Gourmet Food Trucks Making Their Way to Campus

October 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


By Alexandra Sisto

With the encouragement from customers at their staple spots in Downtown, Uptown, the Dallas Arts District, and surrounding suburbs, the mobile food vendors are reaching out to the SMU campus.

“We have parked on Hillcrest, and have had a positive response, our next move is to park on campus in hopes of serving students late-night food,” says Robin Skinner, marketing director of Ruthie’s Rolling Café.

Ruthie’s Rolling Café specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, and is hoping to soon park directly on campus. The truck has put itself on student radar with customizable “ooey-gooey” creations that sell for under $10.

Ruthie’s has been serving students on the weekends when they roll into the parking lots of popular student bars, like Barley House and Twisted Root.

Skinner and her team are in negotiation with SMU administrators in hopes of obtaining permission to serve food directly on SMU property.

Food truck entrepreneurs and owners have been taking advantage of social media through Twitter and Facebook to connect with the SMU community. And many SMU students say they want food trucks near or on campus.

“Having the convenience of food trucks serving good and affordable food within walking distance from my apartment would make living next to campus that much better,” Garrett Ancey, an SMU junior, said.

Students leaving campus to get food late at night has always been a safety issue and Skinner believes on-campus food trucks could be an answer to that problem.

Food trucks have been lining the streets at universities across the country, including The University of Texas at Austin, serving lines of hungry students and promoting food that is fast, cheap, and delicious.

“There are food trucks all over campus that cater to students’ late night cravings,” said C.J. Haynes-Dale, a former U.T. Austin student “I think they would be successful on any college campus.”

Michael Siegel, co-owner of Green House Truck, has been serving made-from-scratch food with local ingredients in the University Park area for over a year now, as well as at a few SMU on-campus events.

“There’s a need for healthy, affordable, and fast food. It’s particularly important on or near a college campus,” said Siegel.

Grilled lemon chicken salad, miso steak rice bowls and gazpacho soup are among the options. And with all items around $8, the food is student budget friendly.

The toughest challenge of not having a permanent location is getting the word out, but many owners and chefs have found that the use of social media helps attract customers.

“I can always find a food truck’s location thanks to their constant Twitter updates,” Renick Towsend, an SMU sophomore, said.

Green House Truck has recently taken up shop in the Bank of Texas parking lot on the corner of Hillcrest and University Blvd. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. This marks the first time they will be serving the SMU community on a consistent basis.

“The food is better and cheaper then a lot of restaurants surrounding campus but it’s timely and inconvenient chasing the trucks around DFW,” Malloy Olson, SMU senior, said.

University Park and the City of Dallas have separate rules and regulations that apply to mobile trucks. A permit, which can take up to several months, must be granted to legally sell food on the streets.

University Park grants the owner of the food truck’s desired property the right to give permission to allow the truck to park there or not.

“Allowing a food truck to park in your business’s parking lot is a great advantage for the property owner; it attracts people to your own business,” said Skinner.

Unlike business’s with a permanent location, food trucks have the advantage of packing up and leaving if they don’t sell in a particular area.

According to the City of Dallas Requirements for Mobile Food Vendors, trucks are subject to many of the same regulations as restaurants, ensuring they are regularly inspected to guarantee a clean kitchen and safe food.

Following the success of Dallas’s first ever Food Truck Festival in August, held in the parking lot outside of Sigel’s on Greenville, it is clear that the public supports the trucks.

Young businessman proves his skills in the fashion industry

September 30, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Shelby Foster

John Piermarini outside his boutique in Uptown. (Photo by Shelby Foster)

Many twenty-year-olds spend their days sitting in class, studying for exams, attending meetings, going out on the weekends, repeat. The cycle goes on for four years with the promise of a diploma at the end.

But John Piermarini doesn’t waste time going to class. He doesn’t study for exams, either.
In fact, this twenty-year-old doesn’t even go to college. Nor does he plan to.

“John is a hands-on self-learner,” said his mother, Tina Piermarini. “Going to school would have diluted his talent.”

So instead of schlepping off to a university, Piermarini jumped feet first into his dream job: working and designing in the fashion industry. Piermarini Boutique, his namesake business, opened in Uptown in November 2010, just a few months after he graduated from Greenhill School in Addison.

But Piermarini is more than just a shop owner. This summer, he tried his hand at design with a collaborative collection of slips and tanks with Dallas designer Abi Ferrin. Piermarini studied under her for years in high school.

