New York is a city with lots of people and most of them walk on the street, and everybody needs food, so there are a lot of street carts selling food. Midtown has the award-winning German sausage cart named “Hallo Berlin”, Washington Square has the vegetarian-but-miraculously-still-tasty dosa cart, and East 116th has a great taco truck. What does Morningside Heights have? You could walk around and see for yourself, or you could read Bwog and never lift your ass off of your seat. You just have to keep refreshing your browser, because this is only part one in a series.
Across 110th street from the Chipotle that opened to great fanfare in late July, a new cart also popped up over the summer. When over the summer? The owner fans out ten fingers and says “two months.” Ten weeks? Who knows. The cart’s main fare is chicken and gyro rice platters. This is also the specialty at the city’s most famous food stand, the chicken-and-rice spot on 53rd and 6th, which lived through the disgrace of having its wikipedia article deleted and still serves a damn good product with a “red sauce” at hiccup-level strength. (FACT: All strong hot sauces should make you hiccup – this is why many good hot sauces have skulls on the bottle, to help scare the hiccups out of you.)
The chicken and rice here isn’t on that level, but it’s worth the five bucks a platter (four bucks gets you a pita, but with a big drop in quantity) for quick eats. Like lots of tasty street food, it has a combination of flavors guaranteed to taste good together, without any sort of perfectionist attempts at balance or flawlessness. The orange basmati rice (the kind of rice that doesn’t stick together) is magically delicious, with a hard to pin-down spiciness. The chicken is juicy and flavorful and a little greasy, and the bell peppers it’s grilled with are a nice addition. They also come in the correct proportion for vegetables in a meat dish – there’s much less of them. Yeah, you get a little cartilage in the chicken, but for every bite where you have to spend a second spitting out some cartilage, you get a dozen bites of juicy chicken, maybe even a baker’s dozen. The “green salad” is just iceberg lettuce with a few tomatoes, which is alright because both items are crunchy.
If you choose to get the gyro instead of the chicken, it’s also pretty good, in the strange way that meat shaved off a solid rotating block can be good. The gyro here comes in chunks that are bigger than the usual thin strips, which means you to taste the fatty, lightly spiced mixed meat more, whether you want to or not. There’s also a breakfast menu, in the form of an auxiliary mini-cart that serves bagels with cream cheese for a dollar, and a wide selection of pastries for as little as 65 cents. The breakfast cart is the only cart that the servers actually stand behind – for, the main cart, the grill side is open to the sidewalk, made possible by the utter lack of foot traffic on 110th.
One last thing to note about this stand: its speed is phenomenal. The friendly bald guy who’s always working the grill is assisted by a woman and another man, and together they run a fast ship – one of those clipper ships or something. You’ll get your food in less than a minute, and if the guy’s in a good mood you can get a soda thrown in for free. When you’re departing Rite-Aid in shame because your fake ID got rejected at the only place with five-dollar six packs of Yuengling, at least you can get something for that Lincoln.