Breaking the Usual Truck Grind with Gigi and Big R’s Big Chicken Legs
University city is pretty much littered with food trucks, with 95% of them either serving Mexican food of some sort, Asian cuisine, or sandwiches. Now that’s all fine and good, but sometimes repetition gets boring (this isn’t a knock on any of the other food carts, I’m just saying…). After wandering down 38th street numerous times, I decided to pass on my stalwarts of Yue Kee, Bui’s, and Steak Queen, only to notice an obscenely obnoxious looking truck parked on the other side of Spruce. Plastered with random captions like “Largest Platters In the City,” “Come Try the Best,” and “Caribbean Soul Food,” I was at the very least, curious.
The truck is called Gigi and Big R’s Caribbean Soul Food (there’s apparently also a physical restaurant and 2 other trucks), and obvious from their given name, they serve Caribbean ‘soul food.’ What does that mean exactly? Well, I wasn’t entirely sure either, but a quick glance at their menu reveals a short list of options. Most of their platters are $7-9 dollars for the small orders, and $11 for the large orders, each coming with your choice of sides. While this seems kind of pricey compared to almost all the other food trucks, I suppose they fill a niche as they’re the only one of their kind on Penn’s campus. You’re paying a slight premium in order to take a break from sesame chicken and cheesesteaks (though on the plus side, the wait time is almost nil!).
I actually went back a few times, and tried a few things on their menu, but for some reason I keep going back to the brown stew chicken. At $7, it’s one of the cheaper options, but in addition to the two sides, you’re given a huge chicken leg stewed in a brown gravy sauce until it’s fall apart tender, then slathered in more gravy (they will ask, and you should say yes). By default I always go with the rice and the mac and cheese for the sides, but I’ve heard good things about the candied yams and potato salad. For the cost, you get a giant box filled to brim with a healthy serving of spiced brown rice in one compartment, a hefty scoop of fantastic mac and cheese in another (seriously, it’s probably worth getting on its own if you want to make a meal out of that), and the previously mentioned chicken leg. Seriously, this is no joke. The small platter was enough to make me feel plenty full (and I can chow down like a fat kid who missed dinner). I’m actually somewhat curious how large the large platter really is…
I also tried the jerk chicken but it was not working for me, while it was nice to see they do not shy away from the spice (hello, firetruck) there was significantly less meat than the brown stewed platter, plus it was overcooked/burnt.
Now, I certainly can’t claim to be some expert on Caribbean food, but I do know that I enjoyed this platter a good amount. The brown stewed chicken was spiced perfectly, subtle and flavorful without being obnoxiously in your face. Texturally, the softness and ease of pulling the meat from the bone is a fairly incredible aspect as well. The fact that their sides (at least the spiced beans and rice and mac and cheese I had) were wonderful was just icing on the cake for me. If you’re sick of getting greasy Chinese or sandwiches (yes, it does eventually happen), then you should at least give Gigi and Big R’s truck a look. I was pleasantly surprised.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s definitely nice to have some change from the standard food truck offerings
- Between the main dish and the two sides, the small platter is more than enough for a meal
- I don’t have to wait for 30 minutes for my food
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- $7 seems pricey (relative to the other trucks)
- None of their menu seems very healthy
- There’s not much variety built into their menu
- The jerk chicken was too spicy and burnt
Gigi and Big R’s, 38th and Spruce, 267 278 2705