“John is wise beyond his years,” said Ferrin. “His point of view and sense of self are so clearly defined which is not the case for most 20-year-olds or most people, for that matter.”

Piermarini Boutique sits on a quiet street in the State Thomas Neighborhood, surrounded by residential homes. Only a small sign posted near the sidewalk gives a hint at what lies inside the 1900s house: a well-edited collection of clothing and accessories, and one very savvy young man.

Before entering, the customer is welcomed to ring the doorbell by twisting a small handle – one of the several quirks of the old house. All of the interior fixtures are original, including the short doorframes and old-fashioned ventilation.

Earrings in Piermarini's Boutique. (Photo by Shelby Foster)

There is not a single trace of the control found in so many corporate retail stores. The only thing that has changed in the past year is the clothing. There are no floor sets, and no predetermined color palettes.

“I want it to be like walking into a friend’s wardrobe to find clothes,” said Piermarini.

The limited availability creates major competition among his clients, leading some to chase down the delivery truck every time a shipment comes in. But, on the flip side, many clients appreciate the exclusivity.

“I love that you won’t find the merchandise he carries in any other store in the Dallas area,” said longtime client Kirsten Abney.

Twice a year, Piermarini heads to New York City’s international market to hand-select his merchandise.

While he lets his eye guide him, there are a few requirements that clothing has to meet before he will buy. He seeks out start-up designers and brands that have not made it to Texas yet, giving them the chance to be exposed to a new market.

Neiman Marcus recently picked up one brand that John found a few months ago. But once a brand gains department-store notoriety, John is on to the next.

Another one of his requirements is price: nothing in the store is over $500. And he only carries one of each size – that’s one small, one medium, and one large of every dress, sweater, top, and pair of pants.

Tops in Piermarini's Boutique. (Photo by Shelby Foster)

Sami Schwendeman, who has been friends with Piermarini since they were in middle school, has attended market with him a few times.

“When John is buying he’s no muss, no fuss – he knows what kind of look he’s going for and he knows his market to a tee,” said Schwendeman, who just graduated from New York University.

His market is the prime reason why Piermarini loves being in Dallas, a city that allows his client base to range from high school students to older, established women. But no matter their age, he works to create looks that match their personality.

“I want my customers to walk out of here feeling like the best versions of themselves,” said Piermarini.

And every great ensemble needs a proper foundation, which is why Piermarini designed a line of basic slips and tanks called Abi & John.

“So many of the dresses these days are sheer, and girls come to me all the time wearing them,” said Piermarini. “But they need something under it, and what twenty-year-old wants Spanx hanging in their closet?”

So he took the girdle-like garments and reinvented them for a younger buyer.
Abi & John has sold out twice, and Piermarini, who designed his first dress at 15 years old, plans to keep designing in the future.

But for now, he’s focusing on the boutique. Piermarini is there everyday, acting as manager, sales clerk, buyer, designer, and merchandiser. The boutique now runs like a well-oiled machine, but it wasn’t always that way.

Piermarini said he had to learn how to start a business from the ground up, without any formal background.

“I definitely do not recommend not going to college,” said Piermarini. “You have no idea how much there is to learn about licensing, taxes, employees, and insurance. The red tape of business is ridiculous.”

The decision to avoid the normal course of education was not an easy one; many of Piermarini’s classmates doubted his plan to start a business. But now, their opinions have changed.

“My friends come back from college and see the boutique, and they’re so impressed that I’m actually making it happen,” said Piermarini.

New Pedicab Company Launched by Former and Current SMU Students

September 27, 2011 by · Comments Off 


By Kate Gardner

From Left: Charlie Manning, 22, Robert Tobolowsky, 23, Gordon Kellerman, 23, and Jefferson Parker, 22, show off their brand new wheels. (Photo by Kate Gardner)

Uptown is going to see some new wheels on the road this month. They won’t belong to the latest luxury car model. They’ll belong to an entirely new mode of transportation for the area: pedicabs.

For those who are unfamiliar, a pedicab is essentially a bicycle-drawn cab that seats two people comfortably—three if you’re willing to squeeze in a bit. And if you think you’re seeing some familiar faces behind the wheel, it’s probably because you are.

SMU alumni Robert Tobolowsky, Charlie Manning and Gordon Kellerman, along with current SMU senior Jefferson Parker, are launching Dallas Pedicabs, the first company of its kind in the Dallas market.

The project, which was delayed this summer due to heat, has already generated a considerable amount of buzz. The company plans to officially start operating Friday, Sept. 30 with a launch party beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Katy Trail Ice House

“We’ve got like 200 plus people who like us on Facebook, and we haven’t even hit the streets yet,” said Tobolowsky, 23.

