Since I host a food truck tour in Vancouver, the World’s Best Street Eats Tour, I wanted to learn about the food truck scene in New York, and was also super curious what a food truck tour in New York would be like. What’s more, I am keen to learn from peers that have been offering a tour similar to the one I have been hosting for the past two years. I lucked out the fact that Joshua Hirsch, the owner of Sidewalks of New York, was hosting the tour himself and that the other two guests on the tour cancelled last minute. So for two hours straight, I had a personal guide introducing me to New York City’s street food scene!
Biryani Cart at 46th St & 6th Ave
Our first tasting on the food truck tour was the Indian Chicken Kati Roll at the Biryani Cart in Midtown Manhattan. Essentially, this was chicken, lettuce, onions, habaneros and their secret sauce wrapped in a traditional Indian Kati bread. A Kati Roll is a street food originating from Kolkata, India. This was one of my favorite tastings on the tour. The Kati bread was fresh and crispy, and I had never tasted Kati wrapped in meat and vegetables.
The Vendy Award in New York recognizes the most popular food carts in the city, and the Biryani Cart won the 2008/2009 People’s Choice Vendy Award.
Our next stop brought us to Kwik Meal at 45th St & 6th Ave where we tasted the Lamb Biryani. The owner and chef here worked at the Russian Tea House for a number years before starting up the Kwik Meal, which has now been operating for eight years, and is open seven days a week. This wasn’t my favorite tasting on the food truck tour as I found the lamb to be quite chewy, though it was flavourful.
La Baguette Cafe
Next up is La Baguette Cafe, where we tasted Falafel Balls. The Falafel Balls were fried to order and took only 2-3 minutes to cook, so it was very fresh and we didn’t have to wait long. However, I found it to be overly salty, overshadowing the other flavors in the Falafel Balls.
Josh then took me on the New York Subway, where we would head to the food trucks stationed around the farmers’ market around Union Square.
Christies Jamaican Patties
Our first tasting at Union Square is at Christies Jamaican Patties, a brand new truck that opened only a week ago. Here, we tasted the Jerk Chicken Jamaican Patty. Now Jamaican patties
are essentially our pop-overs which are like baked pies without the tins, and not the American hamburgers that you’re probably thinking. The patties are assembled at the commissary, then frozen, and baked inside the truck. The Jerk Chicken Jamaican Patty was yummy, and I would recommend it especially if you have never tasted a Jamaican Patty before, which would be most of us in Vancouver 🙂
Patty’s Tacos Truck
Patty’s has been in business for eight years, and was most recently recognized with the Most Heroic Vendy Award. Patty’s owner, Patricia Monroy, has built up a loyal following in the Upper East Side of Manhattan over the past couple of years. Community Board and the NYC police have decided they are a public nuisance, hogging parking spots and unfairly competing with struggling brick-and-mortar restaurants and food shops. Finally in 2011 ,their truck was towed and they were banned from their spot. Monroy is now suing the city to win back her old spot, meanwhile, we found Patty’s at Union Square.
Here, we tasted the Carnitas taco here, which is filled with pulled pork, lettuce and tomatoes among other things. We also tasted the Jamaica drink which is made with Hibiscus flowers, sugar and water. I loved the Jamaica and found it very refreshing, even on a chilly day. I would come back to Patty’s for a Jamaica any day.
Cool facts about New York’s Food Truck Scene
An important fact that I learned from Josh is that the gourmet food truck trend in New York actually came from L.A. two years ago, which is not far from the time frame when gourmet food trucks first hit the streets of Vancouver in the Summer of 2010.
As with Vancouver, there is a limited number of food truck licenses in New York. The city is no longer giving out new food truck or cart license, so the only way to get your hands on a license is through the black market. Where operators would pay only $200 a year to the city for a license, the cost shoots up to $10,000 a license a year in the black market.
The Food Trucks get inspected by the health department eight to ten times a year. The health department will show up unannounced sometimes and write hefty fines to food cart operators not having hot and cold running water, a proper place to dispose of garbage, or even using a tea towel the wrong way! The carts, which can’t move on their own, are pulled behind an SUV or minivan to depots or weigh stations, where they’re inspected daily.
A surprising similarity to Vancouver’s food truck industry is that there is just one company that has made a name for itself in outfitting food carts and trucks. In Vancouver, that company’s Apollo, while in New York City, it is Shanghai Stainless. The cost of buying a used truck (usually a postal truck) and equipping it with the necessary equipment will run you approximately $40-50,000.
If you’re at all interested in the business of food trucks, your eyes will pop when you hear this. The two trucks netting the highest profit in NYC are Korilla BBQ and Wafels and Dinges at 750k to one million a year. As a side note, I did make it to Wafels and Dinges where I tasted their liege wafel with dulce de leche. Personally it was too sweet for me. I actually much prefer Damien’s Belgian Waffles in Richmond, Canada (pssss… they supply the Medina Cafe with their waffles). Anyways, I digress… If you’re interested in learning more about their operations, they offer guided tours of their Royal Dinges Factory in Brooklyn, New York. Email [email protected] for more information.
The morning before I left New York, I went back to the Biryani Cart as I liked the novelty of the Indian Kati Roll, something that I know I won’t be able to enjoy in Vancouver. However, it wasn’t until I got to the cart that I realized that they don’t open until 11:30am. Oh well, I’ll have to come back for it next time I’m in NYC.
About Sidewalks of NY
Joshua Hirsch founded Sidewalks of NY three years ago. In his previous life, Josh worked as a stock broker and when the markets crashed in 2008, he found that he was no longer able to make a living in the financial industry.
In addition to his Food Truck Tours, other popular food tours include the Lower Eastside Tour which covers the Jewish Neighbourhood, and the West Village Tour, which showcases the Italian neighbourhood in Manhattan.