A Blast from the Past: Ethel's Serves Up Breakfast Nostalgia on Pitt's Campus

The aroma of sizzling bacon and fluffy pancakes wafts through the air as sunlight bathes the University of Pittsburgh campus. Nestled between Lawrence, Posvar, and Hillman buildings, Ethel's food truck isn't your ordinary lunch option. It's a trip back in time, a shiny silver beacon serving up breakfast and brunch favorites with a side of 1950s diner charm.

Amber Farabaugh

Ethel's story is as unique as its menu. Built in 1953 by the Spartan Aircraft Company as a humble trailer home, it sat abandoned for years in an Oklahoma field. Then, a serendipitous discovery by a Pitt Eats chef brought Ethel on a long journey to Pittsburgh, where she was lovingly transformed into the popular food truck she is today.

Stepping up to order at Ethel's is like stepping into a bygone era. The small space fosters a sense of camaraderie among the staff, according to Chelsea Dixon, Ethel's supervisor. Despite the cramped quarters, Dixon thrives on the close interaction with coworkers and students.

But the real star of the show is the food. From 8 am to 4 pm on weekdays, Ethel's caters to Pitt's busy student body. The peak hours, between 10 am and 2 pm, see lines snaking around the truck, a testament to Ethel's growing popularity.

The menu boasts classic breakfast staples like Johnnycakes, bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, Denver bowls (filled with eggs, veggies, and meat), and irresistible French toast sticks. Customers rave about the delicious options, with senior Ana Larez particularly enjoying the sunny outdoor seating and the Denver bowl (minus the turkey bacon).

Jenna Alford, a junior, is a two-time Ethel's convert, praising the "fire" biscuits and gravy with a unique Old Bay seasoning. However, Alford acknowledges the long wait times, which can be a deterrent. Additionally, the truck's placement right in the middle of the walkway to Posvar creates a potential bottleneck during peak hours.

Despite these minor drawbacks, Alford is a big fan of the 1950s diner aesthetic. Ethel's fills a void on campus, offering a dedicated breakfast and brunch spot with a unique atmosphere. Whether you're grabbing a coffee on the go or savoring a leisurely French toast breakfast, Ethel's promises a delicious and nostalgic dining experience.

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