Posts Tagged ‘kwik meal’

NYC To Food Trucks: Drop Dead

June 29, 2011 1 comment

If you work in midtown, you’ve witnessed them steadily rolling  into the neighborhood and aggressively staking their claim to white collar lunch dollars.  I’m talking about food trucks. Not food carts, which are a different animal entirely, but trucks, which can roll with impunity around the city, appearing at 46th and 6th one day, and in Williamsburgh that evening.  Many lavish praise on these trucks – they are “the next big thing,”  the dream career for hipsters and oppressed  lawyers and bankers alike.  People will line up around the block to buy their lunch at these places, then brag about it in their offices.  Others deride them as “hipster food trucks,” run by slackers who are making a quick buck off the back of the old school street vendors who have been breaking their back for  years to establish their clientele, only to have them stolen by some guy selling waffles off the  back of a truck.  And yet, they have kept rolling into midtown and all over the City, literally lined up on the sides of the street, dispensing waffles, dumplings, desserts, tacos, falafel and weinerschnitzel.  Even truckin’-before-it-was-cool stalwart Mr. Softee has gotten in on the action, sending a veritable fleet of trucks into midtown and offering modern crowd-pleasing flavors like “potato chip chocolate dip” cones.

As shocking as it may seem, this golden age of the food truck has now passed into history.  On May 24, New York State Supreme Court Judge Geoffrey D. Wright issued a decision re-affirming a Transportation Department regulation, decades old, which provides that “No vendor, hawker or huckster shall park a vehicle at a metered parking space” to offer “merchandise for sale from the vehicle.” And apparently, the city is now enforcing the regulation, forcing food trucks out of their metered spots, to wander the city aimlessly, uneaten weinerschnitzel growing cold in the back.  Indeed, the Police Department has officially announced its intent to enforce the law, not just in midtown but throughout the five boroughs.  The end of an era is truly over, as the food trucks languish out of the spotlight, like cretaceous dinosaurs struggling hopelessly in the tar pits that will be their tombs.

Meanwhile, in midtown, life goes on.  The line at Moishe’s Falafel Cart went around the block today, and the only sign of food trucks was some sort of pizza truck parked in front of a hydrant and frantically selling slices before New York’s finest showed up.  Business was risk at the Biryani Cart, and at Kwik Meal across the street.  I did not visit Trini-Paki Boys down the street, but they have some of the most fiercely devoted customers of any cart, so I am sure they were just fine. You see, these carts, as opposed to the trucks, have designated locations on the sidewalk and thus the law does not apply to them.  In fact, the cart owners are probably breathing a sigh of relief that their tech-and-media savvy, well-financed and mobile army of competitors has been defeated by the City.

And frankly, while the food trucks have twitter accounts, top of the line equipment, and good publicists, they are, as group, missing something that is the essence of street food: good food at good value.  Its not that you can’t get good food from a truck, often it can be good (although just as often, not).  But even if it is good, it may be overly expensive.  The fact is, there are very few trucks that deliver good food at good value.

If I have to choose between the trucks and the carts, I’ll take the carts, every time.

But for trucks fans, all is not lost.  The Parks Department has taken a keen interest in mobile foodstuffs, so NYC parks  may soon become a haven for displaced trucks.


Midtown Survival Guide: Biryani Cart

May 26, 2010 1 comment

Biryani Cart dishes out one of the best street cart meals you can get at midtown – and that is saying a lot, because the competition is fierce.  The corner of 46th St. and 6th Avenue is a bustling hub of street cart activity – within just a few hundred feet are midtown stalwarts Moshe’s Falafel, Kim’s Aunt Kitchen and, of course, Kwik Meal just a block away.  Additionally, Carribbean Spice has staked out a long-standing location along 46th Street, and on selected days both the Treats Truck and the Wafels & Dinges Truck  make appearances on 45th Street. 

There is certainly no excuse for people who work in this neighborhood to be eating at Cafe Europa every day (which, for those who don’t know, is yet one more of those cookie cutter “pre-made sandwiches or you pick your own overpriced salad”  places.

