Moe’s BBQ Trollys is an iconic part of Tufts’ nightlife on weekends, feeding students whether they are party-hopping or studying late at night. Dave Stuart, nicknamed “Moe,” operates the truck and is a native of the area, having grown up near Harvard and then moving to Somerville. He has been in the food industry for his whole career, a career that has taken him through a variety of different positions.
“I’ve dealt with food all my life,” Stuart said. “I used to be at a food warehouse, like Costco and BJ’s; my friend opened up the very first one of those in Cambridge back in around ’77. And I managed that food warehouse for people to come and shop in there.”
Stuart then moved from selling food to cooking it.
“[That same friend] opened up a delicatessen, and I went up and did all the cooking outside at the grill,” he said. “[I] did that for 10 or 11 years.”
Stuart explained that the food truck industry differs from the restaurant industry, noting that the biggest difference is location.
“A friend of mine owned a restaurant [in Kendall Square] and I’d do a barbecue in front for the deli and every day I’d wait on 400 people just in two hours for lunch. So that’s where you’ll have a large quantity of people,” he said. “I used to be up at Broadway [with the food truck] and they said we were going to get a lot of food trucks. But there’s not enough business there to warrant it. There’s no industry. There’s not enough business to keep competition there.”
Following his time working in Kendall Square and on Broadway, Stuart decided to try his luck at a different spot with Moe’s BBQ Trollys. After his brother’s stepson, a Tufts student, insisted he bring his food truck to campus, Stuart finally drove up to Boston Avenue over 10 years ago.
“I figured, you know, when you’re up late at night and if you’re going out to parties, there’s never anything around to eat that late at night. So that’s why I decided to give the school a try,” he said.
Despite his plan, Moe’s wasn’t finding success at its initial location.
“I was originally over on Boston Ave. and I really didn’t do any business,” Stuart said. “Then one night when I went up there, there was a car parked in my spot, so I went around and I ended up going up Packard Ave. and parked up there on the right-hand side. And I enjoyed it and I ended up meeting a lot of nice people there.”
However, Stuart’s venture to Packard Avenue to his spot right outside of Zeta Psi’s fraternity house did not come without obstacles.
“The city found out I was up there and I wasn’t supposed to be working after a certain hour,” he said. “So I had to go get all the permits for late-night working. And I had them all done the next day and was able to go back up there so I made it Thursday, Friday [and] Saturday nights.”
Stuart has been parking in the same spot ever since. But he didn’t always have the same support from the university that he has now.
“I would shut down around 3 o’clock and clean up around the area. But the university didn’t want me there that late,” he said. “As time went on, the university began to like having me up there.”
Stuart explained that the burger, whether with bacon and cheese or simply plain, is the most popular item on his menu, but that everything on he serves is food that he’s proud to serve and eat.
Apart from his relationship with the university and the iconic food, Stuart has forged relationships with many of the Tufts students who come to him as customers. The friendly chat is not only what draw people to Stuart’s truck, but it is also what draws Stuart to Tufts, he said.
Junior Jake Fiedler has been a long-time customer of Moe’s, and he credited his discovery of the trolley to the unmistakable scent that first caught his attention as a first-year. Fiedler is not only a customer, but he also lived in a fraternity house right next to Stuart’s parking spot, so even when he wasn’t buying a burger, he was social with Stuart.
“When I moved into Zeta [Psi] sophomore year, he was right outside my window, so I would go out and chat with him when he wasn’t too busy,” Fiedler told the Daily in an electronic message.
Stuart echoed the fact that he enjoys speaking with students and passersby.
“When it’s busy, I can’t talk to anybody because I’m waiting on the customers, but when there’s no customers, I love to chit-chat. I really enjoy talking with [students] and I like keeping them joking,” Stuart said. “I enjoy the kids up there. I enjoy doing what I do. I’ve met a lot of nice kids over the years from around the world. And I’ve been able to enjoy myself up there. I try to be nice to everybody.”
Stuart said that he hopes visits to the food truck provide a bit of respite in students’ often stressful lives.
“If you’re under all that pressure at school, you just need a little laugh once in a while, you know? So if I can make [the students] laugh and smile, I’m happy,” Stuart said.
In the absence of fraternities holding on-campus parties, Moe’s has been absent from campus for most of the winter and even now is less consistently around.
Sophomore Emma Phillips, who has been a customer of Moe’s since her first year, explained that she misses Moe’s presence on campus.
“I think he bases his entire business around the whole frat scene, especially because he parked right outside of Zeta [Psi] every night … Everyone knew him,” Phillips said. “I’ve been interacting with some freshmen lately and I’ve been talking about Moe, because I love him. And they have no idea who he is. Which is kind of upsetting to me, because I feel like he was such a big part of the Tufts nightlife.”