Author Archives: steve

The Flying Pig (Chinese)

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Food Truck: The Flying Pig

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: China

One thing I’ve always found unique about New York and authentic, long-time New Yorkers is that we all come from different cultures and backgrounds, but rather than letting it tear us apart (despite the best efforts of politicians on both sides of the political spectrum), we can come together in one shared identity as New Yorkers while at the same time sharing of the best of our respective cultures with each other. Sometimes it seems to be that more can be accomplished for international diplomacy and understanding at 48th and Park than can be accomplished 5 avenues to the east.

The Flying Pig Jianbing introduces New Yorkers to a popular street food in China called Jian Bing Guo Zi (煎饼果子/煎餅果子) which is eaten for breakfast in the morning as well as as a snack throughout the day. It originated from the city of Tianjing in northeastern China, but can be found in just about every city in northern China.

I never quite like it when people use words like “crepe” or “tortilla” or “burrito” to describe Asian dishes, because all of those words have connotations that have little to do with the Chinese word for “pancake”, or 饼/餅. But of course like all those things, the Jian Bing Guo Zi consists of goodies enclosed in a an outer wrapping for convenient eating.

The Flying Pig’s Jianbing starts with a flour and egg batter that makes up the outer pancake. They then line it with crispy wontons to give it a delightful flavor and crunch.

You can choose from a number of fillings for an additional $2.50 each; I asked the nice young lady at the window which the most popular was and she said it was the sausage; I was expecting a bit more of an Asian flair, but it ended up tasting a lot like chorizo. There’s also scallions and hoisin sauce, and the whole thing is folded over a few times.

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The result was just a delightful mix of flavors and textures. The portion size is huge, like an overstuffed sandwich. If there’s one thing that might be off-putting to some, it’s that the Jianbing is very, very thick and doughy; this is actually quote normal in Northern China cuisine, mainly because it’s so darned cold up there most of the year.

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There are reports of people waiting long blocks of time, but maybe because I went later in the afternoon (around 2), I got my food almost right away.

Friendly service, a unique kind of street food, and did I mention the most adorable food truck in Manhattan?

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Definitely worth a try.

4 of 5 stars

Price I paid: $9.50

Line: short

Tricks for fast ordering: This is not rocket science. Order the Beijing Original Vegetarian for $7.00 and add a topping or two for an additional $2.50.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Jianbing with Chorizo

The menu:

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On Facebook:

On the Web:

The Flying Pig

Eddie’s Pizza (Italian)

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Food Truck: Eddie’s Pizza

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Italy

When I first saw the Eddie’s Pizza truck, something felt very, very familiar about it. I later realized that it’s because this is the same Eddie’s Pizza in New Hyde Park (I live in Great Neck, so New Hyde Park is just a stone’s throw away).

Eddie’s pizza in New Hyde Park has been around literally since the 1930’s. One of their innovations was the “bar pie”, a 10-inch pizza that was just the right size and lightness to be eaten as bar food, allowing for bar patrons to imbibe of their potent potable of choice without filling themselves up too quickly with food. Eddie’s “bar pie” came years before so-called chain pizza restaurants came up with the concept of “personal pizzas”.

As luck would have it, the very same bar pie they sell in their restaurant also happens to be the perfect portion for lunch. And so Eddie’s started up their own food truck in Manhattan, one that is apparently so successful that their Web site is mostly dedicated to their truck and barely mentions their 85 year-old restaurant.

When I saw Eddie’s parked at 47th and Park, I decided I definitely had to try it. So I ordered the lunch special which consisted of 1 one-topping pizza, tomato soup, and a soda.

Mind you, these aren’t just some guys in a truck microwaving frozen pizza for you. If you look in the back, they have an actual pizza oven right there in the truck, and they’ll make your pizza to order

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The total process of cooking your pizza takes about 10 minutes–normally an eternity for an NYC food truck, but then again when you consider that you get an authentic oven-baked pizza in that time it makes the wait a bit more bearable. You wouldn’t think this was a great business model, but it works; there were plenty of people ordering the 10″ or the 16″ pizza and waiting patiently as they cooked. And the price was right–you could score an entire pizza for less than the cost of a schwarma platter at the truck next door. Mama mia!

