In Manhattan we have a phenomenon that is known as cart food or street meat as it is affectionately known. Now, I am not talking about the dirty dogs that come out of the hot dog carts but rather the wonderful ethnic food carts that seem to be popping up with increasing frequency. In the small area near my office there are at least 4-5 carts in a 2 block radius. I am a bit OCD with cleanliness so many find it shocking that I would actually eat off of a cart but, the truth is, many of these carts have been around longer than some of the restaurants in the same area and the daily lines, even in the dead of winter is also very telling. Many have been reviewed or featured in local and national media and garner cult-like following.
Cart food often reminds we of my travels, walking through tight alleys to sample local delicacies well off the beaten path. In the NYC one of the most popular types of food is the gyro-like Halal lamb, chicken, or both served over your choice of rice along with salad and vegetables then smothered with both white and spicy hot red sauce.
The crispness of the cool salad coupled with the rich and spicy sauces and tender, flavorful meat really makes for a taste sensation that always pleases. My craving for cart food is often cyclical and I go through spurts where I will eat it twice a week and sometimes will not have it for months. It is all about my mood but one thing that is consistent is that I am never disappointed in the taste and quality. I also do not have to worry about gluten or my shellfish allergies at the carts I frequent (though do always look at the food prep area and ask any questions you might have). Some carts offer pita that are sometimes warmed on the grill or toss a couple falafal on top but it comes down to the cart. So, if you are in NYC or visiting do yourself a favor and give this cuisine a try and with most carts charging $5.00 for a large lunch portion it is THE steal in the City.