A WOW Guide: New York City's Street Food
Photo courtesy of Calexico Street Cart We’re here to help you navigate the city’s plethora of on-the-go options
Street food. That risky, well-worth-it leap all tried and true travelers must take when visiting a new city. In New York, particularly, what’s the best? Weirdest? Spiciest? From borough to borough, we’ve got you covered.
Nuts 4 Nuts Multiple locations What began in 1989 with a single pushcart has turned into a one hundred-plus operation. Honey-roasted chestnuts, cashews and, of course, peanuts, are packaged freshly from the carts, and while you’ll have to battle long lines of tourists, it’s worth the wait. You’ll typically find carts at subway stops and bordering parks, and one is typically always at 5th Ave. & E. 72nd St. Veronica's Kitchen Front St. & Pine St. Jerk chicken reigns supreme at this food truck, often served by its eponymous owner Veronica Julien herself. Fried fish, barbecue beef ribs, oxtail stew and more are also popular at this Financial District cart, all inspired by Julien’s childhood in Trinidad.
Calexico Multiple locations Fresh Cal-Mex food in New York City? Why not. This food truck empire is named after Calexico, a small town on the border of California and Mexico, and celebrates and recreates the town’s cuisine. Tacos start at $3 and burritos go for $10. The original SoHo cart is at Prince St. & Wooster St., Manhattan, daily, with restaurants and other carts scattered throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Kwik Meal 45th St. & Sixth Ave. On the Sixth Ave. stretch, wafting scents of marinated lamb and chicken over rice permeate the air. The street cart’s green sign has been a mainstay marker for years. It’s no wonder – the owner, Muhammed Rahman, has brought his skills from the illustrious Russian Tea Room on 150 W. 57th St., where he was the chef. Nuchas Broadway between 44th and 45th Sts. Feast in the middle of Times Square on delicious options like empanadas stuffed with short rib or spicy chicken. Vegan or vegetarian? No problem. Nunchas has something for everyone, rooted in centuries-old Latin American tradition melded with international flavors.
Wafels & Dinges Multiple locations Considered one of the best Belgian waffle purveyors in New York City, Wafels & Dinges has taken to the streets in food trucks, carts and has even established a café. Touting the phrase “All the world is a wafel and all of us are merely dinges,” the business is all about fun. Also, dinge seems to mean topping or add-on – ranging from Nutella to fruit to speculoos. The flagship café is at 15 Ave. B at 2nd St.
The Halal Guys 53rd St. & 6th Ave. For years, people have flocked to the original Middle Eastern Halal Guys cart for gyros, chicken and rice and more, always asking for extra portions of the infamous secret white sauce. Now, with five carts scattered throughout the city, the Halal Guys are loved more than ever.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Multiple locations What started in the kitchen of a Brooklyn apartment in 2007 has led to the opening of ice cream trucks and shops in New York City and Los Angeles, with pints available in some grocery stores, too. Made with just a handful of natural ingredients – fresh milk, cream, cane sugar and egg yolks – at its headquarters at Greenpoint, Brooklyn, vegan options are also available as well. Unconventional flavors include earl gray and ginger, which keep customers coming back for more.
Morris Grilled Cheese Metrotech at 110 Lawrence St. Ever had a sandwich comprised of truffle butter, truffle cheese and caramelized shallots? Or a habanero chicken sandwich, made with bleu cheese, chicken chorizo, habanero hot sauce, and pickled celery? Well, these options and more are available at this grilled cheese heaven, which can typically be found in downtown Brooklyn. The Arepa Lady Roosevelt Ave., 78th St., Jackson Heights The colorful Arepa Lady herself is Maria Piedad Cano, who has gone from the courtroom as a judge and lawyer to the streets of New York City as a food truck purveyor. The cart is only open during warmer weather on Friday and Saturday nights, but that doesn’t keep faithful followers at bay. Cano serves two types of arepas from her home-country Colombia (where she visits during the winter): the arepa de queso, thick and small, its soft insides filled with melted cheese, and the flat, wide arepa de choclo, made with a different corn batter and folded over grated cheese.
Kelvin Natural Slush Co. 70 N. Seventh St., Brooklyn These slushies are flavored with natural ingredients – like blueberries, ginger, citrus, pomegranate, guava, white peach, basil and more – mixed into the blend. Grab one at trucks around town and at markets like Smorgasburg.
Any NYC Street Pretzels Multiple locations Because they’re perhaps the anchor to the New York City street food world, lastly, we have to include soft pretzel carts, unmissable at just about any street corner. They probably won’t be appetizing, and you’ll find far better options at hip establishments like Sigmund’s Pretzels scattered throughout the city, but in the end, you shouldn’t leave New York without trying the street food snack that has managed to become synonymous with the city itself.