As for the pizza itself, it’s definitely unique and a bit of an acquired taste. When they say it’s a thin-crust pizza they’re not kidding–the crust is literally paper-thin, to the point of it feeling more like a pizza served on a baked tortilla or a piece of crispy flatbread.

 

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To be honest, it’s no replacement for a traditional New York slice, but for the occasional lunch it totally works–the 10″ pizza contains about the same portion as two slices in a traditional New York pizzeria, but the thin crust and the judicious application of cheese and toppings actually make it feel light and satisfying. Not to mention that I was the envy of the office when I walked in with my cute miniature pizza box.

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4 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $10

Line: short

Tricks for fast ordering: You’re here for the pizza, so pick what you’d like–margarita, chicken, arugula, veggie, BBQ chicken, or Eddie’s Favorite.

What to order if you’re a newbie: $10 lunch special–pizza with one topping and a tomato soup.

The menu:

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On Twitter:


On the Web:

Eddie’s Pizza

Coney Shack (Asian)

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Food Truck: Coney Shack

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Southeast Asia

Usually the selection of food trucks on a given block at a time is pretty unique. It’s rare to see two trucks of the same kind together.

But coming to 47th and Park today I saw two “Asian Taco” trucks, Coney Shack and Domo Taco. I hadn’t been to either of them, but both of them seemed to have the same promise: food with the convenience of a Latin American taco and the flavors of Asia.

Admittedly my expectations were a little low. I’ve had “fish tacos” in the past and have usually been underwhelmed. I never quite saw the appeal. Plus, when I think of words like “burrito” and “taco”, I think of things like yellow rice and beans, not lemongrass chicken and Asian beef shortribs. But I figured I’d give it a shot.

I stood back for a little bit and noticed that Coney Shack was getting a lot more foot traffic than Domo Taco, despite the clearly superior name of the latter. It was clear why just looking at the menu. The Coney Shack menu was very clear–they had four food groups, the Taco, the Hot Dog, the Burrito, and the Quesadilla each with a very distinct set of ingredients. The Domo Taco truck had a similar menu but just didn’t seem as clear cut.

Also, Coney Shack had a sign highlighting that they won the Rookie of the Year award at the 2015 Vendy Awards, which I found to also be impressive. I decided to go with them.

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I saw that they had a $10 rice bowl special with Hainanese chicken rice, which is easily among my most favorite foods in the whole world. But since their claim to fame appears to be tacos, I figured I’d order those instead and get the chicken rice bowl some other time.

Individual tacos are $4 each and it’s 3 for $11, so it was a no-brainer to get the three. I asked the nice woman at the window what the most popular flavors were and she said the Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco, the Vietnamese Beef Shortrib, and the Five Spice Calamari. I decided to go for those three.

The order took about 5-7 minutes to be made, but when it came the presentation was beautiful. Unlike other trucks where they’ll throw your food into a paper bag and it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll see when you open it, these tacos were carefully placed in the aluminum container and then placed carefully so the contents wouldn’t shift in transit. I appreciated them putting as much care into the presentation as they did the food. When I got back to the office the food looked as amazing as it did at the truck.

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The Beer Battered Crunchy Fish taco was amazing. I don’t know what it is about Asian deep frying but for some reason whether I’m eating a piece of fried fish or a piece of fried chicken it tastes much lighter than your Arthur Treacher’s or KFC, almost to the point of it feeling healthy. In this case, the batter was crispy but light and flaky with a very subtle deep fried taste. The fish was also light with a wonderful mild taste, and on top of it was cabbage, cilantro, scallions, and thinly sliced onions with a mayo dressing (or more accurately, a lemongrass aioli), all on top of a soft tortilla. This is one where I made sure I ate every last piece that fell into my dish.

