By Emily Saladino | USA Today
New York City has a number of things in excess. Museums. Millionaires. Major league sports franchises.
One thing it lacks, though, is space. Some 1.6 million people pack onto a 22-square-mile island – and that’s just Manhattan. Residents are accustomed to living highly personal moments in public – yep, that woman you passed on Madison Avenue was negotiating with her divorce attorney in rush hour foot traffic – and enterprising business owners run postage-stamp-sized jewelry stores, railcar-style tapas bars and diminutive galleries that are long on taste, if not on elbowroom.
Food trucks, those fast-moving phenomena that took Los Angeles and Portland by grab-and-go storm, might seem like a boon for New York’s crowded streets. But Gotham was slow on the downshift. Given the city’s severe lack of public parking and aforementioned spatial challenges, operating a food truck here is almost as difficult as quietly rooting for the Red Sox.
Fortunately, a few locals with industrious spirits and impressive parallel parking skills have made New York’s food truck dream into a reality. Follow your nose (and your Twitter feed) to get a taste of these mobile maestros.
Started as a Brooklyn Bridge Park pop-up, these grilled cheese and milkshake specialists now rove the city, instilling a love of dairy from Harlem to Fort Greene. Items celebrate local purveyors, like the all-day breakfast sandwich made with aged gruyere, a fresh Tello egg and Balthazar’s legendary rye batard. The transcendent ham and cheese combines Applewood smoked ham, aged cheddar and grainy mustard on rosemary-flecked Blue Ribbon Bakery bread.milktrucknyc.com
This seasonal all-star parks next to Brooklyn’s Red Hook Ballfields from April to October. The heated soccer games are no match for El Olomega’s stellar Salvadorean pupusas. Made from a family recipe for over 20 years, pupusas are pancake-like corn tortillas stuffed with shredded pork, chicken, loroco flower, sweet plantains and zucchini. elolomega.com
This Vendy award-winning Greek truck has become so popular, it spawned a brick-and-mortar shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Still, devotees stay tuned to the truck’s whereabouts on its Twitter feed, and follow their Metrocards to find Souvlaki GR’s pitas, stuffed with chicken, beef or pork, and topped with fresh vegetables and Tyrokafteri spicy feta dip, on sidewalks near and far. souvlakigr.com
West Coasters may disparage New York’s (admittedly weak) Mexican cuisine, but this California-style food truck presents a strong counterargument. Regularly parked in Flatiron or SoHo, with a satellite cart outside of Brooklyn’s sparkling Barclays Center, these trucks dish out a small but mighty mix of tortillas filled with chipotle pork, carne asada and gringo ground beef, seasoned with ancho chilies and cumin. calexico.net
Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
Forget everything you know about 7-11. Kelvin’s all-natural slushes combine ingredients like green tea, spicy ginger and citrus with seasonal fruit purees, pomegranate seeds and chopped fresh mint. On the weekends, the sleek blue truck parks at Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg and DUMBO’s waterfront, but check their Twitter feed to chill out all week long. kelvinslush.com
Chef Einat Admony launched this mobile offshoot of her popular, postage stamp-sized West Village falafel shop in 2010. Taim Mobile serves traditional hummus and falafel sandwiches with stellar Middle Eastern toppings like Yemeni hot sauce, Israeli pickles and Amba pickled mango chutney. Got a sweet tooth? Try the date-lime-banana smoothie. You won’t regret it.taimmobile.com
Usually, New Yorkers who crave authentic Caribbean cooking head out to Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a sizeable West Indian community. But at Yvonne’s Jamaican, a fixture on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, uptown girls and boys can get their fix of island fare like oxtails with rice, jerk chicken and fried whiting. Yvonne’s also serves house-made lemonade and cold ginger beer. No website; corner of 71st St. and York Ave.
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
The twinkling sounds of Mister Softee may signify summer to many New Yorkers, but Van Leeuwen has the coolest confections of the season. Flavors include elevated classics like Tahitian vanilla, plus unusual finds like gianduja and Ceylon cinnamon. All of Van Leeuwen’s milk, cream and eggs are sourced from local, hormone- and antibiotic-free farms, and its coffee is Brooklyn’s own Toby’s Estate. vanleeuwenicecream.com
Korilla’s Korean-accented burritos, wraps and rice bowls are the closest thing New Yorkers have to Los Angeles’ legendary Kogi truck. Build your own chosun bowl from the ground up, or get yourssam on with the Pokinator, a taco shell filled with pulled pork, kimchi fried rice, slaw, house-made barbecue sauce and shredded Jack. Locations change daily, so check the website for a weekly roster of truck stops. korillabbq.com
In 2011, crustacean king Luke Holden, of beloved seafood shack Luke’s Lobster, took his show on the road. After a hugely successful launch at the Hell’s Kitchen Gourmet Food Truck Bazaar, the Nauti truck roams Manhattan’s Midtown and Flatiron neighborhoods. Hungry “mobstas” can keep tabs on its location via Twitter. lukeslobster.com/nauti