Food trucks are an Athens staple. With the Food Truck Festival, and daily appearances on E. Union St. near College Green, grabbing lunch from a food truck almost inevitable.
Returning students may notice a couple trucks new to the row.
D’Angelo’s Coffee Express is one of them.
“I wanted to do this years ago, back in the early 2000s, before food trucks took off,” David Torres, managing member of D’Angelo’s, said. “I’ve always been interested in the coffee business, so I took the ball and ran with it.”
D’Angelo’s offers coffee, iced and hot, as well as small food items like chips and fruit. D’Angelo’s coffee is “top of the line,” Torres said.
“Our coffee grades are off the charts,” Torres said. “Our coffee is exotic high altitude, shade down, organix certified, single origin and 100% Arabica.”
Making coffee is hard work, Torres said.
“People have no idea how labor intensive the coffee industry is,” he said. “They don’t know how much work goes into making it and putting it in a cup.”
D’Angelo’s opened a week before the fall semester started. There was no testing-period, no dry-run. Running a coffee truck has been a dream of his for a while, he said, but it requires lots of hard work that needs support.
With help from family and friends, running D’Angelo’s has been a collective effort.
“I didn’t do it alone,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work, and it’s not just me.”
Torres’ favorite part of working at D’Angelo’s has been the student interaction, he said.
“I’ve met some great kids, some great people. I’m starting to befriend some, starting to get to know people,” he said. “The best part is the students. Without the students, we wouldn’t be here.”
Often parked next to Torres, the other new face students might encounter is Dan Harlett, owner of The Groggy Dog Hot Dog Cart.
“This is my first year doing this, I’ve only been here a few weeks,” Harlett said. “But I’ve been in the concessions business for nine years, and the restaurant/bar business since ‘93.”
The Groggy Dog is a traditional hot dog cart, with all-beef dogs, some vegetarian dogs, and condiments.
“Basically what I’m serving is happy food,” Harlett said.
Harlett’s best-selling hot dog is the Daddy Mac, which is topped with macaroni and cheese and bacon crumbles, he said. He serves speciality toppings, like beer cheese and blue cheese, as well as offering 11 different types of mustard.
“I love mustards,” Harlett said. “I think mustard should be on a hot dog.”
But customers can always stick with traditional hot dogs.
“You can always just get a regular chili cheese dog, too,” Harlett said.
Harlett said he enjoys food service, and has worked in it for many years.
“I started bartending part time and enjoyed it more than my full-time job,” Harlett said.
Harlett was a vice president of franchising at D.P. Dough, he said. Interacting with customers and servers in the context of food service has always been his favorite thing.
“I always enjoyed interacting and educating people,” he said.
Harlett likes the straightforwardness of his hot dog card, he said.
“What I like about this is that it’s simple.” Harlett said. “It’s putting a smile on someone’s face.”
Harlett stays a busy man. He dabbles in other food trucks, and caters parties and events, too.
“If I’m not here I’m vending somewhere else,” Harlett said. “If you’re up here, you better grab me while you can.”
The Groggy Dog’s namesake comes from feeling that way sometimes, Harlett said.
“Students come here, getting up, coming between classes, they’re all worn out and beat,” Harlett said. “So it kind of describes the business.”
Harlett enjoys the location on E. Union St.
“It’s a nice little venue,” he said.
Harlett said he and Torres often keep each other company when working alongside each other.
“We have banter,” he said. “We keep ourselves entertained without customers, reminiscing about college days.”
Isaac Smith, a second-year accounting student, frequents both D’Angelo’s and the Groggy Dog.
“They’re both very quick and convenient,” Smith said. “I don’t really go anywhere else.”