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.