How Drexel does lunch on its side of UCity
36th & Market streets
A good sandwich can do wonders for the student on a budget. On Penn’s campus, we rely on trucks like Bui’s, Lynn’s and Hemo’s for this delicious fix; unfortunately, though, prices at Bui’s have gone on the rise in the past few months, and Hemo’s wasn’t the best deal to begin with. Cue Gul’s Breakfast & Lunch Cart, an almost–generic sandwich truck that stands out via its price and quality.
Gul’s doesn’t serve pork, so customers can either get turkey or beef bacon instead, and neither detracts from the sandwich. We ordered a bacon, egg and cheese for an astounding $2.50 and the grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and honey mustard on pita ($3.50), which Gul’s recommended.
The breakfast sandwich was similar to Lynn’s, complemented by sriracha but sadly lacking in crunchy bread or particularly crispy bacon. We didn’t miss the pork at all. The chicken was moist, light and flavorful, but the portion was perhaps too small for lunch. The low prices, nonetheless, make Gul’s a great stop for discount dining at Drexel.
DENISE’S SOUL FOOD TRUCK
30th and Market streets
Denise’s Soul Food promises comfort the Caribbean way.
The menu is concise: jerk chicken, oxtail, fried chicken and stew accompanied by classic sides like mac and cheese, potato salad, greens and cornbread. Though the truck’s flashy pink and white exterior, courtesy of the Mural Arts Program, may suggest otherwise, the grub here is understated. Denise’s delivers on its promise: delicious and homey comfort food with a kick.
The staple jerk chicken was succulent, each bite loaded with tantalizing spice. The small platter ($7) comes with two sides. The powerful flavor of the jerk chicken and the mild cheesiness of mac and cheese was a perfect balance, and my second side, candied yams, offered sweetness. The yams were perfectly cooked and deliciously sticky, perhaps too sweet for some.
But if you crave more sugar, Denise’s classic desserts, peach cobbler ($3) or apple pie ($1.50) should do the trick.
Be prepared to leave in a mild food coma, stuffed and incredibly satisfied; the walk to and from the truck might help with that extra side of cornbread.
Market between 34th and 36th St.
If you’re looking for a decent burger on Penn’s campus, your options are slimmer than an undercooked Commons patty. Sure, we have Bobby’s vaunted Palace, but the overpriced offerings there are hardly royal. What’s a burger–seeker to do? Head over to Drexel’s beef–friendly neighborhood: Chewy’s Burger Truck is a treat worth the journey.
We arrived just as Chewy’s affable operators were packing up. Given the richness of their menu — BLTs, breakfast sandwiches, fries and a wide array of toppings — I was nervous we’d missed out. Fortunately, what they had “left over” was absolutely delicious — cheeseburgers, accompanied by chipotle mayonnaise and kimchi.
The burger patty itself was substantial but didn’t weigh down the toasted sesame bun, which remained fluffy. My friends praised the beef effusively: it was flavorful, juicy and cooked to a perfect medium–rare. The use of kimchi added tangy flavor and crisp texture. Combine that with a generous helping of sublime shoestring, skin–on fries and for $8.50 you’ve got yourself a nearly flawless lunch.
31st & Ludlow streets
Cucina Zapata serves up an inventive blend of Mexican and Asian flavors from a brightly graffitied truck. Here, Robert Zapata cheerfully takes orders and makes drinks, like the Thai Iced Tea ($2), an authentically sweet mix of black tea, condensed milk and half–and–half.
Food–wise, the chicken katsu with egg offers the most bang for your buck. $5.50 gets you a golden fried chicken breast doused in katsu sauce atop a crunchy salad, runny egg and a generous portion of rice. The chicken was expertly fried, and the tangy sauce was strong but not overpowering.
Both the short rib and chicken satay tacos (1 for $3, 2 for $6 and 3 for $8) blended Asian and Mexican flavors perfectly, the tender pieces of meet playing off the creamy avocado and crunchy slaw. The Mexican veggie burger’s ($4.50) spicy patty drew raves, and the daily curry special (prices vary) is popular too. The menu is relatively small, but it offers surprising variety, and it’s all good.
Cucina Zapata is only open for lunch on weekdays. Try to arrive early; they run out of certain items occasionally. Despite similarity to Tyson Bee’s, Cucina Zapata promises better flavors and bigger portions.
Market between 34th and 36th St.
Penn’s taco lovers and homesick Texans alike, listen up — if you want a good taco, head to Drexel. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Guapos Tacos, started by Jose Garces of Distrito and JG Domestic, is there for you. Guapos offers everything from tamales to tortilla soup to tostadas, but their claim to fame is their taco creations.
I tried the chipotle short rib (2 for $7) and the pescado (2 for $8). On a corn tortilla, the chipotle braised short rib taco is a tiny mountain of flavor, complete with black beans, crema, queso fresco and crisp radishes. The crema and queso fresco add lightness to the savory beef and, despite the small size of the tortilla, the taco satiates.
The pescado’s crispy Mahi Mahi isn’t as heavy as the juicy short rib, but it’s every bit as delicious. This taco comes with chipotle remoulade, avocado puree, pickled red cabbage and fresh salsa on a flour tortilla — Guapos salsas are homemade.
While you won’t find your traditional carne asada taco at Guapos, you will get unique twists on old favorites and sizeable portions. Come with an open mind and a big appetite.