Street vendors bring cheap, tasty food to ASU students

From Puerto Rican food trucks to snack stands with Girl Scout cookies, students have an array of choices

While wandering the sidewalks near Taylor Place in downtown Phoenix, it’s hard to miss the makeshift Sonoran Mobile Market set up next to the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Mary Magee, the owner of market, has been selling an assortment of snacks and drinks, most of which don’t cost more than a dollar, in the downtown Phoenix area for about 12 years with the help of her husband. 

Normally, the couple can be spotted on Jefferson Street during games played by the Diamondbacks or the Suns, but during this year’s Phoenix street vendor application process, the couple bid on a plot on Taylor Street — right on ASU's downtown Phoenix campus. 

“We ended up with this spot and I said, 'Well let’s give it a try,' " Magee said. "When we came down here, we looked around at what places nearby were charging for snacks and what they have that’s similar to what we carry, especially right here at the bookstore.” 

Among her affordable snacks, she has an assortment of Girl Scout cookies in stock.

“When people see the cookies for sale, that catches their attention and more times than not, people will grab a few other snacks as well,” Magee said.

At no profit to herself, Magee and her Girl Scout daughter sell the cookies from the stand, driving money to her daughter's troop and raising the profile of the snack stand.

Matthew Helgeson, a sports journalism junior, said he notices the convenience of the corner vendor while looking for a snack and walking to class.

“Sometimes I walk by here on my way to my (political science) class, and I saw all the food and when I came over I would have never guessed it would be so cheap,” he said. "Plus buying a box of Samoas isn’t something you can do at the campus store.” 

The Tempe campus also offers options for convenient street food near campus with Food Truck Thursdays. The event, which occurs outside of the Sun Devil Marketplace, features a variety of different local food vendors and different trucks each week.

Marquis Morales, a sports journalism sophomore, said he enjoys the weekly experience Food Truck Thursday offers.

"I love Food Truck Thursdays," he said. "They always have something new here, and it's a change from the same old, same old restaurants already on campus — if I want Latin food, this is definitely the place to get it."

One business that frequently participates in this event is Phoenix Coqui, a Puerto Rican food truck based in Phoenix.

Co-owners and ASU  alumni Juan Alberto Ayala and Alexis Carbajal met in Puerto Rico and decided to share their passion for food and Puerto Rican pride with the world in the form of a food truck. 

“It all began with plans to bring Puerto Rican food to the Valley,” Carbajal said. “I’m a Valley native, and we are both actually graduates of the ASU PREP Program, so we have worked with the University in the past, and we’re happy to come back to campus whenever we get the chance.”  

The pair received funding from ASU to fuel the start-up of their food truck business. Now, the pair has created a network of connections with local businesses, and they have multiple locations where they sell their Puerto Rican cuisine to the streets. 

“I think it’s important to note that even though we worked really hard to get this business started it wasn’t just us, we had a lot of backing from ASU and various local organizations,” Carbajal said.

With a selection ranging from traditional deserts like “San Juan Flan” to American fusion dishes like “Mini Empanadas de Pizza,” there is a wide variety of dishes to choose from, with most coming in under $15.

“We shop local, we eat local, and we encourage others to do the same,” Carbajal said. “Having the opportunity to be at (Food Truck Thursdays) and getting the opportunity to serve students has been absolutely great.”


Reach the reporter at trivera3@asu.edu or follow @RiveraTaylor21 on Twitter. 

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