Category Archives: North America

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:


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.

carl's steak truck

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:

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On Twitter:


On the Web:

Carl’s Steaks

Haab NYC (Mexican)

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Food Truck: Haab NYC

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: Mexican

I have sort of the same relationship with Mexican food as I do with Indian food–I don’t necessarily find myself craving it very often but there have been moments in my life when I’ve had really, really good Mexican food and

The Haab NYC truck is an interesting one in that it’s fairly nondescript. It’s actually hard to tell at first sight what nationality it represents–there’s a faded, barely-readable sign on top that say “Tacos” and the front of the truck says “haab”. The truck looks like it was outfitted with neon lights that say things like “Patty’s” and “Taco’s” but those lights are never turned on. By the window there’s a sign that says “Aguas Frescas” and underneath it “Jamaica Soda”.

jamaican soda capIn fact, at first I thought it was a Jamaican food truck, but then I realized that it had Tacos and Burritos, so I finally realized it was Mexican (in fact the Jamaican soda is made in Mexico).

A lot of people think that what you find at Chipolte, Qdoba, and Baha Fresh is real Mexican food, but that’s like saying that what you find at P.F. Chang’s or Panda Express is real Chinese food (hint: it’s not). When I was in southern California I had the pleasure of going to some authentic Mexican eateries and have enjoyed (they’re usually tiny holes in the ground, the tinier the better).

As with many food trucks, this one is essentially the mobile version of a restaurant. Haab NYC itself is a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn (East Williamsburg to be exact). If you read the Yelp reviews, you’ll get the typical kvetching about service and alcohol, but the reviews of the food itself are mostly very good.

The menu is pretty intimidating when you first look at it. I like food trucks with a simple list of choices or if that’s not possible, a simple process to order. Haab NYC lists out every single food option on their menu, about 50 total menu items to choose from. But it’s a little less intimidating when you look at them in their basic food groups: Tacos, Quesadillas, Tortas, Burritos, Enchiladas, Fajitas.

I asked the woman at the window what the most popular entrees are and she told me the burritos, specifically the Crazy Burrito and the California Burrito. Because I never like to hold up a food truck line I panicked and just told her I wanted the Crazy. Turns out the difference is that Crazy = Chorizo and California = Steak. While I probably would have preferred the steak, the chorizo was just fine with me. I also ordered one of those Jamaican sodas.

The wait wasn’t too bad, under 5 minutes. Pretty impressive given that there were two people ahead of me in line and my burrito wasn’t “pre-wrapped”.

Here’s what the platter looked like back at my desk:

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And the innards.

inside the burrito

As you can see, this was a real honest-to-goodness burrito, stuffed to every last millimeter with goodness. While it still paled in comparison to the burritos I had in Southern California, it was worlds better than what I’d find at places like Chipolte as far as the seasoning, the taste, and the portions (which was dangerously nap-inducing in the office). I also appreciated the side of guacamole and fresh salsa.

By the end of my meal I was as stuffed as that burrito and very, very satisfied.

4.5 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $9.50

Line: 5 minutes

Tricks for fast ordering: Study the extensive menu in advance and while a lot of the menu is in English, make sure your Spanish is up-to-date for those things that have no translation. Chorizo=sausage. Carnitas=braised pork, Al Pastor=thinly sliced pork shoulder, Chilquiles=stuff over cut tortillas, Guacamole=yummy

What to order if you’re a newbie: California Burrito or Crazy Burrito

The menu:
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On Twitter:


On the Web:

Haab NYC (Website appears to currently be down)

Mamas Heros (American)

mamas heros truck

Food Truck: Mamas Heros

Sighting: 47th and Park

Country: USA

Next, we go to the USA where a truck called Mamas Heroes. If there were an award for most enthusiastic guys running a truck, this would take it. I went a little later for lunch, at around 2:00 PM and the crowds had dissipated from all the trucks. But these guys were out working the streets, asking every passer-by if they wanted to come buy a sandwich. I figured, what the hey?

As enthusiastic as these guys were they were also just a tad disorganized, and I wasn’t sure if the Oakland A’s hats were part of a uniform or just random stuff they threw on. It took a while to pay and get change.

I asked them what their specialty was and he instantly replied that it was The Heart of New York. According to their menu that’s a homemade chicken cutlet served on baked Italian bread with brown gravy, fried onion rings and crispy turkey bacon. I ordered it, although I realized that the guy forget to ask me about cheese or about my choice of additional sauce, both things which were on the menu.

Looking inside the truck as they were making my sandwich it didn’t seem like they were the model of efficiency. Still, I got my sandwich in six minutes, which wasn’t too bad.

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When I got the sandwich back to the office it was a little bit of a soggy mess, probably because of that gravy. Not sure how much of it was that way when I left the truck and how much happened during the walk back to my office.

heart of new york sandwich

Still, the most important thing is the taste, and I thought the taste was pretty good.  I did enjoy the crunch of the chicken cutlet, but the onion rings and turkey bacon looked like a bit of goop.

While I wouldn’t say it’s top on the list of must-try trucks, but if you’re in the mood for a sandwich, it’s worth a shot.

3.5 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $12 (for the 12 inch)

Line: Short

Tricks for fast ordering: If you’re creating your own sandwich, you’re going to want to write it all out based on the menu below. Otherwise, you just need to decide if you want chicken, steak, pastrami, tuna, and turkey/beef.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Heart of New York, but eat it right away.

The menu:

mamas heros menu

On Twitter:


 

Red Hook Lobster Truck (American)

red hook lobster pound

Food Truck: Red Hook Lobster Truck

Sighting: 46th and 6th

Country: USA

I remember there was a time when you had to drive to Maine or Massachusetts to get a taste of a decent lobster, and you’d pay through the roof for it. Then all of a sudden in the last few years it seems lobster is as common as french fries.

Lobster trucks seemed to be all the rage for a while but lately there’s been a reckoning. Luke’s Lobster has moved out of the City and so the big fish (or crustacean) in town is the Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck.

My office is on the East side, so I hopped on a City Bike to the Lobster Truck and ordered, what else, their lobster roll. Here’s what it looked like.

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These were big honking pieces of lobster which were amazingly fresh with that snap that comes from really good seafood. They were perfectly seasoned with bay seasoning and mayo, with shredded lettuce on toasted bread which was itself doused in delicious butter. Since I was already paying $17 for lunch, I decided to splurge and get one of their fancy-schmancy sodas and a bag of (what else) Cape Cod potato chips.

It’s a pricey option for lunch but well worth it.

5 of 5 stars.

Price I paid: $21

Line: short

Tricks for fast ordering: Lobster roll.

What to order if you’re a newbie: Lobster roll.

The menu:

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On Twitter:


On the Web: