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Greek Festival II lovingly serves up cheap, high-quality Greek fare

New arrival welcome on Tufts' increasingly popular food truck scene

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 19:04


Caroline Geiling for the Tufts Daily

Paul Hatzidis' Greek Festival II has found a home on College Avenue after a rocky start on Packard Avenue.

For as long as there have been cars, there have been food trucks. Once the unglamorous mobile cafeterias of workers and laborers, food trucks were counted on to provide cheap meals and drinks to the hardworking hungry. But now, food trucks are witnessing a glory age. Ironically, it was the Great Recession that really kicked things off, as it resulted in the unemployment of many food truck regulars. The resulting surplus of trucks, paired with the number of chefs being laid off from high quality restaurants, led to food trucks’ emergence as a new urban food source with high mobility and low overhead costs.

City streets have always been defined by their sidewalk peddlers, but the modern food truck is much more like a mobile restaurant. The classic “roach coach” still prevails, though it is now equally common to see trucks selling high-quality, specialized food. Social media services such as Twitter and Facebook have also helped some of the more popular trucks develop a fiendish following that tracks their every move.

Still, Boston and its neighboring towns have been slow to jump on the food truck bandwagon. While Los Angeles’s Kogi BBQ Truck and the Red Hook Lobster Pound food trucks of New York City and Washington, D.C. have garnered national acclaim, Boston’s truck culture is minimal. In addition to the trucks’ complicating Boston’s already dicey parking situation, restaurant owners fear competition from the trucks, while residents worry about crowd noise and odors. But fear not — things are looking up. In the winter of 2010-2011, the city of Boston held a competition to establish a cluster of food trucks in the Boston City Hall Plaza. Bon Me, Clover and Momogoose were the winners. And while Moe’s BBQ and Bark n’ Bite were the only licensed food trucks in the Somerville area until last year, there is now a third: Greek Festival II.

Paul Hatzidis is relatively new to The Hill, but he is no stranger to the food industry. Now the owner of Greek Festival II, Hatzidis entered the culinary world at the tender age of 18, fresh out of high school. From selling out of a pushcart near BU to a brief, regrettable stint vending to “the snowbirds” of Florida to a booming business in the Brigham Young Women’s Hospital, he has mastered the art of selling quick eats to people on the go.

In fact, it was only through a serendipitous twist of fate that Greek Festival II made it to campus at all. Around six months ago, a gentleman approached Hatzidis and asked if he wanted to set up a truck at a gas station on Cambridge Street. Hatzidis was interested and started creating a business plan. Three months and thousands of dollars later, the truck was ready — but the gas station had closed. Fortunately for hungry Jumbos, Hatzidis decided that Tufts would be a prime location for his rolling restaurant. Greek Festival II first set up camp on Packard Avenue before a territorial spat with Moe’s BBQ caused him to change to his current location on College Avenue.

“And it seems that the location’s even better over here,” Hatzidis said.

The food truck world is dependent on word of mouth, so it is unsurprising that Greek Festival II has gained such a devoted following in only two and a half months. Hatzidis’s rock-bottom prices and attention to ingredients have bolstered his reputation — and as all foodies know, good food is made even better by great prices.

“The food is natural. It’s not garbage food,” he said. “I bring everything nice and fresh every single day.”

He is also more than adequately prepared for the cooking his job entails. Greek Festival II is completely outfitted with stainless steel appliances, from three compartment sinks to a charcoal grill to a freezer. According to its owner, the truck has more equipment than the average restaurant.

Gyros are his most popular option and account for about 60 percent of the sandwiches he sells, but other classic Greek dishes have a strong following, too. Greek burgers are “a big hit” right now, as are chicken and shish kabobs, which are made with his grandmother’s recipe. Jumbos should also keep an eye out for his spinach pies, which will grace Greek Festival II’s menu in the near future.

“Not to brag, but they’re great,” Hatzidis said with a shrug and a smile, letting the implication of his pies’ taste go unspoken.

Judging by the Greek truck’s other food options, any boasting is completely justified. The falafel wrap, for example, is more than worth the $6.35. Instead of being the standard limp bundle of falafel, tahini sauce and bread, this wrap bursts with homemade falafel, arugula, sliced cucumber, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and plenty of parsley and tahini sauce. Even the wrap is whole wheat. Similarly, the chicken kebab — served as a wrap — costs less than six dollars and comes with a tasty cucumber sauce. As Hatzidis pointed out, a lot of Greek food can easily be made into cheaper wraps.

“You can get a gyro or a Greek burger for $5, which is pretty cheap,” senior Joe Kennedy said. “They also have good meal deals, so you can get a gyro or a Greek burger with fries and a soda for seven bucks, which I think is a good price.”

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