by E. Assata Wright | HudsonReporter.com
Anyone looking for a quick hotdog at lunchtime would be hard-pressed to find one near the Grove Street PATH Station. Not that the area doesn’t have its fair share of food trucks that cater to the office and after-work crowds in the afternoons and evenings. It does. At least four food trucks can be found within a three block radius from the train station.
But increasingly these restaurants on wheels offer menu options that have more in common with the annual Taste of Jersey City event than a major league baseball stadium.
“The food here is cheap and it’s delicious.” – Suzanne Nile
Within steps of the PATH entrance, hungry residents and commuters can select from an array of fast dining options that includes Lucinda Creperie, The Krave (which serves up traditional Korean barbeque), and Taste of India. The area used to include a truck that featured Mexican cuisine, and another Indian food truck that sometimes parks over by the Pavonia-Newport PATH Station, a neighborhood that also includes a more traditional hotdog stand.
‘Opening up a lot of eyes’
According to Krave co-owner Charles Heo, the food truck industry has been diversifying over the last several years, and the trend may have begun on the West Coast.
“A couple years ago there was a huge phenomenon in California, where there were a lot of barbeque taco trucks. So, my business partner and I thought it would be a cool idea to bring it over to the East Coast.”
Drawing on their Korean heritage, they decided to introduce the wider public to a type of food that may be less familiar to many than Chinese and Thai fare.
“We use our mothers’ Korean barbeque recipes and it’s been pretty successful so far,” Heo said, adding that the Krave got rolling in the summer of 2009. “We’re definitely opening up a lot of eyes. A lot of people don’t really know what Korean food is. So we’re introducing it through this food truck.”
The Krave’s taco sampler and the barbeque rice platter are, according to Heo, the two most popular items on the menu.
Like many of the other nearby food trucks, the Krave crew splits their time between the Grove Street PATH neighborhood and the Harborside Financial Center area for lunch and dinner hours.
The foodies like ’em
Based on the steady stream of customers who step up to order samosas or fruit-filled crepes, it appears that residents and commuters alike appreciate the inexpensive and diverse food options available to them.
“It’s good. I stop by once or twice a week when I have to work late,” said Krave customer Gloria Wu, who lives in Brooklyn but works in one of the office buildings in downtown Jersey City. “I can get a really good dinner here for, like, six bucks. It’s healthier than fast food, but it’s quick. And it’s as cheap as going around the corner to Subway, which I also do sometimes…But I like the idea of supporting a small independent business like this, and it’s cool to have ‘hotdog stands’ that aren’t actually selling hotdogs.”
Wu said she also sometimes eats at Lucinda Creperie, parked a block away from the Krave.
“The food here is really good,” testified resident Dan Bishop, who described himself as a “regular” at Taste of India. “I go to a lot of really great Indian restaurants in New York. I’m not going to say the food here is that good. But for the money you pay, you definitely get your money’s worth. And it’s probably on par with, or better than, some places around that serve Indian food.”
“Yes, I like the food here,” said Pram Patel, a native of India who now lives in downtown Jersey City. “It reminds me of where I come from,” she added, while picking up dinner last Wednesday for herself and her four-year old daughter.
Suzanne Nile, a friend and neighbor of the Patels, stood in line behind the mother and daughter waiting to place her own order.
“I love Indian food. I could probably eat it four times a week,” said the Nile. “I actually cook several Indian dishes myself and I’m getting pretty good. But, you know, sometimes you don’t feel like cooking. I just live right up there, so it’s nothing to come downstairs, pick up a bite here for dinner. I’d like to eat out more, but I’m trying to save money. The food here is cheap and it’s delicious. It’s as good as what I’m able to cook right now, as far as Indian food is concerned.”
Like Wu, Nile said “it’s neat” to have upscale food trucks in the neighborhood that offer something more than ice cream and potato chips.
Employee: the community, it’s a’changin’
“There’s nothing wrong with the hotdog stand,” said one Taste of India employee who didn’t want to give his name. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. They started these types of businesses. But everything is changing. Jersey City is changing. People want more [options]. You can’t just have McDonald’s and Starbucks. There has to be more diversity.”