The Vietnamese Beef Shortrib was also beautiful to look at, with carmelized onions, daikon radish, and cilantro, garlic, toasted sesame seeds, and sweet chili spicy mayo dressing. And of course, the beef which was tender and marinated in a sweet soy sauce. Some may find off-putting the fact that there’s chewy tendons mixed in with the beef, but Asians will tell you that’s actually the best part. The combination of flavors is exquisite.

Finally, the five spice calamari. The squid is fried in the same light batter as the fish, and again the mix of the flavors of the crispy calamari with 5 spice, picked red onion, aioli, and a tomato basil creole sauce makes its flavor remarkably unique as well and thoroughly satisfying.

What impressed me is that each of the three tacos had a distinct personality of its own. The fish taco was light and crisp with a refreshing quality, the shortrib was sweet and savory with a richness, and the calamary had an exotic, complex flavor that did interesting things with the five spices.

I don’t dole out five star reviews very much, but this truck had it all. I will be going back.

5 of 5

Price I paid: $11

Line: 5 mins

Tricks for fast ordering: Do the 3 for 11 taco mix-match. Choose any taco at random, they’re all good.

What to order if you’re a newbie: 3 for 11 with fish, shortribs, calamari.

The menu:

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On Twitter:


Gorilla Cheese NYC (American)

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Food Truck: Gorilla Cheese

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: USA

I’ve seen the Gorilla Cheese NYC  truck many times but never had a chance to go until today. Like most of you, I’ve been a fan of the grilled cheese sandwich since I was a kid and buttered up my first Wonder Bread with Kraft American Cheese. So for a long time I anticipated my first visit.

As you’ve seen from other posts there have been other trucks that far surpassed my expectations, but sadly today’s experience fell far short of what I’d been hoping for.

I went a little later in the afternoon at 2:30 as other trucks were closing shop. This truck was still open so I dropped by. The guy at the windows was counting up the money as I walked up. He stared and me and said, “what do you want?” before he caught himself, smiled, and asked me, “what would you like to order”.

I asked him what the most popular entree was and he said the #5: Sharp Cheddar with BBQ pulled pork & Caramelized Onions on Wheat Bread. Sounded good to me, so I ordered one, along with a combo that included tater tots and a can of soda (or a bottle of water) for $10.

The food came relatively quickly, within 2-3 minutes. But when I got back to my office, here’s what I unwrapped to find.

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I guess the first thing that struck me was the portion size. You’ve seen what $10 can buy you at other trucks, but here was just this lonely little slab of two slides of bread with a thin layer of pork and cheese.

The second thing that struck me was how much the bread was burnt. Grilled cheese should be a beautiful golden brown and not charred. I would have hoped, especially since I was the only person on line, that they could have done a little quality control before wrapping up this carcinogen sandwich (I’d have taken it back, but by the time I walked back to the truck they would be long gone).

The taste was okay, but nothing to write home about.

Sadly, my expectations had been pretty high on this one–I’d been other other grilled cheese shops in the City and usually the sandwiches are pretty substantial. This one was just two slabs of thin bread with a thin layer of cheese and ingredients. Maybe I just caught them on a bad day, but this isn’t one I’m rushing back to anytime soon.

2 of 5

Price I paid: $10

Line: None

Tricks for fast ordering: Choose your favorite cheese from the list (American, Cheddar, Gruyere, Smoked Mozzarella, Muenster, Swiss, Asiago), and your favorite additions. Be careful, though, is a “fully loaded” sandwich will cost you $18!

What to order if you’re a newbie: Go for “Today’s Melt” with Tots & Drink.

The menu:

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On Twitter:


Island Spice Grill (Jamaican)

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Food Truck: Island Spice Grill

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Jamaica

If you’ve noticed, I’m very stingy at doling out five-star reviews on this site. That’s because to get to five stars, a food truck has to absolutely knock my socks off to the point where I don’t just say “I wouldn’t mind going back there some day”, I’m saying “I absolutely MUST go back there”. To get to that rarified air, a food truck has to prove to me that they’re friendly, efficient, and above all have incredible food.

