Friday, July 16, 2010

Gold Street Halal

"Gold Street Halal"
Location: Corner of Gold Street and Maiden Lane in front of Sovereign Bank branch.
Date: Friday, July 16, 2010 at 11:45am
Cuisine: Middle Eastern and American
Grub: Chicken over rice with side salad = $5 (Rabia tossed in a falafel ball and a few fries too)
Review: This nondescript silver cart with a Sabrett's hotdog umbrella on top is what a halal cart should be. Marinated chicken, freshly cooked, not greasy. Rabia, the cook, is a young guy who barely speaks English, but seemed to have no communication problem with the Asian postman hanging out with him. Rabia's pre-cooked chicken is piled high in big pieces on the side. He chops it up into bite-sized pieces when you order and warms up the rice on the grill too, adding some seasonings, sauces and a bit of vegetable. Rabia has a light hand with the yogurt and spicy sauce, letting the chicken flavors come through. HD preferred Rabia's chicken and rice to the plain chicken and vegetables I had made her. My only criticism is the uneven quality of the chicken. Some pieces were perfect white meat, but others had a bit of gristle/cartilage. The falafel was dry and flavorless. Fries don't travel well, but HD wolfed them down. Salad is basic iceberg and tomato, but fresh and crispy.
Rating: I'd return the day after tomorrow. 3 out of 4 pita.

Friday, July 2, 2010

La Cense Beef Truck

"La Cense Beef Truck"
Cuisine: American
Grub: Steakburger and a pickle: $7.50
Date: Friday, July 2 at 11:45am
Delivery: Call 1-800-935-4699 with (undisclosed) minimum order
Review: This green-and-blue truck just started parking on Wall Street a week ago. Big sky country meets big finance with an eco sensibility. That's how I'd market this truck to Hollywood producers. The burger is precooked to well-done and not all that juicy. But it's not too dry either. It is well-seasoned and the beef flavor is delicious. I'm not a big fan of grass-fed beef. To my palate, it's too dense. The sauteed onions and soft bun were a nice contrast to the density however. My husband would love this. And HD kept asking for more. Don't be fooled by the small silver package this burger comes in. It's a big chunk of meat. Still, I think you should get a freshly cooked burger for seven bucks. But might be a good lunch outlet for bond traders worried about the BP spill. (Small gripe: I ordered a hamburger, but the worker gave me a cheeseburger. I didn't realize until we were several blocks away. But nice touch placing the cheese on the bottom and the onions on the top.)
I ordered a pickle for 50 cents. It was way too salty and not cured enough. More like a salty cucumber.
Usually, I'd say beware of trucks with a slick painting job. But this truck is clearly a marketing gimmick for La Cense Beef, which, and I'm guessing here, is trying to become a high-end Omaha Steaks. There's a pamphlet at the truck window about all the raw meat you can order to cook at home. (La Cense? You'd think America was beyond the mystique of Haagen Daaz and other fake Euro names. )
Rating: 3 pita. I'd go back next week.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Street Sweets

"Street Sweets"
Location: Hanover Square between Pearl Street and Water Street (Tuesdays only). Murray between Greenwich and West Street on Fridays. See for their schedule and locations.
Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 and Friday, June 19, 2010
Grub: Spinach ricotta croissant $5
Review: In my fruitless attempt to find the Picnick Smoked BBQ truck that used to be on Wall and South streets, I ended up at the Street Sweets truck again. The second time in five days. There's something irresistable about that turquoise blue truck. And how can you call yourself a real Manhattanite without spending five bucks on a croissant regularly? Admittedly, the spinach croissant is fabulous. Flaky, buttery whole wheat croissant dough stuffed with a healthy portion of spinach. And there's just the smallest amount of ricotta to prevent the filling from falling apart when you bite. I've now tried it at room temperature and heated. My preference is for the former. Heating breaks down the butter and makes the bread too oily. HD liked the taste, but struggled to get the spinach down. Much of her portion ended up on the floor.
Rating: 4 pita. But unless I win the lottery, I should refrain from returning there for the next month.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

99 Percent Vegetarian

"99 Percent Vegetarian"
Location: On the same square as Alan's Falafels at Broadway and Liberty
Date: June 9, 2010
Time: 11:45, no line
Grub: Choose 4 dishes for $6. I picked yams, pasta, tofu scramble and chili
Review: Slip on your Birkenstocks and have Eugene (Oregon) on your mind before you head over to 99 Percent Vegetarian. Everything is mushy and watery. When you get home, all the dishes will have run into each other. All the dishes -- each in a different faux ethnic style of Indian, Tex-Mex, Italian and Soul -- are poorly prepared. Much in the way that a groovy college guy would try to impress the vegan ladies with his culinary skills and not realize you need to saute onions and use a bit of salt and olive oil to make things taste good. The curry tofu scramble had a off-putting odd flavor -- bitter? -- as did the chili. The chunky hot sauce, which I requested on the side, had kick. But like the other dishes, it lacked any complexity. HD loved the linguini pasta.
Rating: Never go back. No pitas.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

East African Silver Truck

"East African Silver Truck"
Cuisine: East African
Grub: Tilapia fish platter with a side of stewed chicken = $6
Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 11:40am
Review: This Eritrean man cooks a fusion of African, Middle Eastern and Indian styles. And he has a following. Even at 11:40am on a rainy Tuesday morning, people were coming by for goat curry. The tilapia is fresh, thick, moist and coated with brown spices. Not just powders, but twigs of something or other too. Say "yes" to the hot sauce. The fish is flavorful, but it's even more delicious with the extra kick. The orange rice was bland as was the side of cabbage, carrot, peas and corn. Not much of a salad. Neither HD nor I liked the chicken. But the fish is a winner and worth returning for.
Rating: 3 pita. I'd return next week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Greek Sony Umbrella Cart at Hanover Square

"Greek Sony Umbrella Cart at Hanover Square"
Location: Pearl Street at Hanover Square. (Not Hanover Street!) Heading south on Pearl Street, you'd be most likely to see the acronym HDNA on the black umbrella. Very near the rear of Financier that faces Stone Street.
Cuisine: Greek
Date: Friday, May 14, 2010 at 11:50am
Grub: Lamb kebab pita = $4
Diners: Construction workers, secretaries
Review: This crazy Greek cart is the raison d'etre for this blog. It's small and often sandwiched between other carts. It would be easy to walk by and not notice, as I have countless times. And the lower prices would make me worry about the quality. Two construction workers tipped me off about it last week. The lamb is addictive. Grilled black on the outside and flavorful on the inside. I kept picking up pieces to make sure I'd extracted every morsel of meat. Big chunks of tomato too. The cook threw in a piece of sausage just because I was asking about it. Be prepared for nutty Greek ambiance. The cook's friend -- in the picture on the left -- was screaming Greek into a cell phone the whole time. And while the cook was preparing the food, he lectured me on the Greek economic crisis and how the contagion would soon spread to Spain, Portugal and Italy. I asked him about Iceland. "Ah, they're still in trouble," he said without hesitation. As we paid, he gave HD a big kiss on the top of her head. On my way home I grabbed HD summer rolls at the Banh Mi cart across the street.
Rating: I'd go back next week. 3 pita

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Jamaican Curry Cart on Whitehall

"Jamaican Curry Cart on Whitehall"
Cuisine: Jamaican
Location: Whitehall between Bridge and Pearl, in front of One Battery Park Plaza
Diners: Local office workers of all races. There was even a snooty blond fashionista on line.
Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at noon
Grub: Stew beef roti = $6
Review: This must be the slowest cart in New York. One grumpy woman, dressed in green hospital scrubs, a clashing green cap and an apron in another shade of green, takes her time dishing out the curries. When we arrived, there were only 2 or 3 people in front of us, but it still took over 5 minutes to get to the front of the line. And then she had to take a phone call. But man, this grumpy woman makes a mean curry! Boneless beef is stewed in a traditional brown-n-yellow curry sauce with potatoes and chick peas. It has a bright tanginess that you don't get in an Indian curry. I went for the extra hot sauce too. The roti pancake tastes homemade and looks to have specks of corn or semolina between the layers. Chicken curry seems to be popular too, but it's mostly dark meat on the bone. Those in the know get the goat curry. I'm told it runs out quickly. Not sure if her call ahead system really works, but she lists this number on the menu: 646-436-9974. Get there before noon if you don't want to stand in a line all day.
Rating: I'd go back next week. 4 pitas.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

