Saturday, June 02, 2007

Crumbs

A great thing about Queens are the taco trucks that dot the neighborhoods, catering to all manner of late night people. After several solid hours' worth of Leffe Blondes and whiskey sours the MTA (a corrupt institution*) decided not to offer us much of a way to get home on the subway--the third time the system's shortcomings have inconvenienced me at night in the past week, as they've no doubt screwed with any nighttime traveling for my fellow borough residents. So it's about two in the morning as we get off at the Roosevelt Ave stop in Jackson Heights, and I'm subjecting nobody but my patient girlfriend to a long string of expletives directed at the MTA, and suddenly I see the taco trucks on Roosevelt. A soothing aura pushes away some of the resentment. I took my place in the crowd of Mexican teenagers standing in front of the truck (there wasn't a line per se, people were just friendly and let each other take turns) and ordered a chicken taco as my better half did the practical thing and found us a ride home. That taco was made with love; the people who serve food on the streets in Queens are saints.

Likewise, my man Thiru--the guy behind NY Dosas, lower Manhattan's finest cart food**, is in a current episode of Rachel Ray's Tasty Travels show on the Food Network. The next showtime will be June 5 at 9pm; there are a few more airings left. I don't know if prime lunch hour lines can possibly get longer from more exposure, but maybe Ms. EVOO will do it.

New York is a great place for food; and based on the appetizing reviews and local food blog links at Matt's I'm thinking that Melbourne may be a food mecca I'd never known about. Whenever I go Down Under (someday, someday) I'll be sure to make the activity priorities as follows: 1. food, 2. film festivals. Curiously, one of the friends with whom I would have made my (dead-in-the-water) food blog--he's a truly dedicated cook and diner--hails originally from the town of Melbourne, Florida.

* I'm talking about the MTA itself, not necessarily the workers or the union, which were of course villified by the cowardly media during the transit strike here in 2005.

** I do also love those halal chicken-and-rice carts (in NYC street food hierarchy they're the aristocrats), but even the best of them can't topple Thiru from the pedastal. Also, a caveat--I haven't tried that famous late night hot dog stand down on the LES. Anyone have any other contenders to recommend?

8 comments:

Jaime said...

Last summer, when I was working near the Kennedy airport - sometimes until 11pm or later - there was a cart on the South Conduit & 131st Street (Jamaica) who served very good Halal but more importantly saved me from stomach rumblings at that late hour and during times of Transit infrequency.

Paul Martin said...

I spent a week in NYC in 2003/2004 and found food a tough find compared to Melbourne (which is reputedly Australia's cuisine capital). In NY I did, however, discover the bagel.

Noel Vera said...

I don't know, food a tough find in New York? There's Ess-a-Bagels on 20th and 1st (is that still there?), the Papaya King in midtown, and some serious barbecue this June at the Barbecue Block Party (word of advice, try Ed Mitchell's cue; his place closed down in North Carolina, so this is it when it comes to his 'cue), 2nd Avenue Deli's kerphlach, and Carnegie Deli's pastrami sandwich.

That's not including all the ethnic places in Queens and Brooklyn (Peter Lugers?) and the Bronx and all. And that's just off the top of my head.

Zach Campbell said...

Jaime, those halal carts can range from awful to practically sublime. I love how, based on nationality or the personal touch of the guy in charge, each (worthwhile) cart has its own spicing & ingredients. There was one guy who used to work on Broadway in the Village--I think he might have been Turkish, his stuff seemed very Mediterrannean in comparison to his peers (peppers, lemon). One cart in my neighborhood (quite near the Moving Image) puts eggplant and fries in their chicken-and-rice platter.

Paul--food a tough find in NYC!? I imagine the place is like any other city: you've got to know where to go, some neighborhoods are better than others, etc. Do you remember where you ate (either specific restaurants or parts of the city)? I'd be happy to give a whole list of recommendations if you ever come back to the Big Apple. The bagels can be great here but they're just the tip of the iceberg!

Noel, I am hoping to attend the Big Apple BBQ and hope to write about it a little here if I do. And all those "ethnic" places in Queens are a top reason why I've moved out here after graduation. (Though I keep letting down our mutual buddy Mr. Contreras by not trying this own Filipino restaurant I've long meant to try.)

Paul Martin said...

Zach, as a vegetarian I was surprised that NYC does not have (or at least does not advertise) many vegetarian restaurants. I stayed in Greenwich Village and liked Angelique's Kitchen (I think that's how it's spelt; it was a bit pricey by Australian standards) but went to Hampton Chutney a few times. It wasn't too bad and was reasonably priced.

Paul Martin said...

Actually, it was Angelica's Kitchen and Hampton Chutney Co.

Zach Campbell said...

Paul, I was a vegetarian for three years--but I have actually never been to Angelica's Kitchen. If you come back to NYC in the near future, though: in the Village alone, there is a actually a pretty decent selection of vegetarian or heavily, self-consciously veg-friendly places: delicious Gobo (I think it's all-but-vegan), Red Bamboo (have heard it's good; might not have been around yet the time you visited); Sacred Chow (pretty decent); Vegetarian's Paradise; Dojo; Souen (excellent macrobiotic); the dosa guy Thiru Kumar himself. Plus falafel at any number of places (some much better than others), all the cheap Indian restaurants on 6th St. whose vegetarian items are usually more interesting than the chicken-breast-in-canned-vindaloo items ... the list goes on.

Hampton's has a killer grilled cheese with tomato and avocado, if I remember correctly. But (I used to live a few blocks south of there) there are several veg-friendly places nearby that one alone: Spring Street Natural, La Conquita (now the name is slightly different; NOT veg at all--and come to think of it they probably use chicken stock anyway--but there was a great rice-beans-plaintains deal for $3), dessert or brie baguettes at Ceci Cela, and at that point you're just a few minutes' walk from Chinatown, which has tons and tons of vegetarian options at various types of Chinese and Vietnamese places.

Good food is everywhere! If I weren't a New Yorker and were visiting I'd probably try to pick up Jim Leff's book ...

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for the heads-up Zach; that might be useful if I have the good fortune to come back (and I'm sure I will). I couldn't find much when I looked online. It goes to show that a little local knowledge can go a long way.