Meals on Wheels: Affordable & Delicious Food in Amherst

Being a college student means one thing for sure: more often than not, I’m ballin’ on a budget. With the money I do have to spend, however, I am constantly looking for new, affordable food options to try out. At least three times a week, I will find myself walking through downtown Amherst after a long day, gazing longingly inside the windows of various restaurants that are either too expensive or are sit-down style (which I rule out when I just want to grab something and go).

Last year, my friend recommended that I try the Halal Cart that sits across from the Unitarian Universalist church downtown. I'm a huge fan of Middle Eastern food, and whenever I walked past the cart, I would salivate at the delicious smell of seasoned, savory meat that permeated the air. When I finally decided to check out the menu, I marveled at the low prices, especially considering the abundance of food per order — nothing on the menu costs more than $6. I was also pleasantly surprised by how speedily the food was prepared while still being hot, fresh and delicious. The first thing that I ordered was the lamb over rice. The lamb was placed on a hot plate, and a medley of vegetables were cooked with the meat later on, including broccoli, lettuce and onions. The meat and veggies were placed on top of a generous helping of buttered, zesty yellow rice, and the meal was drizzled with a tasty white sauce and spice-packed red sauce.

The first bite of this meal was absolutely delectable. The lamb was seasoned and tender, and the vegetables were sauteed beautifully with the juice of the meat to create a satisfying mouthful. The soft rice was a great accompaniment, and halfway through the meal, I was completely full. It’s almost guaranteed that there will be some leftovers to have for later. The chicken over rice is another favorite of mine, as well as the falafel sandwich.

More recently, as I was walking with my friend through town back to campus, we spotted a new green cart that we’d never seen before. This food truck — called “Golden Dumplings” as we soon found out — sat on the other side of the street in front of St. Brigid’s Parish. Curious about this new option, I ordered a couple choices from their menu, which was also very reasonably priced. While they do not yet have a multitude of options, I decided to get their pork dumplings and pork bun. Together, this only cost me around $7. After about five minutes, my order was ready, neatly stacked, and handed to me in a plastic bag.

The seven pork dumplings that were provided with the order sat in a scrumptious sweet and spicy soy sauce. The outside of the dumplings was perfectly crispy, and the pork inside was flavorful and juicy. Paired with the sauce, it was a perfect combination. The other option I ordered was a pork bun, which was lightly drizzled with soy sauce. The bun was soft and sticky, and the BBQ pork inside was tangy and sweet. Together, both of these items were the perfect way to satisfy my lunch appetite. Another great option at the Golden Dumpling cart is the sweet and sour spicy cold noodles, which are tossed in soy sauce and come with fresh sliced apples, scallions and cilantro.

Overall, the food trucks new and old in Amherst are quick, affordable and delicious and are a great option to try if you're looking to be pleasantly surprised.

Images courtesy of the author.