Oh foodcart … thou art amazing!

Well it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to post anything, so I thought I’d proclaim my love for another type of food … yes I know, soup dumplings have set the bar at a pretty high level.  However, since I’ve moved back to New York City, I’ve become a huge fan of food carts.

What are food carts? Well funny you should ask! They’re EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE! Yes, I know … what a very zen answer 🙂 Food carts are literally little carts along the street that serve up food quickly, cheaply, and mmm mmm goooood. They’re usually owned by some small vendor that thinks they have some special food to offer to the millions of people living in and visiting the city. In New York City, it’s really quite amazing because you can probably find food carts that serve up any type of food that you like. I’ve been to ones that serve up Caribbean, Indian, BBQ, traditional hot dogs and sausages, ice cream, chinese stuffed donuts … the list goes on and on.  Some of these vendors actually used to work in large, famous restaurants, but wanted to try their hand at their own business (but without the overhead of New York City rent).  Great for those of us on a tight budget that want a low cost meal that still tastes great and comes in portions that make you feel like you’re ready for a food coma!

My favorite carts are the ones that serve up Halal food like gyros, falafel, shawarma, and chicken and rice. If you don’t know what Halal food is, well join the club. I actually just had to google this and apparently it’s a term “widely used todesignate food seen as permissible according to Islamic law”, according to Wikipedia.  Whatever the way this is prepared according to, it’s absolutely amazing!  The taste of the food just has such a penetratingly good flavor full of spice and the natural meat.  Not to mention, all of them have a special “white sauce” that tastes similar to Ranch dressing, and “red sauce” that gives your tongue a nice little tingle on the wild side.

Chicken & Rice Cart - 53rd St. and 6th Ave.

You can find these all around the city, but probably the most famous of these Halal carts is the “Chicken and Rice Cartover on the corner of 53rd St. and 6th Ave.  This place is so famous and delicious that it can get a line that literally runs a block or avenue long.  Don’t get duped though … there are imposters!  The REAL cart only opens at 7PM and stays open until the wee hours of the morning (I think the latest I got it was around 4-5AM after a productive night out =P).  The key difference about this cart is that they make an amazing chicken, lamb, and rice platter.  It comes with either one or the other, or in a combo, and also includes some spicy rice, chopped up pita, and lettuce and tomotoes with red and white sauce containers on the side.  I’m personally a fan of the $6 lamb + chicken + rice combo, and I especially enjoy this cart since the food is cooked thoroughly, fresh, and is relatively oil free (which can be a problem amongst carts). This was one of the first famous carts I’ve heard about and tried, and will definitely be one of my favorite ones in the city.

Recently, I’ve also discovered another Halal food cart that I frequent on my way back home after those long days in the office.  This one is closer to my humble abode, and is located at the corner of 52nd St. and 8th Ave. right by the T-Mobile store.  The unique thing about these guys are that they have their own deep fryer, and have specialty foods that they make for the “special customers” like their shawarma, sausages, liver, etc.  I stumbled upon these guys by accident one late night walking along the streets, and the smell of the food from their cart just trapped me like a genie in a bottle.  I happened to hear the guy in front of me order a gyro with falafel on a pita, and it sounded great so I just said “Get me the same thing!”  Turned out to be one of the best decisions ever! Their gyro was fresh of the spit, and the falafel was scooped out of their tupperware container and deep fried right in front of me.  Plus with some of their white and red sauce, you can’t go wrong and it’ll be an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  If you want that mix on a pita it’s $5 and with rice it’s $6.  I’ve frequented this place so much on the weeknights and weekends that the 2 guys that own this cart actually recognize me now and know my order. 🙂  Sometimes I like to switch it up and order something different like one of their specials, but at the end of the day, I just can’t seem to get enough of that falafel and gyro mix.

WARNING: DO NOT EAT FOOD CART ALL THE TIME AS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS ALWAYS A BAD THING!!

Anyways … now that I’ve completely vented about my love of food carts, I’ll leave you with one parting thought.  These New York City food carts are so good that they have their own Vendy Awards.  Yes … their own nomination and award ceremony for the best food cart vendors in the city for unique and tasty food.  I’m going to do a Tour de Food Cart one of these days …