On Sept. 10, 2011, a Twitter account named “The Tot Cart” tweeted, “A food cart. With tater tots. Just tots. Is coming. Soon. To a street corner near you. Philadelphia here we come.”
Less than two years later, the vision has come to fruition, as The Tot Cart had its grand opening in front of Speakman Hall on Saturday, March 16. The truck was scheduled to be open from 3 p.m. to midnight, but closed early at 8 p.m. due to weather conditions. Still, Julie Crist, the woman behind The Tot Truck, said she sold approximately 150 orders of tots.
“It went really well, despite the weather and students being on spring break,” Crist said. “It was a really good soft opening.”
The Tot Truck, as you might expect, serves only tots. In addition to the standard high-school cafeteria side dish, Crist’s menu offers specialty flavors, including buffalo, garlic parmesan and Indian-spiced tots. Her “drunk cheese tots,” are covered in cheese whiz, what she calls her “special cheese recipe.” Original tots cost $3 and those with toppings are $4.
Crist is a 2002 alumna of the School of Media and Communication and is employed full time by Fox School of Business as the Associate Director for the MBA program. She said she got the idea for The Tot Truck from her own experience in graduate school.
“I went to Drexel for grad school and there was a taco truck that was open from 11 p.m. to 7 in the morning and it would have students lined up in front of it,” Crist said. “I started getting the idea of doing something similar but didn’t know what to do, so I started messing with tater tot recipes.”
The truck will be open only on Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Crist said she might take the next couple of weekends off as she waits for the weather to clear up before doing another “full blown” opening on the first weekend of April.
Crist said the process she had to go through to get her own food truck on campus took about two years. She had to buy a truck, get approved by the Department of Health, take a food safety class and acquire a permit from the Department of Licenses for a “non-permanent vending location,” in addition to a vending license.
“It’s a lot of paperwork,” Crist said.
Why do all of that work for tater tots? Crist said she wanted to appeal to the schoolboy and schoolgirl in everyone.
“Why not tater tots?” she said. “Any type of person likes tater tots, anyone from a 4-year-old kid, to a college student, to adults. People have a nostalgic thing about tater tots. They were served them in the cafeteria in elementary school. I think they’re one of those things. People of all types like them.”