Sami Dakko has been running Rami's, a Mediterranean food cart at 40th and Locust for 18 years now, since he came to the country from Lebanon, and his consistently good food has made him something of a celebrity on campus. Street stopped by for a chat.
Why'd you start working at this cart?
Well, I came from overseas, and I didn't know the language or the country. I came here, and I had to do something.
Do you have regular customers?
Yeah, my customers are always regular. I don't have people who just come once, because they don't know the stuff. This stuff -- only the Jews and the Arabs know it. A lot of Americans nowadays, though, they know it, and they've started coming.
Do you think you have the best Mediterranean food cart around here?
That's what they said, the University of Pennsylvania, the book of the University of Pennsylvania, that's what they said. Do you see my name? (Sami disappears to the back of the truck for a minute, then returns) Did you see it?
What does it say?
It says you've got excellent falafel and other middle eastern specialities, arguably the best truck on the West end of campus.
That's what the University says. I didn't say that.
You think it's true?
Well, when I do stuff, I do my best to keep everything nice and fresh. Too many times, stuff is getting bad, I never use it, I don't care how much it costs. I keep my stuff real fresh and nice so that people keep coming.
Do you ever go to any other carts?
No. Now if you ask me where the other ones are, I don't know.
You've never been to any other carts?
I go from here to my home, I come back in the morning. That's what I do. I never bother nobody. Sometimes the guy next to me, poor guy, he comes by and says "Hi, how are you," you know, but I don't even know what he serves.
What's your favorite thing to make?
All my food. Because this is what I understand, you know? I never make coffee or French fries, no American food, no hot dogs. Because you know what? I don't know it.
Do you ever get sick of what you make here?
No, I never eat here, I go home, relax, I eat. There is a lot of people in my home who come eat with me. My daughter and her husband, my son and his wife, and my son and his friends. I give them whatever I have every day. Too many people ask me every day, "What do you do with the leftovers?" But I never have leftovers, because everyone's waiting for me at home.
Thanks very much for your time, this'll be out on Thursday.
Are you going to give me a paper?
Sure, I can stop by and give you a copy.
Great, because I don't know where to get it. Like I told you, I go from here to my home, I come back, that's it. I don't deal with nobody, I don't bother nobody. Thanks God, I have no problems.