Now that I’ve eaten my way through somebody else’s list (Time Out New York), I’m ready to compile my own 100 spectacular things I’ve tasted in 2012. Look for another five dishes every few days.
NUMBER 80: CUBANO SANDWICH at BONGO BROTHERS
On the food cart tours I run for Turnstile Tours, I constantly reiterate the surprising diversity of carts and trucks these days. You can get just about anything you could imagine (and some things you couldn’t imagine) from a mobile food vendor – everything from schnitzel to jerk chicken to Chinese-Indian fusion. And every year a plethora of new trucks bring the unexpected to the streets.
Bongo Brothers arrived last year with lots of style and authentic Cuban food. Their pressed Cubano was one of the better versions I’ve tasted with a nice balance between the two types of pork (ham and roasted), sharp melted swiss cheese, tangy pickles and mustard. The warm toasty bread offers a secure, but crusty way of enjoying this authentic sandwich. Cuban street food in New York? Check! Price: $9
Check Twitter: @bongobros
NUMBER 79: CRAB CAKE SLIDER at OUR HEROS/SLIDERS CART
At first glance, the menu at the Our Heros truck (and their subsequent Sliders cart) offers nothing to make you do a double take. Roast beef, Italian meatballs, and chicken parmesan are all standard Italian-American sandwich fillings – stuff that anybody who grew up in this country has tasted countless times. But coming from a culinary trained chef, these simple sandwiches are elevated to perfection.
I couldn’t imagine a crab cake this good from most restaurants, let alone a food truck. Yet this very affordable slider is the real deal – with beautiful browned edges giving it a nice crunch, lots of full-flavored crab meat that’s not overcooked, and a smoky spicy remoulade to bring it all together. Now there’s a reason to stop and take notice (and order three more)! Price: $3
|OUR HEROS/SLIDERS CART|
Often at Hanover Street and Pearl Street
Check Twitter: @OurHerosTruck
NUMBER 78: GREEK FROZEN YOGURT PAGO
Uncle Gussy’s is a family owned food truck that has been operating in one form or another for over 40 years. Nick and his brother Franky (who took over the business from their uncle Gussy) continue to push forward and evolve the offerings from this Midtown favorite.
Case in point: this year they debuted Pago, a frozen yogurt cart that mostly hung out next to its big brother. Using the same yogurt their mother makes for the legendary tzatziki sauce, this frozen Greek dessert is unlike anything you can get from any of the generic fro-yo places across the city. The rich tangy yogurt successfully walks the line between sweet and tart. With flavors like Frappe, Coconut, Dark Chocolate, and Lemon Mint Sorbet and toppings like fresh fruits and crushed baklava, I count the days until summer and this soon to be legendary cart’s return. Price: $4.50
|PAGO CART (UNCLE GUSSY’S)|
|51st Street at Park Avenue,
NUMBER 77: FRIED CHICKEN at BIAN DANG
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Fried Pork Chop with pork sauce at the Bian Dang truck, but this year Time Out New York opened my eyes to the even better fried chicken. Believe it or not, this is one time that chicken trumps pork.
In fairness, it’s not just the chicken alone that makes this salty, crispy dish so irresistible. But pork too. That’s right, they add the same stewed pork sauce with pickled mustard greens to the white rice that holds up the chicken. The juicy chicken is fried until browned and it’s incredibly moist with a subtle sweet, smoky flavor. It’s truly finger-licking good. Price: $7
Check Twitter: @biandangnyc
NUMBER 76: LAMB SKEWER at XIN JIANG PROSPERITY KEBABS
If it wasn’t for the annual Vendy Awards (which has officially replaced the Oscars as my favorite day of the year), I probably would have never discovered the wondrous skewers at the Xin Jiang cart.
Pang Gil Hwa, the owner and chef, parks the unassuming cart under the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The only thing she sells are grilled meat skewers in the style of the Xinjiang region in northern China. Everything from squid to tofu to chicken kidney are marinated with a heavy dose of cumin (thanks to the region’s large Muslim population) and then grilled over a smoky charcoal grill. The special of the cart is the lamb skewer which has a smoky crisp bite giving way to a spicy meaty gaminess. I’m amazed they didn’t win the coveted Vendy Cup, but am grateful that they were even nominated. Price: $1 per skewer
|XIN JIANG PROSPERITY KEBABS|
|Under the Manhattan Bridge,
Divison and Eldridge Street,