While their primary focus will be on the Uptown area, the men are looking to grow their business outside of that market with opportunities like the State Fair of Texas, which starts on Sept. 30. They will be the exclusive pedicab service inside the fair grounds this year.

The fair is “something that the whole team kind of went together and formulated a business plan to get ourselves into and it ended up working out,” said Tobolowsky.

Texas State Fair President Errol McCoy is excited to see how customers will react to the pedicabs.

“We like [the pedicab] because it’s such a unique transportation medium,” said
McCoy. “I think our customers will find it interesting and intriguing.”

Dallas Pedicabs will provide general transportation and historical tours around the fair, as well as give customers the option to rent their own private pedicab for the day.

McCoy said that having the pedicabs allows the fair to promote its historical aspect, including the distinct art deco structures.

“It’s going to be neat,” he said.

Customers can pay to ride the pedicabs using fair coupons.

Outside of the fair, the company also plans to make payment easy for customers by using a tip-based system rather than by charging a standard fare.

“We’re going to have a sign on the pedicab to educate the customer on what he would have paid had he taken a taxi and also what we think is a realistic price for the distance or the time,” said Tobolowsky.

Customers also have the option of paying with a credit card through the company’s mobile credit card processing systems, Square and Intuit.

“That’s just one way,” said Tobolowsky, referencing Square. “Obviously you can pay cash. Or you could probably just give us a kiss on the cheek and we’d let you go,” he added jokingly.

Other opportunities the company would like to pursue include SMU game days, functions at the American Airlines Center, weddings, and light display tours during the holiday season. Down the line, it would like to branch into areas like the Grassy Knoll near the Sixth Floor Museum in downtown Dallas.

“We have actually talked with the City of Dallas about their ambition to kind of have a service like that so I think they want us to do that just as bad as we do,” said Tobolowsky.

The men, who are also roommates, considered starting a business together after Tobolowsky conceived of the idea during a trip to Austin in March.

“We all thought it was a great idea and started to seriously brainstorm how this idea could become a reality,” said Kellerman, 23. “As we did more research and began thinking of routes the idea really took off.”

In May, Tobolowsky and Manning pitched their idea to the Dallas City Council and obtained the necessary permits to operate in various parts of Dallas, including the Uptown area.

“We kind of leveraged a lot of our connections in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex and we put together all of our ideas, formulated a business plan, and just essentially attacked,” said Tobolowsky.

The four young entrepreneurs have already hired two SMU affiliated drivers and have another two potential drivers completing the permit process. They do, however, fully intend to drive the pedicabs themselves.

“We’re definitely going to drive [the pedicabs] because it’s an easy way to get a little money, and besides that we obviously have to know what we’re dealing with being the principals of the company,” said Tobolowsky.

With five pedicabs ready to debut, the team plans to differentiate themselves from traditional taxicab services by providing a unique customer experience.

“We thought it was really important to have like fun, outgoing [drivers] that make it more than just some ride. Like they will ask you a random trivia [question] and say it’s for a free ride if you get it right,” said Manning, 22.

While the group wants the pedicabs to have a uniform feel, they also plan to add speakers to stream music through and other various touches to see how customers react.

“I want to do a karaoke pedicab. I think that would be hilarious,” said Parker, 22.

“People just riding down the street—imagine three girls sitting in the back just screaming their lungs out.”

Targeting the Uptown area for its pedestrian friendly energy, the guys feel like they can fill a void that taxicab companies do not.

“A lot of cab drivers don’t want to give you a ride if it’s really short because they don’t make any money off it,” said Manning. “So one of the advantages is that we have the ability to cater to those people that are going short distances.”

Uptown resident Jeff Masters agrees. If pedicabs were available in Uptown, he would ride them all the time.

“Cabs can get expensive and the trolley usually won’t take me where I want to go, not to mention it stops running at midnight,” said Masters.

Dallas Pedicabs plans to solve problems like that by sending out drivers five or six days of the week in two shifts: one from 5-9 p.m. and another from roughly 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.

The men have also reached out to several Uptown area restaurants and bars, offering to display their ads on the pedicabs in an effort to generate more interest in the company.

“Many of these restaurants and bars are excited about the idea of pedicabs and the aspect of mobile advertisements,” said Kellerman.

The group will also heavily rely on social media for advertisement purposes as well as to perpetuate the “green” aspect of their company.