Today in the office, there seemed to be free food everywhere at meetings I wasn’t invited to. I was at a meeting down on the fifth floor where they were setting up boxes and boxes of cheap pizza. When I walked up to the eighth floor I saw a spread of deli sandwiches, and I thought for once I’d beaten the vultures, but no, they were just setting up.

And so I resigned myself to walking outside and–shudders–paying for my lunch. When I got to my usual haunts at 47th and Park I wasn’t too impressed. Wasn’t quite in the mood for Bobjo today. While I enjoyed the Thai food truck that didn’t seem all that special to me either.

And then at the end of the street I saw a black Cadillac Escalade parked.

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Hitched to the back of it was a grass-topped island umbrella and underneath it a giant oil drum grill.

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I was fortunate enough to have just been walking by as they opened at a little past noon, so there were about four people ahead of me. A man set up the placard that showed the name of this unorthodox food truck: Island Spice Grill.

There were three guys working the truck, one going up and down taking order and money (cash only), one assembling lunch boxes that were pre-filled with mixed greens, and one doing the actual grilling of the meat. All of them were pleasant and polite and looked like they loved what they were doing, which got the crowd (which was growing behind me) in a good mood, helped along by the Bob Marley music playing loudly from a speaker. Passers-by would stop and click photos.

The menu is quite simple. It’s $12 for one meat, $15 for two meats, and $20 for three meats. You can choose jerk chicken, jerk pork, or jerk brisket.

You can see the heaps of meat and corn grilling right in front of you, and practically every person on the line around me changed their order as they witnessed the magic going on in front of them. I’d say 80% of the folks decided to add brisket to their order after seeing the first guy on the line getting slices of this beautiful specimen

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As for me, I ordered the jerk chicken, but then realized that I wanted the pork too, so I gave him another $3. Then I realized I wanted the corn too, so I handed over another $3. In retrospect, I should totally have forked over the additional $5 for the brisket.

By the time I got to the front, about a 10 minute wait but that was mainly because they were still setting up, there was already at least a half-hour line behind me. They collect a color-coded ticket from you and then put your order together right in front of you, chopping and slicing the meat with a giant cleaver or machete…

IMG_0974…and loading it into the styrofoam container.

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I had the additional pleasure of seeing my stalk of corn peeled to reveal the most beautiful orangey-yellow color I’d ever seen, grilled to perfection, and then chopped in two.

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The second fellow will ask you if you want spicy or mild (sweet) sauce and then squeeze a healthy dollop all over your food.

I looked back and noticed that between the smells, the sights of the smoke, the festive Caribbean music, the line had grown. I walked past the burgeoning line back to my office, I felt I’d won the lottery or something.

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I rushed back to the office. As I walked to my desk I could see the conference room of people who had to sit through their hour-long PowerPoint presentation before they could collect their deli sandwiches, while I triumphantly went to my desk and opened up my container to find this.

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The smell wafted throughout my office. All of a sudden I wasn’t in a New York office building, but on the sunny beaches of Jamaica without a care in the world except how I was going to wolf down all this protein along with the symbolic bed of lettuce.

I tried the pork first. I thought the chicken would be the star of the show, but oh, how the pork outstaged everything else. I shoved a big chunk of it in my mouth and it was one of the most juicy, succulent things I’ve eaten in a long, long time, brimming with a combination of the pork flavor and the wonderful char-broiled flavor. I’ve had pork at Roast Kitchen (at about the same price), but the Island Spice Truck makes them look like a little leaguer going against a Major League ballplayer.

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The chicken, not surprisingly, was excellent as well. If there’s one slight gripe I’d have its that it was a little too burnt for my taste. But complaining about Carribbean barbecued chicken being too burnt is like complaining about Japanese sashimi being too raw. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be. So I ate my way around the charred bits and still got a nice dose of chicken (and then after I finished I went back to salvage all the pieces I missed, both the unburnt pieces and the dark brown pieces that I figured maybe weren’t so carcinogenic after all).

Right now I’m sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon, stomach full but uncharacteristically full of energy knowing that I just had a completely satisfying yet carb-less lunch.

