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Food trucks bring meals, money to Northland Public Library

| Sunday, March 20, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Owner Dave Rau serves a customer from the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Owner Dave Rau serves a customer from the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.
Stephen Szarnicki adds an order of pierogies to stuffed cabbage on the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Stephen Szarnicki adds an order of pierogies to stuffed cabbage on the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.
About 20 customers in a lunchtime line wait to order from the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
About 20 customers in a lunchtime line wait to order from the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck at the Northland Public Library in McCandless Friday, March 11, 2016. The truck serves hot or frozen pierogi, stuffed cabbage and haluski.

The Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck pulled into the Northland Public Library parking lot on March 11 for its 20th visit since 2013.

Hundreds of customers lined up to chow down on potato and cheese pierogies, haluski and stuffed cabbage.

Each time the truck comes to the McCandless library, part of the proceeds goes to the Northland Public Library Foundation. The foundation raises money for programs and services the library's operating budget doesn't cover.

To date, the Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck has raised about $7,500 for the foundation, owner and operator Lynne Szarnnicki-Rau, 33, of Harmar said.

Building on that success, the library announced a new, ongoing fundraiser called “Tasty Trucks at Northland” or TT@N, which will welcome a different food truck from noon to 6 p.m. every first and third Thursday of the month from May through December.

“We're inviting a variety of trucks. We're trying to mix it up and give people a lot of choices,” said Northland Public Library Foundation Director Valerie Golik, of Marshall.

“If it becomes popular, we'll add more days and more trucks.”

TT@N kicks off on May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — with the Las Chicas food truck, which offers homemade Mexican fare.

The truck is operated by a mother-daughter team — Stephanie and Amanda Morales of Franklin Park. They have 30 years of culinary experience between them.

“People eat with their eyes first. If it looks good, they're not afraid to try something new,” said Stephanie Morales, 47.

Her Chicken Tostada Bowl always is a favorite with customers, she said. A 10-inch tortilla is shaped into a bowl and deep fried, then filled with marinated chicken, beans, Spanish rice, a three-blend cheese, lettuce, salsa, and Ranch dressing. Everything is homemade.

“Pittsburghers aren't timid about piling on the flavor,” Morales said. “But it's hilarious. It's the little things — like the fact that they can eat the bowl — that makes them the happiest.”

Wood Fired Flatbreads will bring its mobile pizzeria to Northland Library on June 2.

“It's not a food truck. It's a 6,500-pound fire oven on wheels with a kitchen attached,” said co-owner Kim Fitzpatrick, 56, of Franklin Park. Her husband, Kerien, a robotics engineer at Carnegie Mellon University, designed it.

“We bake the flat bread pizza at 1,000 degrees for 90 seconds so it's crispy on the top and bottom, and soft and fluffy on the inside,” Fitzpatrick said.

“People can watch us every step of the way as we prepare their pizza because our kitchen is not enclosed. I call it ‘dinner and a show.'”

Bacon on the Fly is the newest vendor to participate, having entered the food truck business in August. It will be at the library on May 19 and Aug. 18.

Phillip Heasley, 25, of Butler operates that food truck, and said his Bacon Stuffed Burger is the most popular item on the bacon-inspired menu.

“The meat is 70 percent fresh beef, 30 percent bacon. It's topped with fresh-cut French fries and bacon slaw. Everyone loves it,” he said.

Other dishes include bacon mac and cheese, and bacon cheese fries.

“Bacon's not just for breakfast anymore. There's no wrong time to eat it,” he said.

Each food truck featured at TT@N will donate 10 to 15 percent of its proceeds to the Northland Public Library Foundation.

The money will help fund a variety of programs and services, including the summer reading clubs, children's science program, Family STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, the computer center, bookmobile service and capital improvements.

“Right now, we're paying for the library to convert from fluorescent lighting to LED. It's expensive to do, but it pays off because it's greener, more energy efficient, and uses fewer lights. Instead of needing three fluorescent tubes, we'll only need one LED light,” Golik said.

Northland is the second largest public library in Allegheny County, and serves 81,807 residents in Ross, Marshall, Franklin Park, Bradford Woods and McCandless. Only Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is bigger, according to Golik.

“Tax dollars only supply 60 percent of our total funding. (The foundation) needs to make up the gap,” she said. The library's current budget is $2.7 million.

“The food trucks are a low-maintenance fundraiser, they're easy and people love them,” Golik said.

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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