Go to Athens, eat at food trucks

Go to Athens, eat at food trucks

One-of-a-kind cuisine offered on city’s streets

By Tristen Phipps

Jessica Burkhart has worked in Ali Baba’s food trailer since 2007.

Burrowed in the winding hills and bountiful bricks of Athens, lies a trade decades old. For some, it’s a regular stop; for others, it’s a local food adventure; but for Marla Rutter, Nisar Shaikh and Stacy Peters, food trucks are their livelihood.

On the bricks since 1984, Burrito Buggy comforts Ohio University alumni and students alike. Rutter was a freshman when the Buggy opened. She visited it regularly as a student and faithfully ordered her favorite menu item.

“Beef supreme. It’s what I ate every time through college and it’s never changed,” said Rutter.

In 2010, when the Burrito Buggy nearly closed, Rutter stepped in to save the truck she cherished so much.

She originally bought the trailer for her daughter, a culinary student at Hocking College, who now runs OMG Rotisserie on Columbus Road. Rutter quit her job as an insurance saleswoman to operate the Buggy full time. Her day begins at 7:30 a.m. when she unplugs the trailer from its charger.

Since she purchased the trailer in 2010, Rutter has expanded the menu and purchased a second buggy for events. With so many family business endeavors, the Rutters have little time to dedicate to cooking at home.

“I have not cooked at home since last Christmas,” Rutter said. “I actually unplugged my refrigerator to save electricity.”

Shaikh, better known as Ali Baba, built his success in 1989. Shaikh built his food trailer from a box trailer and a pile of recyclables. Formerly an OU student in the industry of technology, he designed a battery charging solar system for his trailer.

Shaikh struggled to find a job when he came to this country. He remembered a former employer told him there was success to be found in the food industry in America.

“I observed uptown no one had a gyro, so I sell gyro. No one had a falafel, so I sell falafel,” Shaikh said.

Jessica Burkhart has worked in Ali Baba’s food trailer since 2007.

“I have social anxiety, so for me, it is wonderful to be able to work by myself but still be able to interact with other people, have conversations and be challenged,” said Burkhart.

New to the bricks, chocolatier Peters brought Petru to Athens just before Valentine’s Day. Peters offers delicate truffles and decadent chocolate bars from her food truck that was once just an oxygen delivery vehicle.

“This big thing used to deliver oxygen outside of New York City. It was a big, blue, empty metal truck. We totally gutted it,” Peters said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of food trucks. I like the whole idea of something done well, but quickly, in a small space.”

Peters uses chocolate as a delivery device for local ingredients. The chocolate comes from Belgium and is tempered in the truck, which is now a certified kitchen. Each chocolate truffle is filled with graham crackers from a local bakery, lemon curd made fresh by Peters herself or local whiskey combined with homemade caramel sauce, among other things.

With a teaching degree in health education, Peters and her food truck were an unlikely match.

“I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth. When I was a little girl, I took icing off of my cake,” Peters said, “but I’ve always loved chocolate.”

Not Guilty is another food truck that has served the Athens community for several years. It was not around for the spring semester, and the owner could not be reached.

The food trucks can be found on East Union Street. Weather permitting, the trucks are open daily and are closed on Sundays.

Salt Magazine