Athens Street Food 101 (Starring The Burrito Buggy)
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 3, 2010
Street Food has come to national attention in the last two years. Korean Taco Trucks in LA, over 300 food carts in “pods” throughout Portland (with an app to track them), articles galore, a Food Network show and mobile food conventions in San Francisco as well as Boston. Street Food is hot/haute.
Down in Athens and Ohio University this mobile food mania is old news. There has been a mobile food court at the corner of Court and Union streets for decades. At any time, two to four of more food carts are serving students and local’s lunch, dinner and late night post revelry refreshers. The king of the court is the Burrito Buggy. Open since 1984, this cart is a local landmark and a source of addiction for undergraduates and alumni. For at least one Columbus based food writer the mention of a Burrito Buggy Burrito has the same power as the suggestion of a free dime bag to a heroin user.
There was a major panic in the winter of 2009 when notice went out that long time owner of the “buggy” Paul Wildeck was looking to sell the business and in the interim, the buggy would be closed. I contacted Paul about buying the buggy but the cost was out of my price range. Fortunately, the business was purchased and some of the previous employees stayed on to maintain the quality and tradition of the Burrito Buggy. I have sampled several burritos in the new era and have found each as good as ever.
The Supreme comes with choice of beef or chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, jalapenos, your choice of salsa, sour cream, rice and black or red beans with guacamole available for an extra $0.75. Get the Guacamole! The burritos range from $4.50 to $7.00. Everything is fresh and locally sourced when possible. There are many vegetarian options. Beans and rice is a low budget staple for diners that are short on cash or do not have the capacity for a one-pound burrito weighing down their belly.
Other carts and trailers serving the masses include Ali Baba (Middle Eastern: gyros, baba ganoush etc.), Bagel Buggy, Zaanti (Sanskrit word for peace – Indian cuisine). Mr. Softee and A-Town Pies (pizza) and Fries. I would like to say that I have tried the other mobile vendors but put the Burrito Buggy in front of me and I am going there (and most likely heading to O’Betty’s and Casa Nueva within the hour as well).
In my opinion, Athens leads Ohio in locally focused food. Athens also led the state in embracing food cart culture. Many OU graduates migrate to Columbus after college with a firm foundation in street food appreciation and in some cases a BA in Burrito Buggy Studies. I am sure local OU alumni are more apt to engage in the incredible Taco Truck and Street Food culture that is growing in Columbus.
If you are reluctant to take the plunge into “street meat”, I suggest you head to Athens for an education.
(Alternatively, buy local and do a Columbus Food Adventures Taco Truck Tour).