Island Spice Grill has it all, and easily gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. I will most certainly be back, again and again. Sadly, it doesn’t look like these guys have a Twitter or Facebook account, so you’ll need to just catch them when you see them. In addition to the 47th and Park sightings, Yelp users report what appears to be regular sightings in the Financial District.

Price I paid: $15

Line: 10 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering:

What to order if you’re a newbie: Combination Pork and Brisket and some grilled corn.

The menu:

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Cachapas y Mas (Venezuelan)

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Food Truck: Capachas Y Mas

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Venezuela

So, I’ve already hit just about every continent on earth in my food truck travels except for one: South America. So when I saw Cachapas y Mas, a Venezuelan food truck, at 47th and Park I jumped at it, even though the grilled cheese truck next to it was calling my name. The Venezuelan truck was just calling a little louder.

Now I’m completely out of my element with Latin American cuisine. I don’t know my Cachapas from my Arepas. And so I needed a lot of help when I walked up to the window. Even with the lineup of picture, the food all kind of looked the same to me.

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The man at the window couldn’t have been nicer, though. I asked him what the most popular entrees were, and he said the Cachapa with shredded beef, as well as the Sweet Plantain Sandwich (Yoyo) with shredded chicken. Feeling adventurous, I ordered one of each. Here’s a hint for the wise–while $15 of lobster rolls may hardly fill you up, $15 of cachapas and yoyos can feed a small army. But I decided to eat one for lunch and save one for dinner later that night.

The wait was a little longer than I’m used to, about 7-10 minutes, but that’s probably because the guy in front of me was evidently ordering for his whole office.

The yoyo came wrapped in foil paper, while the cachapa came in a styrofoam container.

I decided to eat the cachapa first.
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Like many foods of Latin America, the cachapa is a maize-based flatbread inside of which goes delicious filling. In this case, the bread was soft and flat cake that was like cornbread–the flavor was subtly sweet and delicious. Inside was lettuce, tomato, a white sauce, and the shredded beef which reminded me of a cross between a sloppy joe and pulled pork. It was sweet, tender, and chewy. The cachapa itself filled me up quickly.

Later that night I tried the yoyo.

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Again, this was excellent. The outer breading was deep fried plantain, and its sweetness balanced very well with the savory shredded chicken and vegetables inside. Perhaps it’s because I let it sit for a few hours, but I found the outside to be a bit too greasy for me; my lesson learned is probably that I should eat it as soon as I get it.

But overall, it was a satisfying and filling culinary journey that saved me both a trip to South America and to Inwood (Cachapas Y Mas’s brick-and-mortar restaurant is located on Dyckman Street at the northern tip of Manhattan). Now that I’ve tried the “Cachapas”, next time I see them roll around I’ll need to try the “Y Mas”.

4 of 5

Price I paid: About $7-8 per sandwich

Line: 7-10 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: If you haven’t decided by the time you get in the front and see the massive menu staring back at you you’re in for a lot of trouble. Make sure you study the menu beforehand and know what you’re in the mood for in terms of your wrapping (cachapas, arepas, patacons, yoyos, tacuchos, or pepitos) and then your filling (queso, jamon, carne, pollo, etc.) so you can order quickly.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Cachapa with Queso Venezolano–the classic Venezuelan street food.

The menu:

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On the Web:

Capachas Y Mas

On Facebook

Bobjo (Korean)

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Food Truck: BOB&JO

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Korea

I love Korean BBQ, but I’m also really, really lazy. So when I go to one of those Korean BBQ places I love the food, but I really, really wish I didn’t have to cook it myself.

Enter Bobjo. With Bobjo you get all the flavors and textures of a long Korean BBQ in a convenient lunch-sized package and price.

The Bobjo truck is one of those that tends to stand out, mainly because of the picture of “Bob’s” face at the door in the front of the truck, a stern-yet-lovable looking guy who seems to be calling out to you to…come…eat.

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I presume Jo is on the driver’s side (I didn’t rush into traffic to take a look) and in the back you can see the pusses of both Bob & Jo.