All American Diner I & II

"All American Diner I & II"
Location: On Whitehall, at the southwest corner with State Street. You can see the Staten Island Ferry from there. But based on today's news, you might want to skip the ferry.
Cuisine: Deli
Date: Friday, May 7 at 12:30
Diners: office workers
Grub: cubano sandwich for $6.75
Review: We tried to go to a nearby Jamaican curry cart, but the line was too long. This large silver truck caught our eye. I think the kitchen is bigger than the one in my apartment. A local office worker said he comes here all the time and likes the turkey. But he recommended the cubanos too. It was the strangest Reuben-Cubano fusion sandwich. Served on rye bread with sauerkraut. And open face. I half expected to see Russian dressing on it. They didn't broil the cheese long enough and they're skimpy with the meat. Just one thin slice of ham and one thin slice of roast pork. But the meat covered a lot of surface area. The sandwich tasted fine and if you're craving a basic deli sandwich, this'll do. Especially nowadays where traditional delis are hard to find. The pickle is excellent -- the real NY deli kind. I bet they'd make a decent reuben.
Rating: 1 pita. I go back here next month if I happened to be in the area and was craving a turkey on rye.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Location: Corner of Bridge Street and Whitehall, near One Battery Park Plaza. Not far from the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
Cuisine: Italian sausage, Philly cheese steak, hot dog
Date: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 11:40am
Grub: Italian Sausage Hero = $7
Review: I'd recently been to Blaue Gans in Tribeca a couple times. So I have high expectations for a sausage, especially when a cart is charging something close to a restaurant price. Dominic's did not meet them. They tasted like supermarket sausages with a strong fennel seed taste. The cooking technique was the biggest shortcoming. The sausages are served luke warm and dry instead of hot and juicy. Dominic's is generous with the onions, which are well-browned and caramelized. The hero roll is one of the better street food baguettes I've had. The sandwich travels well and looks nice at your desk. But every time you take a bite, the sausage and the onions squirm the opposite direction. Not HD's favorite either.
Review: 1 pita (still more edible than many halal trucks)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Afghani Cart on Beaver & Broadway

"Afghani Cart on Beaver & Broadway"
Location: Southeast corner of Beaver Street and Broadway. Look around the corner from the Ann Taylor Loft on Broadway. Close to the Raging Bull sculpture at the tip of Manhattan.
Date: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 11:55
Cuisine: Afghani
Diners: Ecclectic mix of well-dressed financial professionals and young guys in low-slung jeans. Expect a long line, but we beat the wait just before noon.
Grub: Chicken over rice with side salad = $5
Review: The Afghani cook reveals a metal tooth every time he smiles, which is a lot. He's a charmer and extremely proud of his homemade food. I so wanted to love it and give it a top rating of 4 pitas and think that some good had come of our invasion of his homeland. But I'm partial to cleaned, white meat chicken and I was not crazy about the haphazard chopping which included skin and bits of icky stuff. The chicken is covered in a cumin-heavy mix of powdered spices and kept warm under a blanket of pitas. And, for street food, it's surprisingly not greasy. The highlight was the rice pilaf underneath the chicken. Mild and aromatic with chickpeas, green peas and carrots throughout. The side salad was uninspiring iceberg, tomato and cucumber. HD would not eat the chicken, but she loved the rice. I'm curious to try the lamb on the spit next time.
Rating: I'd return next week.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Greek Cart at 30 Wall