“Whether it be through Twitter or Facebook, we hope to update our followers about current events or nightly specials, said Kellerman. “By using these social mediums we will eliminate the need for paper advertisements that usually end up ignored and trashed.”

Dallas native Bo Killen agrees. Killen works at a local bike shop in Austin, where pedicabs are popular. He thinks that Dallas Pedicabs will feel right at home in the Dallas market.

“Austin is super saturated with pedicabbing services right now. I think at any given point there’s four or five different companies operating simultaneously,” Killen said. “So it’s very competitive.”

He believes that since Austin is more pedestrian friendly than Dallas, the company shouldn’t have much trouble establishing itself here.

“The fact that [Dallas Pedicabs] is going to be associated with the state fair is awesome,” Killen said. “That’s like a guaranteed good season.”

SMU professor Dr. Elizabeth Wheaton, who formerly taught Tobolowsky, is confident that the team is off to the right start.

“Mr. Tobolowsky is very determined at whatever he works at,” said Wheaton. It’s something so different it could very much be a niche market.”

Mustang Weekend Guide: Feb. 18-20

February 18, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Natalie Blankenship and Elizabeth Lowe

This weekend, do Dallas outside of the box – or bubble in our case. Although we encourage such adventures on a regular basis, this weekend is all about stepping outside of the Park Cities and in to the “hipper” side of Dallas life.

Rest In Power Intro from Carlos Donjuan on Vimeo.

Get Artsy: Rest In Power by Sour Grapes
What: this Dallas graffiti/wall art team is one of the best around and produce insane work.
Why: because it’ll probably be the coolest art exhibit you’ll visit all season
Where: Dallas Contemporary
When: Now – March 27

Broken Social Scene – Cause=Time from Arts & Crafts on Vimeo.

Indie Fix: Broken Social Scene
Where: House of Blues
When: Saturday, Feb. 19, doors at 8 p.m.
Price: $17.50-$40
What: a gret concert at a great venue. It’s a band worth seeing no matter your music taste – plus you can get your weekly fix of “stick it to the man” mentality.

And for those of age…

Uptown Spot: Nodding Donkey
When: Anytime
What: a new, fun sports saloon where you can drink your beer out of a jar, play darts, eat some comfort food, and try the Donkey Punch – if you dare.
Where: Uptown on Thomas Avenue

Drink Steal: Central 214 for “Naughty at Night”
Where: Central 214 (The Palomar)
When: Friday, Feb. 18. 10pm-12am
What: half price drink specials and “naughty bites” like Kobe beef sliders, popcorn chicken, tacos, nachos and more.

VIDEO: You’re Being Watched In Uptown

November 1, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Samantha Cangelosi

You’re Being Watched in Uptown from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Uptown has thousands of people driving and walking along its streets every day. Many don’t realize that they are being watched by surveillance cameras located on Uptown street corners.

“We have 150 cameras throughout downtown in what we call “the core” and Uptown, along McKinney,” said Lt. Tony Crawford of the Dallas Police Department.

The cameras were installed in order to monitor the area more efficiently.

Until last year, Dallas had the highest crime rate in the nation for a city of its size. These cameras have contributed in the decline of the percentage of crime.

“When we run crime stats, we run them year to date, and consistently Uptown’s, since the cameras have gone in, crime rate has fallen,” Lt. Crawford said. “The crime rate in Uptown is down 19 percent, both violent and non-violent crimes.”

Knowing that these cameras are here to keep the streets safe has many people more comfortable with being in the area.

“That’s wonderful because at least if something happens they can track down my mugger or my robber or something like that,” said Autumn Hubbard, who works in the Uptown area.

Since it is hard to have police cars in two places at once, cameras make it possible to observe the areas more consistently.

Uptown used to have issues with robberies and car burglaries until the cameras came into play.

“If [the camera monitors] see anything out of the ordinary, fights or robberies, any kind of crime, then they get on the radio and talk directly to the officers in that area, and they will direct them to the subject,” Lt. Crawford said.

The Daily Update: Monday, Oct. 4

October 4, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Monday, Oct. 4 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

The Supreme Court is back today, find out what will make this term different, Verzion wireless has money of their customer’s, are you one of them? And is Uptown getting safer?

