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The stories behind some of Duke's fan-favorite food trucks

<p>Food trucks were also available outside of East Campus Union when it was temporarily closed in the spring.</p>

Food trucks were also available outside of East Campus Union when it was temporarily closed in the spring.

Looking to expand your dinner options beyond the Brodhead Center or Marketplace? Below is The Chronicle’s guide to some of Duke’s beloved food trucks and the stories behind the people who run them.

Bulkogi

Bulgogi translates from Korean to “fire meat.” This delicious Korean BBQ food truck is a Durham classic you do not want to miss. 

Some menu highlights include Korean BBQ burritos and tacos, bibimbap, fresh kimchi and goon mandoo (Korean pan-fried dumplings). 

Truck coordinator Charlie Ji said his favorite dish is their rice plate. 

“It is one of our most simple dishes but truly brings out the flavor of our Korean BBQ really well,” he said. “Also, our quesadilla is one of the most flavorful quesadillas I have ever tried.”

In 2009, Jin So, Jenny So and Christine So decided to start the Bulkogi truck. During its early years, Bulkogi earned the support of many locals in the Triangle area. Unfortunately, the Sos were forced to close their business in 2012 due to family illness. Luckily, Joe Choi and Shinae Lee met the So family while attending the same church, and in 2014, they brought the Bulkogi truck back with a renewed spark.

They have recently opened up their new permanent location called the Bulkogi Boxyard, just a 15-minute drive from campus as well as its sister restaurant, Namu. Bo's Kitchen food truck is another option also run by the owners of Bulkogi, so you always know where to go if you are craving even more Bulkogi.

The Bulkogi truck has been a vendor at Duke for about a year now, and Ji loves the fact that students have begun to sit in lawn chairs and wait for the truck to arrive.

“There were times during the beginning of the life of our truck when people did not want us because they did not know what Korean BBQ was,” he said. “So now, when we have people lining up to wait for us, it makes us feel truly grateful for Duke.”

Bulkogi is currently scheduled to come to Duke next on Feb. 8 at 300 Swift Apartments and Feb. 30 at Wannamaker Dorm Lane. Their complete schedule of upcoming locations spans the Triangle area.

The Latin Effect

After a trip to Honduras to perfect their recipes, husband and wife duo Bert and Rebecca Chedrani founded The Latin Effect food truck in 2020. Their delicious meals are all based on Bert’s mother's recipes.

“My family's from Honduras, so I wanted to bring a little something different to Durham and The Triangle,” he said. “A lot of people don't know Hondurian food. Our flavors are very different and super delicious.”

Most students tend to order carne asada fries, tacos or taquitos, but Bert’s favorite dish is the baleada, a homemade flour tortilla with refried beans, scrambled eggs, avocados, Hungarian sour cream and cheese.

Bert and Rebecca chose the name The Latin Effect in order to make the truck as inclusive as possible. 

“I wanted it to be diverse,” Bert said. “I didn't want to focus on a name that would specifically attract Honduran people. I wanted something that opens it up.”

Although he grew up in a North Carolinian town full of Tar Heel fans, Bert loves coming to Duke. One of Bert’s favorite parts about sharing his food with the University’s community is the diversity of the students that he gets to interact with.

“I don't like giving ticket numbers,” he said. “I like to call out customers by name. I interact better when I am calling out names.”

Bert’s dream is to open up a brick-and-mortar restaurant in order to provide a space devoted to Houdurian cooking for his mom and others. Until then, you can find the Latin Effect online using the street food finder

The Latin Effect is currently scheduled to come to Duke next on Feb. 14 at Wannamaker Dorm Lane and Feb. 22 at 300 Swift Apartments.

Bon Fritay

If you’re looking to add some flavorful Haitian street food to your evening, Bon Fritay’s food truck (pronounced fwee-tie) is the place to be. Owned by the husband and wife duo Andre Lafortune and Dafney Tales-Lafortune, Bon Fritay offers a modern twist on traditional Caribbean cuisine. 

Before beginning Bon Fritay, Lafortune worked in the medical field and Tales-Lafortune worked as a journalist. In 2015, they founded The Haitian Kitchen and began catering to the Triangle area. 

“We just started cooking with Andres's mom Ana because we knew people wanted Haitian food,” Tales-Lafortune said. “It wasn't something we took very seriously because we both were working full-time, and it wasn't until we realized we had something on our hands that we wanted to go full throttle.”

After building their truck through 2019, Bon Fritay was launched in March 2020 as the first Haitian food truck in the Triangle area. 

Bon Fritay’s menu features classic fritay dishes: griot (fried pork), akra (a fritter made from the malanga root), two kinds of plantains (fried and sweet) as well as pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables). Tales-Lafortune also mentioned some liberties they have taken with the traditional cuisine. 

“Although I am of Haitian descent, I was born and raised in the States. I grew up eating tacos and all kinds of things. So we married the two,” she said.

Tales-Lafortune also hopes that their truck can help counteract the negative stereotypes that are often associated with the country. 

“Our purpose is to serve good food, but also to have customers be really educated and acquainted with Haitian culture through the food,” she said. “Because unfortunately, we're kind of lambasted with negative portrayals of the country, which is just so far from the holistic picture of who we are.”

One of her favorite demographics to serve, aside from people who are Haitian, are college students because she thinks they are the most receptive to different types of cuisine.

“Obviously, we were the first Haitian food truck to serve Duke, but you would never have known that from the way that it was received from the beginning,” she said. “Duke has been really good to us in how receptive they've been to our food.”

They are currently scheduled to come to Duke next on Feb. 20 at 300 Swift Apartments, but their complete schedule of upcoming locations spans all over the Triangle area.

Sister Liu’s

Ever since spring 2022, students have been able to use their food points to enjoy Sister Liu’s Kitchen food truck. The truck is run by Cuiying Liu Blythe, also known as Sister Liu, who loves the mobility of her kitchen. 

“Dumplings are a traditional food in my hometown,” she said. “I love to share, and a food truck can bring freshly cooked dumplings to people who love traditional Chinese food.” 

Of the dozens of homemade dumplings, Liu’s personal favorite is the pork belly pickled cabbage dumpling.

“Pork cabbage and pork chives dumplings are also top sales,” she said.

Liu’s online ordering system offers extensive offerings where you can buy dumplings, noodles or Chinese burgers for pickup at their brick-and-mortar location in the New Hope Commons. They are scheduled to come to Duke next on Feb. 8 at Wannamaker Dorm Lane and Feb. 14 at 300 Swift Apartments. 

Sister Lui’s website also provides instructions on how to easily cook and enjoy frozen dumplings that you’ve stored in your dorm-room freezer in just eight minutes. 

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