"Greek Cart at 30 Wall"
Cuisine: Greek diner deli
Location: Just east of 30 Wall Street (New York Sports Club) between William and Nassau. One block from the New York Stock Exchange.
Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 11:45am
Diners: Office workers in suits, blue collar laborers and tourists.
Grub: Philly Cheesesteak ($4.50) and Potato Knish ($1.75) = $6.75. Yes, the math is Greek to me too. But Greece needs all the help it can get right now.
Review: An elderly Greek couple run this unbranded cart like an old fashioned dinette. She mans the griddle. He dresses the hotdogs, wraps everything up and handles the money. Shockingly, they smile a lot and they don't bicker. I asked the cook what to order and she steered me to the Philly Cheesesteak. It took a few minutes for it to cook. The meat was lean, the onions were brown and the cheese was gooey everywhere. It was a big sandwich. I could only eat half. I'm sure my husband, a Philly native, would find lots to criticize. But I thought it was delicious. The knish was the kind you'd find in a traditional Brooklyn deli with a nice creamy potato center. HD said mmm from the first bite and asked for seconds of both dishes. I don't think you could find a better old school cart.
Rating: I'd go back tomorrow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Zeytuna Smoothies & Bubble Tea

"Zeytuna Smoothies & Bubble Tea"
Cuisine: tropical liquid
Date: Friday, April 23, 2010 at 11:50am
Location: Corner of John and William Streets, just outside Zeytuna's main supermarket entrance
Diners: Local office workers. Heavy-set women who are trying to drink their way to their thin dreams. I've seen long lines as the lunch crowd builds.
Grub: Small avocado shake. $3.
Review: Friendly, fast service. Extensive menu and they'll make any drink you want. I picked avocado because Marrakesh was on the mind. I was served avocado shakes at a wedding there back in 2004 and am often trying to recapture that moment. The Zeytuna avocado shake was a tad too sweet for my taste, but I would just ask them to use a little less sugar next time. And there were green flecks everywhere. I think they might have let a bit of avocado peel slip into the blender. Produce was fresh. Drink was refreshing. And they package it nicely in a special little drink bag to carry home or to the office. Reminded me of being in Asia where they think of every detail. HD refused to try a sip despite the bright green wide-diameter straw. Who can resist that?
Rating: I'd return again tomorrow -- especially if it's a hot day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Cuisine: Greasy spoon
Location: On William Street where Cedar Street intersects right outside the Chase Building and across the street from Financier. Just outside the northern entrance to the Wall Street 2/3 subways.
Date: April 20, 2010
Diners: Young budget-conscious African Americans
Grub: Chicken on rice with side salad = $5
Review: Pasha's has a big eclectic menu, from hot dogs to curry. But the friendly staff recommended getting chicken on rice, their most popular dish. The styrofoam container inside the plastic bag popped open on my walk home. The first few bites were tasty. The chicken has been cooking in oil a long time on their griddle surface and has an appealing greasy taste. Though there were a few bones and icky things therein. But they drowned the whole dish in too much white sauce. And as I ate my way through the meal, I could see puddles of orange-colored oil and white sauce floating everywhere. And I realized this is not a healthy lunch. Especially for HD. She ate some, but wasn't crazy about it.
Rating: I would only go back here if it was the only place to get food in an emergency.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Backyard Chicken

"Backyard Chicken"
Cuisine: Rotisserie chicken
241 Pearl Street, between John and Fulton streets. Near South Street Seaport.
Date: April 16, 2010 at 11:45am
Grub: 1/4 chicken plus two sides (macaroni and cheese and spinach), chipotle sauce and a lemonade = $6.25
Review: Backyard Chicken is neither truck nor cart. It's more a hole in the wall, but it's my blog and I've been wanting to try Backyard Chicken since I moved to the neighborhood. It's only open for lunch and it seems that most of its business is delivery. (212) 406-6600 or When you go to the website, they have a much larger menu for their office catering service. But on foot, it's just rotisserie chicken, salmon and sides. The white meat chicken breast was large and moist. But it wasn't particularly flavorful or infused with spices or herbs. Definitely grab a chipotle sauce for an extra 25 cents. They claim to make it themselves. It's chunky, spicy, pungent and addictive. One of the best chipotle dipping sauces I've ever had. The skin was edible, but not the crispy, lip-smacking kind. The chopped spinach reminded me of a side that you'd see at a Korean deli salad bar. And indeed, before the owners opened up this shack in 2001, they used to run a deli. The mac-and-cheese was overly orange, very salty and tasted like they'd used a processed cheese mix to make it. The lemonade -- free with the meal -- was foul. It looked like the color of day-glo highlighter and tasted medicinal. I'm not sure I'd drink it on a desert island. HD loved the chicken, but spat out both the spinach and the mac-n-cheese.
Rating: I'd return next month.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Veronica's Kitchen