The guy at the window didn’t look anything like Bob–he was really nice and ordering was a breeze. I decided to splurge and go for the beef, which was the priciest thing on the menu and was advertised as USDA Prime beef. While waiting, I could see them cooking up the meat from scratch in the back on a griddle, not unlike watching someone cook up a cheesesteak.

It took about six minutes from the time I placed my order to the time I was handed a tidy plastic container with salad on one side and meat and rice on the other. Once I had my prize I hurriedly ran back to my office desk to eat.

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The salad (to the left) consists of a sweet gingery sauce on top of lettuce, thinly chopped bell peppers, onions, and carrots, green onions, cucumbers, and beans. It works because when I take a scoop of lettuce and beef, it tastes just like when I’m in a Korean BBQ place making my own lettuce wraps. There are also a few slices of pickled radish which also complement the beef well.

Ah, the beef. I had a little buyers remorse at first due to the higher price. But one bite and I was glad I splurged. As far as bulgogi goes, it was seasoned to perfection and had that perfect balance of sweetness and a slight char. I was afraid that the meat would continue cooking in the 7 minute walk back to my office, which it did to some extent, but when I got to my desk it was still tender and flavorful.

To top it off, a perfectly fried egg.

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Overall Bobjo delivered precisely what I wanted–a Korean BBQ experience for the lazy among us who don’t want to spend three hours at dinner or who no matter how we cook our meat always think that someone else could have done it better. In Bobjo’s case, they did.

4.5 of 5

Price I paid: $13.00

Line: 6 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: You can’t go wrong with any choice, but for the full experience you’ll want to choose a platter–just pick pork, shrimp, or beef.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Beef BBQ Platter

The menu:

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On Twitter:


The Shuka Truck (Israeli)

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Food Truck: The Shuka Truck

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Israel

Today there were only three food trucks on 47th and Park, one selling American burgers and chicken sandwiches, one selling cheesesteaks, and one selling an Israeli dish I’d never heard of called shakshuka. No, this isn’t a joint venture between Shaquille O’Neill and Don Shula. It’s a traditional dish from Israel made of eggs poached in tomato sauce with spices like harissa (a red chili pepper paste), bell pepper, cumin, and other spices. Since one of my goals is to taste every nation’s cuisine (plus, my waistline doesn’t need another cheesesteak right now), I went for it.

The name of the truck is a little hard to find. At first I thought it was called “Eggcellent” because that’s what’s written at the top front of the truck. But the proper logo is on the door: The Shuka Truck

The guys at the window couldn’t have been nicer. They saw I was lost and so when I asked them what their most popular dish was they said the Humshuka. Since I don’t know a shuka from a kick in the pants, I smiled and ask them to give it to me.

When you order a platter, you also have the choice of a side Israeli salad, cauliflower, or freshly made potato chips. Guess which one I got? 😛

The dish is probably one of the most unique things I’ve ordered from a food truck to date. It comes in a standard plastic container. One top of a generous helping of hummus, there’s a perfectly poached egg, with the yolk at just the point of congealing.

The egg is smothered in a pool of fresh tomato sauce. You can see the chopped onions on top and each bit is something new from both texture and flavor–one bite I’ll taste the homemade hummus, another I’ll get a bite of the roasted bell pepper, and another I’ll taste the egg infused with the tomato flavor.

Throughout there are the distinctive Middle Eastern flavor of garlic, paprika, and the sweetness and tanginess of the tomato. All the flavors work together really well. I started out by eating it straight up as if I were eating spaghetti sauce without the spaghetti, but I realized that I could take the large wheat pita and break bread.

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The potato chips also had a really unique spiciness to them and provided me with the very grease I avoided by not going to the cheesesteak truck.

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I was fascinated at how this really unique street food made its way to New York and came across this article in Forward magazine.

Overall, it’s definitely an acquired taste. I wouldn’t say this is the sort of thing I’d order every day, but it was great to get a taste of some authentic street food from Israel.

