Food trucks bring Pitt community together for a good cause


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

Patrons wait in line to order from the Totopo Cocina & Cantina food truck at Thursday’s Food Truck Roundup outside of the William Pitt Union.

By Sarah Demchak, Staff Writer

Sun, music and food trucks flooded the William Pitt Union Plaza. The clear skies and cool breeze wafted all the good-smelling food aromas throughout campus, attracting flocks of students to enjoy the weather.

Pitt’s Conference Services team organized the Food Truck Roundup on Tuesday afternoon. Sue George, administrative specialist of Conference Services, was in charge of organizing the event with Ilona Margolin, a sophomore health informatics major.

The event benefits the Business, Hospitality & Auxiliary Services Resheeda L. Johnson United Way Campaign. The United Way focuses on promoting education, income and health for communities across the world. George said the campaign honors Resheeda L. Johnson, who died in 2016 after more than 20 years of housekeeping service in the BHAS division. 

The Conference Services team’s goal was to raise $1,000 during the event for the campaign. According to George, the team made $750 two years ago at this event, so they hoped to reach their new, bigger goal this year. She said they surpassed their goal with a grand total of $1,301.70. In order to do this, every food truck committed to donating 15% of their sales to the campaign. 

According to Margolin, this event’s planning began in late February and included speaking with many food trucks, securing proper time frames, assuring each vendor donates 15% of their sales to the campaign and coordinating with the WPU. Margolin, who was in charge of choosing the vendors, said she narrowed down a long list of food trucks to secure a variety of food options for the event. 

“We’ve done this event many times before, so we have a list of all the food trucks,” Margolin said. “I just wanted a diverse selection of food, so that’s what I was really going for. Then, once they answered, I would check off, ‘Oh, there’s Mexican food here, then we don’t need another Mexican food truck.’”

Margolin provided a variety of food options with seven trucks attending the event, including Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck, Hoshi Food Truck, Totopo Mexican, Smokeland BBQ, Emporio Meatball Truck, Steel City Chimneys and Cool Beans. The first four were located in the WPU Plaza and the last three lined University Place in front of Nordenberg Hall. 

George said she was most looking forward to Steel City Chimneys, who serve dessert chimney cakes, or kürtőskalács, which are freshly grilled, handcrafted yeast pastries. She said they make their meals fresh, along with all the other vendors. 


Romita Das | Senior Staff Photographer

“I want to try Steel City Chimneys because I didn’t know about that one, that’s new to me. I heard it’s a big hit though,” George said. “They’re actually coming at 8:30 in the morning because they make dough fresh. A lot of the trucks do that ー they told me that they make a lot of their things right on site.”

Smokeland BBQ experienced troubles with their truck, but they still attended the event with a tent to serve their BBQ staples to the Pitt community. Steve Schurr, Smokeland Food Truck’s director of operations, said Smokeland’s local menu offers options that exemplify Pittsburgh and its quirks.

“Smokeland BBQ is meant to represent everything creative and unique about Pittsburgh,” Schurr said. “All our protein is slow smoked for 18 hours and dusted with our house-made Rockin’ spice rub, and we feature house-made signature sauces, Pitt Gold and Pittsburgh-Style. Our beef and pork are local from Jubilee Hilltop Ranch.” 

For this event, Smokeland offered reduced prices. Schurr said he was most looking forward to seeing everyone join to support the campaign.

“For this event we are offering a reduced price menu with our most popular menu item ー pulled pork or smoked chicken sandwiches,” Schurr said. “Seeing the Pitt Community come together for such a great cause.”

Nathaniel Mallick, a junior computer engineering major, said he enjoyed Smokeland’s smoked chicken sandwich and the sunny weather. He said the food, customer service and atmosphere were very enjoyable.

“The people working at Smokeland were very friendly and the food was delicious,” Mallick said. “It’s great to eat outside and enjoy the sun in between classes.”

After the previous gloomy days, George said she hoped the weather would hold up for the event. She said she wants students to enjoy the food, warm temperatures, Roc the mascot and music. Everything worked out as she hoped. 

“We are hoping for a beautiful day so students can sit on Soldiers and Sailors lawn,” George said. “We got Roc to come, he’s going to come down and visit with us. We will have balloons up and some music.” 

Smokeland BBQ was the only truck accepting dining dollars and Panther Funds. The Conference Services team plans on furthering that option in the future. Margolin said she is excited for next year’s Roundup. She said the team will attempt to create a token system to help Pitt students pay for the event.

“We are going to do it again in the fall — there’s going to be a whole different variety of trucks then, too,” Margolin said. “We were going to try to do this token thing, where they come up to our register and then they pay with their dining dollars and we give them a token. We are going to try to definitely do that in the fall.”