A La Cart
Talk about quick-and-easy, delicious
comfort food. Some of
the tastiest and most-eclectic meals are
eaten—on the street
BY LIZ JOHNSON
PHOTOGRAPH Y B Y EVAN KAFKA
It’s a crisp night in New York City and
I’m leaning on a mailbox on Broadway
at the corner of 75th Street, dipping a
steaming hot chicken-and-Thai basil
dumpling into a spicy-sweet peanut
sauce. When I’m done, I wipe my hands
on my jeans.
A few weeks later I’m on Third Avenue on the corner of 86th. I’m peeling
o; the pleated wax wrapper from the
bottom half of a peanut butter-and-jelly
cupcake. After licking the last crumb
from the tip of my thumb, I run into the
Duane Reade drugstore on the corner to
buy some Purell.
A few days later, I’m sitting on the
granite steps in front of the Seagram
Building on Park Avenue. A black plastic
container of Taiwanese fried chicken is
on my lap. After pulling the drumstick
meat o; the bone and mixing it with the
sticky sweet-and-sour sauce and accompanying rice, I need a place to rinse my
hands. Good thing there’s a public fountain right behind me.
One thing’s for sure: eating food from
a truck sure is messy. But it’s never been
easier. Or better.
Getting Vendy with It
The combination of some very high-profile vendors, a bad economy, the
egalitarian nature of the Internet and,
well, some darn-good-tasting food, has
given street food street cred.
Consider the Vendy Awards, an annual
food festival that honors the best sidewalk chefs in New York City. In 2005,
the awards’ first year, 250 people paid
$35 to attend the event, which was held
in a garage on East Fourth Street. Last
year, 660 attendees paid $80 to stand in
long lines for a cook-o;, held in Flushing
Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. There
were more than 15 publications and
countless bloggers covering it.
I’ve heard people call barbecue the
great equalizer. But, these days, I have to
wonder, has street food become the new
food for everyman?
“It’s really democratic,” says Amy
Kantrowitz, managing director of the
Vendy Awards. Waiting in line for food
from a cart, “the tourist is standing next
to the CEO standing next to the janitor
standing next to the street guy who just
scooped up the change.”