4 of 5

Price I paid: $12.00

Line: 5 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: Pick one of four “Our Way” platters, or if you’re particularly finicky, memorize the five veggie toppings you want in a “Your Way”.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Humshuka platter

The menu:

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On Twitter:

 


Carl’s Steak (American)

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Food Truck: Carl’s Steak

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: USA

Growing up in Central NJ, I got to know Philadelphia quite well. I have the strange distinction of being both a die-hard Yankees fan and a die-hard Phillies fan, since I got Channel 11 and Channel 17 both clearly and my formative baseball years happened to fall between 1977 and 1980. Whenever I made my way down to a Phillies game I’d always make a point to stop by Pat’s or Gino’s (and contrary to the religious zealots on either side, I say that you can enjoy both equally).

As I moved into northern NJ and eventually into Long Island I didn’t get to enjoy cheesesteaks quite as often (and no, Steak Umms don’t count). But to my delight when I’d go to Yankee games in the new stadium, there was a Carl’s Steaks right there. Being trained on how to order cheesesteaks from my young days I knew exactly what to order: “Provolone Wit”. Alas, over the years they eventually phased out Provolone, but I still enjoy my “White American Wit” or “Whiz Wit” from time to time when I visit the Stadium. And I’ve visited Carl’s brick-and-mortar location on 3rd Avenue occasionally.

And so I was delighted to find the Carl’s Steak truck at 47th and Park. And even more delighted to find that they had a full menu, including my beloved Provolone. And so on this day when we mourn the passing of #8 Yogi Berra, I thought I’d treat myself to a Carl’s Steak.

The truck itself is decorated with autographed photos of Yankee greats—there’s Tex, A-Rod, Jorge, Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Mick the Quick, Johnny Damon, and more as well as some nice write-ups from magazines.

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I’d come to this truck once before and I get the sense that the folks working the window themselves don’t know cheesesteak etiquette. Last time a few months ago I said to the woman “Provolone WIT” and she had a puzzled look on her face. “You want a cheesesteak?” Today was a little better—I said “10 inch Provolone WIT” and the guy seemed to know what I was saying but told his cook “he wants a cheesesteak”. “With onions?” “Do you want it with on—yes, with onions”. Kind of defeats the purpose, but okay, as long as they got my order right.

The cheesesteak came pretty quickly, odd because I thought there were others in line before me but it turns out they were all just loitering. It was wrapped nicely in thick paper that kept any loose grease in securely.

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When I got to my desk I unwrapped my prize. Disappointingly, there was no ketchup included and I didn’t see anywhere on the truck where I could help myself, but happily there were plenty of packets lying around that I assume were from this decade. Also disappointing, it looks like in their haste to get my sandwich to me quickly, they didn’t melt the provolone with the meat but just haphazardly placed it on top, so instead of being melted with the steak most of it came out on a clump. But all I had to do was take the fork I’d picked up from the road (not really, just my homage to Yogi) and reconstitute the sandwich.

cheesesteak in nyc!

 

As with my experiences on Third Avenue and Yankee Stadium, I’d put a Carl’s steak on par with any of the steaks in Philly. It’s got that wonderful beefy aroma and that wonderful greasy flavor that envelops you to the bone. I wolfed it down pretty quickly and then proceeded to scrape off whatever cheesy bits I could from the wrapper.

Still, Carl’s has been good to me over the years, so I’ll overlook the missing ketchup and the imperfectly melted cheese and give them the 5 they deserve. If you see them, don’t miss it.

5 of 5

Price I paid: $10.00

Line: 5 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: Learn how to order a Philly cheesesteak the proper way. Cheese first, and then “with” or “without” grilled onions. Examples: “White American Wit”, “Provolone Without”, “Whiz Wit”, etc. Also, don’t forget your free toppings–hot peppers, sweet peppers, green peppers, or mushroom and onions.

What to order if you’re a newbie: 10″ Provolone Wit

The menu:

carl steak menu

On Twitter:


On the Web:

Carl’s Steaks

Jerk Pan Jamaican Food Truck (Jamaican)

jerk pan truck

Food Truck: Jerk Pan

Sighting: 46th and Park

Country: Jamaica

I had it in my head today to visit a deli food truck I’d seen today at 47th and Park to pick up a hot pastrami sandwich and a knish when on my walk I saw this intriguing truck at 48th.

jerk pan truck

That’s right, it looks like a food truck but it’s completely devoid of any signage or markings other than a big Jamaican flag on top.