"Veronica's Kitchen"
Cuisine: caribbean/soul food
Location: Corner of Front and Pine Streets. Across from the Eurostars Wall Street Exchange Hotel. Not far from South Street Seaport and the Wall Street ferry terminal to IKEA.
Grub: Small Jerk Chicken meal with 3 sides ($6.50). Plus a 50 cent tip, it cost $7 to feed 1 adult and HD. (Maybe I'm dense, but I didn't see jerk chicken listed on the menu. The cooks suggested it as their most popular dish.)
Review: This cart caused me to junk my preconceived notions about jerk chicken. Forget the orange sauce or the bottled stuff that chain restaurants pour over a chicken breast. Veronica cakes on a mysterious herbal dry rub flecked with hot red spices. The chicken itself remains white or brown in color, but the meat is infused with the most addictive, delectable mix of flavors. I couldn't get enough. And it was spicy enough that I didn't need to add any of their hot sauce, convenient prepackaged in mini plastic tubs. HD kept begging for more chicken even though my mouth was burning. I gave it to her. At the end, I dipped my last piece of chicken in the piquant hot sauce and I hit a whole new nirvana. The sides were less to rave about. The mac-and-cheese was dense and bland, but it had a good cheesy top crust. The string beans were overcooked for my taste. And the candied yams were far too mushy and cloyingly sweet. But HD loved them. It's no bargain at $6.50 for a small meal. I would order the larger size next time. Excellent, quick friendly service at 11:40am. Veronica advised me to send HD to school and give myself a break. "Look, she's talking already," she said with a smile.
Rating: I'd go back tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jiannetto's Pizza

"Jiannetto's Pizza & Catering"
Cuisine: Italian
Location: Northwest corner of Front and Wall streets. In front of the Starbucks, almost in eye shot of the Wall Street ferry terminal.
Date: Friday, April 9, 2010
Grub: Meatball Parmigiana Hero $7.50
Diners: The weather was drab and there was only one Eastern European in line after met at 11:40. He might have been a tourist.
Review: Jiannetto's pizza truck demonstrates the power of marketing over product. The painted red and white truck is alluring. And there's a real oven inside. But it took forever for the short-order cook to make the sandwich. Too much fussing with foil-covered aluminum containers. The meatballs were bland. The cheese wasn't brown or bubbly. The sauce hadn't simmered long enough and it was so watery that the insides of the bread were soaked and mushy when I returned home. The worst part is that his menu board is out of date. He charged $7.50 for the meatball parm instead of the $6 that was posted. The cook explained it was because he switched to larger hero bread. I asked him how long ago. He said, "Over a month." That being said, HD loved the meatballs and asked for seconds. One sandwich was enough to feed both of us and leave me a third of it for the fridge. (The picture below does not show the chunk I cut off for HD.) While I was waiting for the sub, the cook was friendly and told me the pizza's more popular. He recommended I try the rice balls next time.
Rating: I'd return next month to try some different menu items.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Alan's Falafel

