The Grease Trucks have long been a beloved, albeit unhealthy, icon of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The famous food trucks have been a part of Rutgers culture since the 1980s. When the crowds in the streets of New Brunswick became too much for the city to handle, the food trucks were offered a permanent spot on Lot 8 of the College Avenue campus. They called that lot home for two decades, but on August 15, 2013, they were forced to vacate it.
Students and locals love the Grease Trucks because they are home to “fat sandwiches”- greasy, calorie-laden culinary masterpieces that are stuffed with numerous fried ingredients like cheese steak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon, french fries and much more. Although they have always been popular in the area, the sandwiches gained national fame throughout the years after being featured in magazines and on TV. Many fat sandwiches boast quirky names like “Fat Elvis” and “Fat Koko” (some names throughout the years have even caused controversy between the trucks,students and the university). Anyone who eats five fat sandwiches within 45 minutes gets the honor of designing and naming his or her very own fat sandwich. The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman attempted the Fat Sandwich Challenge in an episode of his hit TV Show Man vs. Food, but unfortunately, he only managed to get through 4 ½!
The Fat Darrell is the original fat sandwich. It was created one night when Rutgers alumnus Darrell Butler craved mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and french fries after partying but only had enough money for one of those items. He convinced the owner of the establishment to put all three on a hoagie roll with marinara sauce and sell it to him as a single sandwich. Thus, the Fat Darrell was born, and the fat sandwich craze at Rutgers University took off. Another all-time bestseller is the Fat Knight, which features cheese steak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries and marinara sauce on a hoagie roll. The Fat Knight is named after the university mascot.
Although many restaurants in the area also serve fat sandwiches featuring the same exact combination of ingredients, anyone familiar with Rutgers knows that the five Grease Trucks across from Scott Hall (a widely known classroom building on campus) are the only places to get a “real” one. The Grease Trucks became such an important icon in that location that the bus stop they stand in front of has been unofficially known as “the Grease Trucks stop” among students for decades.
News of the forced Grease Trucks relocation spread like wildfire across campus as early as last year. Rutgers has been going through a period of development in the past few years. The Livingston Campus recently received a total facelift complete with a new campus center, new dorms with cool facilities and state-of-the-art classrooms. That project is nearing completion, but the work is not done. Rutgers is moving on to the construction of other new facilities around campus, one of them being a new $84 million apartment complex on the College Avenue lot that the Grease Trucks formerly occupied.
Students reacted with anger and sadness at the idea of the trucks moving, and rumors of them leaving campus completely began to spread as well. An entire campaign to “Save the Grease Trucks” gained widespread attention on Facebook and all around campus. The future of the Grease Trucks was uncertain for a while until it was finally announced that they will relocate to other areas of the New Brunswick campus; however, since the Rutgers campus spans across multiple towns, figuring out where they’ll go has proven to be challenging. “RU Hungry?”, the original and most popular of the five Grease Trucks, had been advertising its move to Livingston Campus for a while, but it was recently announced that the truck failed to receive the permits necessary to relocate to Piscataway. The many updates on the future of the Grease Trucks over the past few months left students and other fans uncertain about what to believe.
The Grease Trucks are sure to be missed from their original spot across from Scott Hall on the College Avenue. One of the biggest reasons for the backlash against the trucks moving is the sheer convenience of the Lot 8 location. The bus stop right in front of the Grease Trucks is one of the most popular and busy stops at Rutgers. Scott Hall and the other lecture halls in Voorhees Mall are also among the busiest areas of the university- few (if any) Rutgers students go through their years of schooling without at least a few classes there. Aside from the regular weekday rush, the bus stop is also extremely popular on weekends- it is where people catch specially-routed weekend buses to go back to other campuses after parties on Friday and Saturday nights. The block directly behind the short lot is the unofficial “frat row” of Rutgers- where many of those parties are held. And Easton Avenue, where of most of the Rutgers-area bars and clubs are located, is also a single block away.
With so much nightlife and activity right near the area, the Grease Trucks have always been one of the most popular places to grab a bite to eat after a night out with friends. They also served as a rather unhealthy alternative to the dining hall and Rutgers Student Center options located about half a mile away. Because no buses run in the direction back to the RSC and Brower Commons, the Grease Trucks were a convenient place to grab some food for those catching a bus to other campuses.
NJ.com recently reported that a tentative deal between the University and the Grease Trucks has finally been reached, but administrative hurdles are delaying the process. Two of the Grease Trucks, including the popular “RU Hungry”, will move to a university-owned area near Senior Street. Another will move near dormitories on another part of the College Ave campus. The other two trucks will move to the Cook/Douglass campus. Some reports also suggest that the one of the Grease Trucks may be allowed to return to the original site as a kiosk within the new apartment complex but details are still unclear on such a plan.
Even though the Grease Trucks will remain a vital part of Rutgers culture at other locations, nothing stopped students, alumni, locals and other fat sandwich lovers from flocking to the trucks for one last treat at the original location. The trucks were absolutely packed with customers in the days preceding their departure. Although it may seem silly to outsiders, the location holds a strong sense of tradition and nostalgia for many with ties to the university. The frenzy over the Grease Trucks was important enough to attract the attention of many media outlets such as News 12 New Jersey, NBC News New York and even the New York Times. News vans lined up around campus for days to tell the story of one school’s love for its junk food of choice!
The trucks were so overwhelmed with customers on the last few days that they couldn’t even fulfill everyone’s orders. Patrons were sometimes forced to choose from a selection of two or three of the most popular sellers out of over 40 usual options, but that didn’t bother the crowd! People lined up to get their hands on one last fat sandwich on Lot 8 even though their options were severely limited! Lines wrapped around all the trucks. Lot 8, typically empty during the summer months, was packed with so many cars that people couldn’t even find spots.
Rutgers University is known for its intense pride and rich history. When something happens to change something the community loves and is proud of, people do not hesitate to make their voices heard. The university and the Grease Trucks have been facing pressure for a few years now over the unhealthiness of fat sandwiches, but patrons are well aware of what they are stuffing their faces with. The Rutgers community agrees that everyone should indulge in a delicious fat sandwich every once in awhile. Many people do not agree with the university board’s decisions regarding the matter, but they will adjust and continue to make sure the Grease Trucks remain a vital part of life at NJ’s state university. Although it won’t be exactly the same anymore, the Grease Trucks are sure to enjoy support from Rutgers associates for years to come.
Have you ever eaten at at the Rutgers grease trucks? Let us know which fat sandwich is your favorite in the comments below. For more information about the local NJ college scene, check out this article highlighting facts about New Jersey’s universities and college towns.
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