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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Mobile food vendors roll back to campus

Member of the Marquette Community love their vendors: including Pita Brothers. Photo by Cy Kondrick / [email protected]

For Marquette students, warmer weather means not only walking to class in T-shirts and shorts, but more food options on campus.

The mobile food vendors that have been a part of campus since fall 2009 are starting up business again as temperatures rise, and they say business has steadily improved over the past year-and-a-half.

Pita Brothers and American Euros, two popular vendors, both reopened on campus in late March. Another, Frankie’s Sammiches, began business for the first time at Marquette last month. All three said they have had a great response from students.

Pita Brothers, which parks its electric vehicle at 15th and Wells streets, typically serves 70 to 80 customers for lunch on a weekday, said general manager Vijay Swearingen. It had planned on doing business elsewhere in the summer, but decided to stay on campus to serve customers from the surrounding area.

Pita Brothers sells sandwiches on authentic Lebanese flatbread for $5 to $6, and also offers fruit smoothies, chips, cookies and beverages.

American Euros, which does business from its cart in front of Raynor Library, initially opened only during dinner hours. But the food’s popularity encouraged serving lunch instead, said general manager Mark Miller.

“We started doing it at night, but we realized it was actually good food, and people liked it — not just drunk people,” Miller said.

Mark Miller from American Euros cooks up fresh gyros for $4 from a cart. Tribune file photo.

American Euros serves gyros priced at $4, with sides, drinks and toppings available for $1 to $2. Miller said American Euros originally bounced between Marquette and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but found the food was far more popular at Marquette.

The success of mobile food vendors on campus made Marquette an ideal location for Frankie’s Sammiches as well, said owner Matthew Skalnik.

“We just looked at the different markets (in Milwaukee) and felt that Marquette was a good place to start,” Skalnik said. “It’s been a great response.”

Frankie’s Sammiches parks its cart at 16th and Wells streets later in the evenings on weekends, and is considering serving lunch soon as well.

Operating a mobile food vendor has advantages over a traditional restaurant, Miller said.

“You can open when you want, and if the location’s bad you can just get up and move,” he said.

But Miller said misconceptions remain about the food quality and cleanliness at mobile vendors. He said many people do not realize street vendors are regulated just as much as traditional restaurants. And there are practical concerns as well.

“You’re at the mercy of the weatherman,” Skalnik said.

Pita Brothers and American Euros do catering to local businesses in the off-season. But Swearingen said he tries to stay open as long as possible, despite the cold weather.

“Marquette students are pretty tough,” Swearingen said.

Both Pita Brothers and American Euros hope to open permanent locations on campus sometime in the future. But Swearingen and Miller said the lack of available properties close by has made that difficult.

Meanwhile, students continue to love the food. The ability to customize meals and encourage local businesses is an incentive to eat at the mobile food vendors, said Laurie Osman, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“I enjoy supporting local companies, which is why I like going to Pita Bros. instead of Jimmy John’s or Subway for a wrap,” Osman said in an e-mail.

Regardless of which direction business takes them, the vendors continue to enjoy the student support.

“We see nowhere to go but up,” Skalnik said.

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    scottApr 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I love Pita Brothers and American Euros, but I can’t believe you didn’t mention Tiger Bite! Looking forward to experiencing Frankie’s if they do start serving lunch.