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The Pitt News

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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr., rear, in red, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New York on Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
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By Aidan Kasner, Sports Editor • May 23, 2024
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By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Ethel’s breakfast food truck brings a 1950s diner experience to Pitt

A+customer+orders+at+Ethel%E2%80%99s%2C+located+between+Lawrence+Hall+and+Hillman+Library.
Amber Farabaugh | Staff Photographer
A customer orders at Ethel’s, located between Lawrence Hall and Hillman Library.

As the sunshine started permeating Pitt’s campus, so did the aroma of Ethel’s. Nestled in the walkway between Lawrence, Posvar and Hillman, Ethel’s stands out as the latest addition to Pitt Eats’ on-campus dining offerings. Opening its windows on March 20, the food truck serves breakfast and brunch options from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, providing quick breakfast bites in the heart of campus.

The 1950s-style dining addition comes with a backstory deeply rooted in history. The tale of the eponymous Ethel traces back to 1953 when the Spartan Aircraft Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma, originally built it as a trailer home. For years, the trailer sat abandoned in the Oklahoma fields, adorned with “No Trespassing” signs in every corner. It wasn’t until a Pitt Eats chef stumbled upon it that the silver trailer, bearing the inscription “Ethel” above its front windshield, found a new purpose as a food truck, according to a sign next to the menu. After a refurbishment effort and a lengthy journey atop a tow truck, Ethel arrived in Pittsburgh, marking the official beginning of Ethel’s on campus.

Chelsea Dixon, Ethel’s supervisor, said working inside a food truck is significantly different from the usual diner or restaurant experience due to the lack of space. She said despite that struggle, she enjoys the experience of interacting closely with coworkers and students on campus. 

“The chef Michael found Ethel’s exactly how it is seen right now, and once it was parked in this location some color was added to there,” Dixon said. “Inside of a food truck, it is very small — we all just make sure that we’re all doing okay. Communication truly is the key here. It’s a very tight space but we manage — there’s four of us in there at all times, so you just have to say ‘excuse me’ to get by and such. I really like our crew and I like interacting with the people from day to day.” 

With Ethel’s sitting right next to the Hillman Library, one of the busiest locations on campus, there is a constant crowd by the truck. Dixon said despite a recent opening, Ethel’s has gained popularity on campus, with lines forming every day to order breakfast options. 

“Anywhere between 10 a.m. and about 2 p.m. is our busiest time — we have people that’ll wait for half an hour for their food.“ Dixon said. “I’ve tried about everything on our menu. I like our Johnny Cakes, the bacon, egg and cheese is a very big seller, and so are the Denver bowls and the french toast sticks.” 

Ana Larez, a senior psychology and English writing major, said she enjoyed giving Ethel’s a chance since she has tried all the food places on campus over the years. She said she especially enjoyed the aesthetic with the sunny outside seating. 

“I decided to go to the food truck because I’m a senior and I wanted to try the new food place,” Larez said. “I feel as though I’ve tried every single meal option in my four years and I didn’t wanna miss out on it. I usually grab breakfast from Einstein’s or the Perch or the Eatery or not at all. I think it’s a great location because it’s right next to Hillman and Posvar. I love the tables and how it’s usually sunny. It was exciting to have something new and try something new.” 

Larez said she visited Ethel’s on an early Tuesday morning to avoid the long lines and enjoyed her meal, albeit with a few critiques. She said she would still like to give the food truck another try, especially following the radiating scent of the French toast sticks. 

“I got here around 9:30 a.m., so it wasn’t too busy,” Larez said. “I got the Denver bowl with the over-easy eggs and hashbrowns and turkey bacon, and it was really good. I did not like my turkey bacon. The hashbrowns and peppers on the eggs were really good, so I think I’ll try it again. In comparison to other locations on campus, it ranks mid to high tier for me. I think I want to get the French toast sticks and try something new next time.” 

Jenna Alford, a junior economics major, said she has tried Ethel’s twice so far and finds the food to be delicious, despite having to visit the food truck very early in the day to beat the long wait times. 

“I got the biscuits and gravy today and they’re pretty fire,” Alford said. “I have family from the South, but I’ve never seen biscuits and gravy cooked with Old Bay on them, so this is pretty great for Northern style. I forced my friend to come here early to get some food and enjoy eating while sitting down before our class because the wait time can be very long.” 

Despite her excitement for the newest dining option, Alford found some potential issues with Ethel’s location. She said the truck being directly in the middle of the walkway to Posvar raises a potential challenge of walking to class in the middle of Ethel’s rush. 

“My friend and I were just talking about how inconveniently placed the truck is,” Alford said. “When this place gets very busy, the lines become so long and there is absolutely no room to walk. So imagine how crowded that would be with people going to class towards Posvar with the long lines.” 

Alford said her favorite aspect of Ethel’s is the 1950s diner vibe. She said she doesn’t have a favorite breakfast spot on campus, making the addition of Ethel’s both aesthetically pleasing and convenient. 

“I think this spot and vibe is so cute,” Alford said. “I feel like we haven’t had a real breakfast spot on campus ever. Having a designated breakfast and brunch spot is really nice. I drink coffee for every drink of the day, so I can just stop by and get something on my coffee run which is just convenient.”

About the Contributor
Nada Abdulaziz, Senior Staff Writer
Nada Abdulaziz is a senior majoring in Philosophy and Biological Sciences. She loves spending her free time reading, hiking, and watching Studio Ghibli films.