In the wee hours of the morning, those early enough to Auburn's campus may catch a glimpse of the line of food trucks entering the University's concourses, preparing for another day of hungry customers galore. Though they number many, only The 'Dam Food Truck claims the title of Plainsman's Choice for best food truck, going four for four with the award in 2018, 2019, 2020 and now 2021.
An extension of Amsterdam Cafe, The 'Dam Food Truck serves up a sampling of patrons' favorite meals from the restaurant like the buffalo chicken sandwich and the crabcake and avocado. It's the turkey wrap and the chicken fingers that are by far students' favorite items on the menu, according to Blake Cleveland, owner and operator of The 'Dam Food Truck.
"The turkey wrap is definitely the signature sandwich so [students] go for that, and then it's really a tie between that and the chicken fingers; those are the two winners," Cleveland said.
The truck first appeared in Auburn four years ago after Cleveland was seeking a way to expand Amsterdam's reach, finding the growing food truck trend to be the most logical option.
"It seemed like a food truck on campus made a lot of sense to test the waters with very low overhead," Cleveland said. "It looked like a very good, low-risk experiment so to speak to test the brand."
Now the cafe has an additional truck in The 'Dam Taco Truck as well as a second brick-and-mortar location in the Research and Innovation Center which opened last fall in the Auburn Research Park. Cleveland teased that Amsterdam Cafe is seeking to open a third physical site on the north side of the City.
"We do have some plans to open another ... casual version of Amsterdam ... location to be revealed later," he said. "There'll be more Amsterdam down the road."
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This academic year, the truck faced challenges both with fewer customers in the fall and then an excess number of customers in January after food trucks were among the only dining options on campus with delayed restaurant openings elsewhere.
"Fall was a slow start, [but] I think as everything's opened back up it's good and we're running at the capacities we were running in the past," Cleveland said. "[In January], the original plan was to not let food trucks back on for a few weeks and to ease into the semester; then, I think they realized that 'Hey, there's a need,' and we were back at it real soon.'"
As the campus community holds out hope for a more typical fall semester, Cleveland assured students that The 'Dam Food Truck will be there given its staple status at the University.
"I'm real honored that the students have taken to it," Cleveland said. "We're proud to be on campus and happy to serve the students."
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