the Spicy Mexican Layered Chocolate Cake and Peanut Panna Cotta. If you’re more of a water ice and Tastykake kind of person, you may be saying, “maca-who?” The French macaron shouldn’t be confused with macaroons, a coconut-based cookie. They are born the same way, with egg whites beaten to a stiff peak, but macarons take a more elegant form when finely ground almonds are folded in to create a paste that is then baked into rounds. Once cooled, the macaron is filled with buttercreams, jams or ganache and resembles a fancy, colorful Oreo. The chocolate ganache, blueberry lemon, milk and honey, tiramisu and dulce de leche macarons (2 for $3), were delicious and true to flavor. I was at first apprehensive about the blueberry lemon, but the two flavors blended surprisingly well to create a sweet and tangy taste perfect for summer. Be warned, though, as the fillings are very gooey and fresh, and can melt on a steaming day if not eaten immediately. Unfortunately, the Vanilla Crème Brulee ($5), didn’t tickle my fancy the same way. The custard was very thick and bland, and the hard caramel top tasted a bit like plastic. Still, you need a French cookie now and then to sweeten up your day. (A.S.)
Mon.-Tues., 11am-3pm, Love Park; UC Thursdays TBA; Piazza Saturdays TBA
Editor’s note: Sweetbox has been closed the past week due to a death in the family, which is why we couldn’t find them during our field trip. But, they assure us they’ll be back in action on July 11. Look for them in Love Park. (We’ve also been assured by you, dear readers, that these cupcakes are the shiznizzle).