"Alan's Falafel"
Date: April 7, 2010 at 11:30am
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Grub: Falafel sandwich ($4) and off-menu side of two falafel balls and two slices of fried eggplant ($1). Meal total = $6, including $1 tip to feed 1 adult and HD
Diners: One guy in front of me at 11:30. But we had to wait a bit. The cook is slow and he took his time between customers.
Review: Alan's Falafel is one of the most famous and highly regarded food carts in lower Manhattan. Everyone's written them up. And the falafel balls are good. Freshly fried. Crispy on the outside and green and moist on the inside. Not terribly flavorful, but good. The pita sandwich is packed with pita balls (perhaps 6 or so) and includes iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, a slice of fried eggplant, and a pickled hot banana pepper on top. Then he douses it in tahini, which was very good. These falafel sandwiches do not travel well. By the time I got home, the tahini and salad juices had soaked through the bottom and the pita was falling apart. And I was disappointed that there was no red hot sauce on it even though I'd asked for it. I'd only order the sandwich again if I were eating it right there at the Brown Brothers Harriman plaza. However, HD's falafels, wrapped separately in foil traveled very well. I'd order the falafel platter next time and ask the cook to wrap the falafels separately in foil and then assemble my pita sandwich at home.
Rating: You could get me to return again next week.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

NYC Banh Mi Cart

"NYC Banh Mi Cart"
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Location: Corner of Hanover Square and Pearl Street
Date: Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Grub: 2 No.1 Special Baguettes ($6/each) and 1 order of 4 fried Spring rolls ($4). Total bill = $16 for 2 adults and HD
(Special Baguettes are sliced roasted pork and sliced spam-like meat with julienned carrots, cucumbers, radishes (I'm guessing here), cilantro, hot green peppers, mayonnaise and red spicy sauce on a large fresh, crusty baguette roll. Spring rolls are a mix of carrots, mushrooms and some kind of meat product fried inside noodle wrappers).
Diners: Upscale, mostly caucasian and Asian office workers.
Speed: It was fast at 11:40am, but I got a feeling the line would grow and the pace would slow. Skip the wait, and call your order in at 646-996-8990 before 11am or after 1pm. It really works; the guy was taking an order on his cell phone while we were there at 11:40. They're apparently not that strict about the 11am thing.
Review: I predict this cart will win my Wall Street food cart competition. The baguette is a perfect combination of crunchy, mushy, crispy, gooey, sweet, salty and spicy. If you happened upon this baguette on vacation in Vietnam, you'd be pleased. The spam-like meat might put some off, but it was delicious. Both types of pork are sliced super thin. The carrots and cilantro are super fresh. And the baguette is top notch. Soft on the inside, crusty on the outside. But don't eat it over your keyboard or you'll get crumbs everywhere. HD gobbled up 3 of the spring rolls. She would have eaten the fourth if I hadn't grabbed it first. Can't wait to go back. Yummy.

Return visit....
Date: Friday, May 14, 2010
Grub: Summer rolls $4
Review: You get two substantial summer rolls wrapped in sticky translucent rice paper. Inside are big shrimp, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint leaves, scallion and bean sprouts. They come with a tangy brown dipping sauce and crushed peanuts -- both served on the side. HD was delighted with the sticky, see-through outer wrap and loved the whole thing. I would have liked some cilantro on it.
Rating: 4 pita

Monday, April 5, 2010

Xpress Power Lunch

"Xpress Power Lunch"
Cuisine: Halal truck (indeterminate Middle Eastern/South Asian style)
Location: Corner of Wall and Pearl, across the street from the BMW dealer
Date: Monday April 5, 2010
Grub: Chicken Salad $4 (orange-colored marinated seasoned chicken on top of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and tomatoes. White and red sauces squirted on top)
Diners: There was a line of eight male office workers at lunch time on this perfect Spring day. Half were of Indian and Middle Eastern backgrounds.
Speed: Very fast. Food is precooked. No waiting.
Review: Cheap, edible, fast. I believe this cart is one of a chain around Manhattan, but nothing to rave about. Chicken quality is okay with more dark meat than white. At least there wasn't any gross skin or cartilage. Food isn't piping hot. Generic spices. But I was hungry enough to wolf down half of it right away at my home office desk. I gave the remaining half to my sitter, who also gobbled it up. She thought it was spicy.