- Collegian staff
Food and Politics Don’t Mix at the Table, What About Outdoors?
Photo by Bjorn Domst
Nestled within Willson Park on the western edge of the Oregon State Capitol grounds are two food trucks filled with an astonishing array of choices. Curbside Bacon, owned and operated by Chef Rudy Garcia, has made quite a splash in the area. It is well complemented by the adjacent In-Fusion Coffee & Such, run by Carmen Nguyen. Both trucks have been there since mid-November, but are yet to see a large influx of university students.
Part of the low turnout is due to the relatively hidden location. Although just across the street from the Art Building and Star Trees, the trucks have set up shop a little bit out from under the park canopy (with a close-up view of the never-ending Capitol Building construction).
Whatever urge brings you the 50 or so meters from campus to the food trucks, you likely won’t regret it. The option-crammed lists and rotating menus sported by both aren’t going to exhaust themselves anytime soon. Among other things, Curbside Bacon offers pulled pork sandwiches, grilled cheeses and burgers along with a few sides, from coleslaw to potato or green salads. Prospective eaters can expect some spring menu changes in the form of added berry salads.
Curbside Bacon food truck logo (left), a pesto grilled cheese with bacon (center) and a chicken burger with a side potato salad (right). Photos by Bjorn Domst.
At In-Fusion Coffee & Such, you’ll find a varied assortment of options that live up to the “& Such” part of its name. In addition to the named coffee, Nguyen also sells breakfast items, certain Vietnamese options and other rotating items. In-Fusion’s website infusion-coffee.com will help you keep up with the changes.
An In-Fusion maple-drizzled biscotti, partially eaten. Photo by Bjorn Domst.
On the whole though, the trucks have been getting steady business without the assistance of hungry college kids. As emphasized by both owners, it was the State themselves that asked for the two trucks to come down and sell as they have been. Due to COVID protocols and ongoing remodeling, the Capitol Building shut down its cafeteria—and consequently its only access to a quick hot meal—at a time when construction workers have joined the many politicians around. To that degree, the trucks have brought in the business they were meant to, with a majority of their customers coming from some form of work at the Capitol.
Business has increased further after a recent Statesman Journal article gave loud praise for Chef Rudy’s Curbside Bacon. As Garcia himself said, “Fine dining is more my forté,” and he certainly brings that to his menu regimen, undaunted by the confines of his truck to provide a high quality lunch. His “Best of 2021 Mid-Valley” sticker is proudly attached next to the window of his vehicle.
Curbside Bacon’s “Top of the Valley” award sticker. Photo by Bjorn Domst.
The easy access and quality of food are not lost on the trucks’ customers, either. Lawmakers and construction workers alike frequent the locale, waiting in quick lines for a lunch break before getting right back to work. Rob Nosse, State Representative of Oregon District 42, visits the trucks “at least once a week,” and has enjoyed those few chances for a good hot meal whenever he can get them. In between messy bites of a Curbside Bacon sandwich while hurrying to get back to his political duties, Nosse noted how nice it was to get out of the office for a little fresh air at lunchtime. Consistently “scheduled to death” and thus lacking the ability to visit some of Salem’s other downtown restaurants, he was glad for the convenience.
Willamette students shouldn’t be as busy as Mr. Nosse, and could even go downtown for lunch. Even if you already have a special place, it’s certainly worth a shot to try out the food trucks. Even the most expensive item on Curbside Bacon’s menu is $15, and most full-meal items across both trucks fall within the range of $10-15.
The Curbside Bacon sells weekdays at lunchtime: roughly 11 AM – 2 or 3 PM. In-Fusion Coffee & Such extends to breakfasts as well: Tuesday through Thursday from 7 AM – 1 PM. With enough college support, they might continue to stick around long after the Capitol Building cafeteria returns. One State Representative in particular would remain satiated, for sure.