Food Review: Urban Taco

September 9, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Natalie Blankenship

Natalie rates Urban Taco:

Atmosphere: trendy casual
Food quality:
Price: $$

If you’re looking for authentic tacos, look no further than Urban Taco. Now offering two locations in Dallas, Urban Taco sits nestled in Mockingbird Station and recently opened a new location in Uptown on McKinney Avenue. The McKinney location is much larger and is rumored to soon be open until the wee hours—aiming to be a weekend night hot spot. Who doesn’t want to party with a nice big margarita and some chips and salsa on the side?

As far as the food goes, it’s delicious. It’s just the right amount and tastes like it’s straight from Mexico City. The menu offers Mexican traditions done just right: empanadas, Dos Equis Amber Pot Roast Barbacoa, tacos al pastor, pollo con mole, tortas and the best salsas you’ve ever had.

If you’re an appetizer person, you’re about to decide to stay for the real deal. You can get chips and a trio of salsas, ranging from jalapeno zuchinni to pico de pina to the house favorite avocado-lime crema. The salsas are made in-house and their spices are ground by hand. Other appetizers worthy of mention include the chicken tinga empanada and the quesadillas made with cheese from Oaxaca. Ok, now I’m hungry.

I got to taste several of their tacos since they are pretty small in size, but filled with amazing flavor. My personal favorite is the carnitas taco which is orange, slow-roasted pork with salsa roja, onions and cilantro. The chicken tinga taco is great too, with a braised pulled chicken and the avocado-lime crema salsa. Everything I have tried on the menu has been excellent. Hands down.
The “curb sides” are also delicious. The poblano green rice is cooked to perfection and the black beans just melt in your mouth. Try any two of these sides with three different tacos, or three of the same, and it’s only $9.59. It’s a great deal, especially for the quality of these tacos, and I’ve had some amazing tacos in Mexico.

The drinks are a whole other reason you need to grab a friend and head to Urban Taco. Tipsy Tuesdays include half off margs—frozen margaritas with a wide range of flavors. Mango, “Guanabana,” pomegranate, passion fruit, tamarindo and the “Urban Swirl”, a mango-sangria swirl, are on the menu. If that doesn’t get your tongue wagging, try one of their excellent mojitos: mango, blueberry or the classic. Thursdays are half off mojitos all day long. So, what are you waiting for?

Big D Blog: The Mondrian Cityplace apartment building in Uptown, posted for foreclosure

November 13, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jaclyn Mitchell

The Mondrian Cityplace, on the corner of McKinney Avenue and Blackburn, has been posted for foreclosure. The apartment building with blue and purple glass windows has become a marker of the beginning of Uptown since it was built in 2003.  The beautiful 20 story high-rise looks over West Village and easily visible from the central expressway.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the building’s owner owes $41.9 million dollars on a loan made in 2003. The whole foreclosure is said to be a misunderstanding that came about when an extension for the loan was being negotiated.

The owner and lender both say that the building will not be sold at auction and the whole issue will be resolved.  It is reported that there will be an “amicable resolution.”

So, if you live in the Mondrian do not worry. You will not be losing your apartment in December when the building is scheduled to be sold at auction.

Big D Blog: Uptown Bar the Ginger Man is doing its part to fight hunger in North Texas

November 6, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Jaclyn Mitchell

I am sure all of you have seen the billboards around town for the North Texas Food Bank. They have those photos of hungry people who look just like you and me who have fallen on hard times. You drive past and feel compelled to help these hungry but are not sure how.

Here is your chance. The Ginger Man, on Boll street, off of McKinney avenue in Uptown, is hosting a food drive beginning November 9th. The popular local bar, is hoping to collect 1000 pounds of food before January 15, 2009. 

That is a lot of food that will help to feed people in North Texas for a long time. With this recession and rising unemployment rates, the food bank shelves are in real need of stocking. 

So the next time you are in the uptown area, drop by The Ginger Man and do your part to help the hungry people of your area.

Big D Blog: Security cameras installed in Uptown Dallas

October 29, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Jaclyn Mitchell

Uptown Dallas Inc. , a non-profit organization, has paid for a $160,000 security camera system to be installed in Uptown Dallas. The project began in February and they have just finished this week.

The Cameras will be running on McKinney avenue from Pearl street to Blackburn. According to the Dallas Morning News, police say that most of the crime occurs on side streets and in parking lots but they feel confident that these new cameras have a wide enough range to help them catch criminals.

Although the project was funded by the private sector, the Dallas police will be monitoring the camera feeds. Cameras were installed downtown recently and apparently it has led to many arrests. Police are confident that they will have the same success in Uptown.

Residents and visitors of the Uptown area can now feel even more safe walking between bars, restaurants, and botiques any time of the night or day with this new technology.

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