But the juggernaut at this location is the Biryani Cart.  Winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Vendy Awards for 2 years running (2008 and 2009), the Biryani Cart empire consists of two carts right on the corner of 46th and 6th.  

The main cart primarily serves kati rolls and various Indian specialties, which include biryani and chiken tikka masala every day, along with rotating daily specials including kashmiri curry, vegetable biryani and others.  The satellite cart stands directly next to the main cart, and serves traditional “street meat”-style chicken and lamb over rice, as well as pita sandwiches and more typical fare like sandwiches and burgers.

All I can say is, if you like Indian food, be sure to go and sample the biryani, tikka masala and kati rolls (a kati roll is spicy kabab-style meat rolled up in flatbread – sort of an Indian-style wrap).  The Biryani Cart provides a spicy and satisfying lunch, and you will be much happier than if you buy some anemic sandwich from Cafe Europa or elsewhere.  They run an efficient operation, using multiple cooks, and are sufficiently organized that they can churn through orders quickly and do not make mistakes. 

Finally, just a few things to keep in mind when ordering from here:

1.  Step up to the window and order as soon as you can.  All the people hanging around in front of the cart have probably already ordered, and are waiting for their food.

2. It will make your office smell like Indian food, so plan accordingly.

3.  The main cart is open late into the evening, so it is a good spot for a quick and cheap dinner (no line).  They serve kati rolls and chicken/lamb over rice all night, although they tend to run out of biryani/tikka masala by the evening.

Midtown Survival Guide: Kwik Meal Cart

May 3, 2010 2 comments

If you are not familiar with working in Midtown Manhattan, your two esteemed bloggers can provide you with some helpful insight after many years of running on the hamster wheel that keeps the cogs moving within the machine known as Corporate America.  Located in the area sprinkled around Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Grand Central, Midtown is home to many large national and international corporations as well as the many fancy law firms that provide legal services to those corporations.

With respect to dining, Midtown also happens to be home to some of the best restaurants in the country, if not the world.  A small sampling of fine establishments in the area include Le Bernadin, Sushi Yasuda, Aquavit, Daniel and Jean Georges.  These options are great — if you have an expense account.  Unfortunately, for the average worker on the average day, the options are boring and expensive (not Le Bernadin expensive but $10 for a salad expensive).  The usual, flavorless options come from fast food joints, or interchangeable delis offering mediocre and overpriced salads, soups, sandwiches, pizza, sushi or whatever else one can quickly scurry out to get and return with to enjoy at one’s desk.

As with other diners in the area craving actual, flavorful food, J. Frankfurter and I have spent countless years hunting down delicious yet affordable options amongst the many ripoffs.  When the invaluable blog Midtown Lunch came along, we were pleased as punch to see many of our favorites featured and given favorable reviews.  In this recurring series, we will teach you the basic survival skills you need satisfy your taste buds, keep your belly full and not break your bank account.

Our first installment features the Kwik Meal Cart located at the southwest corner of 45th Street and 6th Avenue (or for you tourists playing along at home, Avenue of the Americas).

Food trucks have become all the rage in New York City and have spread to Los Angeles, Washington DC and other fine locales.  Competition is fierce for parking at desirable locations and there are even awards given for tastiest dishes.

Kwik Meal was one of the first trucks to catch the public’s eye for its lamb and chicken over rice dishes.  Much has already been written about Bangladeshi-born, former Russian Tea Room chef turned street meat champ, Muhammed Rahman.  While a few other options are available, I prefer the house specialty, lamb over rice (the chicken is also good; some people prefer the meat in pita rather than over rice).

The meat is flavorful and tender, not overcooked.  What sets Kwik Meal apart from the many other lesser street meat carts is that the lamb is marinated and cooked to order rather than just sitting at the corner of a grill all day.

The lamb over rice comes with a tastier version of the “white sauce” that is now a ubiquitous part of the New York street meat scene.  A dressed side salad rounds out the meal.  J. Frankfurter and I concur that it is likely the best best lamb you are going to get from a cart in Midtown.

Although prices have risen over the years, as of publication, one can still get a satisfying lamb over rice meal for a mere $7.50.  Long lines can be found during peak Midtown lunching times, so try to get there before noon or wait until after 1:30 pm.