Whenever I pass by this truck I usually notice a line of people there so I was intrigued. Ironically, the minimalist approach worked for them–having zero signage probably did more to get my attention than if there’d been giant neon signs.

It turns out the truck is named Jerk Pan; the only way I could tell is by the paper brochures they were handing out in the front of the truck. I’m going to guess that their signage is still in the shop or something.

jerk pan brochure

My first encounter with Jamaican food was when my roommate in college cooked some amazing jerk chicken. Since then I’ve always been on the lookout for good Jamaican food. Little did I know I’d find it in this nondescript truck.

It looked like most of the people on line were regulars, but I had no idea how to even start ordering. I looked in the brochure and saw that they had two sizes for platters–medium and large, ranging from $8-11 and $10.50-13 respectively. There was also the option of a lunch special size called “mini” which ranged from $6.50 to $8.50.

I figured that since the average price at food trucks I’ve been paying has been about $10-12, I’d splurge and get the “large” platter. Famous last words. You can see a picture of what I got below but needless to say, there was enough rice here to feed a few armies. It’s definitely one of the better values among all the food trucks.

You can choose from several meats–jerk chicken, curry chicken, brown stew chicken, curry goat, oxtail, and fried chicken. For me the choice was obvious–the jerk chicken.

The ordering process was the worst nightmare for someone like me who likes to understand the rules upfront. I ordered the platter and the woman behind the windows asked me what rice I wanted. I had to ask and it turns out the options were white and rice & beans. I got the rice & beans.

Then, she asked whether I wanted steamed vegetables or macaroni salad. Because of the street noise and the noise coming from the truck I had to ask her to repeat it a few times. I chose the steamed vegetables.

Then she asked me what kind of sauce I wanted and rattled off a long list of them which I couldn’t follow. I did hear the word “oxtail” and since I’m partial to oxtail I chose that one. But in all these cases it would have been nice for these choices to have been listed on the truck or in the menu. She was relatively patient with me, but I can’t imagine the stress levels if there’d been a long line behind me.

The food came pretty quickly. When I got back to the office, this is what I opened the styrofoam box to:

jerk chicken yum

As I said, the large is really, really large. I will likely be foregoing dinner tonight.

The taste of the chicken was excellent. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of kick and that classic spicy and smoky jerk flavor. The black coloring of jerk chicken isn’t necessarily charring but the colors of the spices.

If there’s one expectation you need to set before ordering this, it’s that it’s very authentic in that the chicken isn’t going to be in recognizable form, like a breast, leg, thigh, or McNugget. You’ll get chunks of chicken chopped up that include bone and bone shards. While some may not be accustomed to eating chicken this way, it’s fairly common in Carribbean and Asian cuisines. I like to view the shards of bone as speed bumps on the road to pigging out–they make you slow down the shoveling just enough so that you don’t end up choking or damaging your dental work.

The steamed vegetables is an interesting combination of cabbage and carrots with a small amount of peas, corn, lima beans, and green beans thrown in. I was dreading that it might be mushy from being over-steamed but to my surprise the cabbage still had a nice crunch to it.

Overall, I was really impressed with the food, the service would have been there too if it was just a little easier to order. But if you’re in the 48th and Park area, it’s definitely worth it just to be able to escape to the Caribbean for an hour.

4 of 5

Price I paid: $11.00

Line: 5 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: Study the menu and be ready to answer questions quickly. What sides do you want (steamed vegetables, fresh vegetables, macaroni salad, rice and beans, white rice, plantains, patty, coco bread)? What sauce do you want (evidently you can get sauce of any meat, regardless of the actual meat you order)?

What to order if you’re a newbie: Medium Jerk Chicken Platter

The menu:

jerk pan brochure

jerk pan menu

 

On the Web:

Jerk Pan Jamaican Food Truck on Facebook

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