50 Street Foods That Make NYC Great (in 60 Seconds)

By Zagat Staff  |  August 21, 2013

This week, we're taking to the New York City streets for an edible tour of what vendors on the asphalt have to offer. You don't even have to step into a restaurant to see that this city has it all - from pretzels to lobster rolls and hot-from-the-fryer donuts - you're covered. And since everything goes by in a New York minute, so does this whirlwind of face stuffing. Watch the video below to see the world of NYC street eats captured in 60 seconds. If you see something you like, click through the slide show below to see where you can go and sample the goods in real life. - James Mulcahy and Graham Kates 

  • Mamak Rendang Stew

    This cart is perhaps the only vendor in New York City that focuses on Malaysian-style stews. Your bowl brimming with boneless short-rib meat is made extra alluring with ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers and sambal chile. Not for the faint of heart.

    Location: Hanover Sq. and Water St.

  • Nuts 4 Nuts 

    Midtown travelers are nuts for these roasted goodies, especially around the holidays when you can really smell chestnuts roasting on an open fire in the streets. Yes, you will have to elbow a bazillion tourists out of the way when you are trying to get to the cart, but there's no denying they smell good. 

    Locations: Multiple 

  • Jianetto's Pizza

    Sure, the slices coming out of this red-sauce truck are totally tasty, but it's the gut-bomb heros that are the real deal. Available in classic varieties like eggplant parm (pictured here), chicken parm, and sausage and pepper, these puppies may not be for the Soul Cycle set, but they are a hungover office worker's dream.

    Location: Front and Wall Sts. 

  • Street Pretzel

    Does anyone actually eat these things? Even if they aren't the most popular street snack for foodies, they are iconic and will forever be associated with the streets of Midtown. Even if you don't eat these on a regular basis, you totally remember having one when you first visited the city.

    Locations: Multiple (aka every corner north of 14th St.)

  • Kelvin Natural Slush Co. 

    Think of these icy concoctions like a slurpee, but better. Instead of sickly sweet high-fructose corn syrup, these slushies are flavored with natural ingredients like the blueberries that were mixed into our blend. Score them at trucks around town and at markets like Smorgasburg. 

    Locations: Find them Saturday at Smorgasburg, 70 N. Seventh St. in Brooklyn, or track the truck on Twitter @KelvinSlush.

  • Banh Mi Cart 

    You don't have to find obscure delis or off-the-radar Vietnamese joints to score awesome banh mi sandwiches. This cart has quality lunchtime options like the specialty baguette, which is stuffed with pork and veggies (pictured here). More adventurous eaters can hit up sandwich stuffers like grilled sardines and eel.

    Location: Hanover Sq. and Water St.

  • Red Hook Lobster Pound

    This lobster roll purveyor took a big hit last year when flood waters from Sandy rushed in, but they're back in action with a truck dubbed Big Red (Red Hook residents are also happy to have their brick-and-mortar location up and running again). We scored our Maine-style roll with celery, Old Bay-type seasoning and a touch of mayo. 

    Location: Find them at Smorgasburg every Saturday, or track the truck on Twitter @RedHookLobster.

  • Van Leeuwen 

    This ice cream artisan has a number of trucks rolling around town. Flavors like pistachio and mint chip are made using natural ingredients, and vegan offerings should please those who need to stay lactose-free while having an icy snack. Or you can just go crazy and have a root beer float. We did. 

    Locations: There's usually a truck parked in Williamsburg at Bedford and N. Sixth. Find more outposts on Twitter at @VLAIC.

  • Veronica's Kitchen 

    You'll see the eponymous owner working the stand at this Financial District cart, which specializes in cuisine inspired by her childhood in Trinidad. Hit up some fried fish or barbecue beef ribs, or go all out with the oxtail stew, one of the cart's specialties.

    Location: 125 Front St.

  • Biryani Cart

    Kati roll are almost as much of a Midtown lunch staple as Halal cuisine, but not every cart that advertises these Indian flatbread roll-ups deliver on the delicious quotient. This option has developed a legion of followers for its flavor-packed offerings and will provide two rolls stuffed with chicken or lamb for a mere $6.

    Location: 46th St. and Sixth Ave. 

  • Kwik Meal 

    On the epic stretch of Sixth Avenue, Kwik Meal is one of the famous street carts. The green sign has been sitting on the street corner for years, and followers know that simple marinated lamb (pictured) or chicken over rice is where it's at.

    Location: 45th St. and Sixth Ave.

  • Nuchas

    If you really want to eat in the middle of Times Square, the pedestrian malls feature shipping containers that house a few tasty options (all of which are surely more filling than the pretzels being sold by the vendors lining the sidewalks). At Nuchas you'll find empanadas stuffed with ingredients like short rib and spicy chicken. You can camp out at one of the picnic tables that surround the container, or if you choose not to, you'll quickly learn that empanadas are the perfect food to eat on the go. 

    Location: Broadway between 44th and 45th Sts.

  • My Biryani

    It may not be the prettiest-looking dish on our list, but once you slather the minced chicken and seasoned rice with white sauce and hot sauce, you won't care that you have to get down and dirty to shovel it into your mouth. It's a staple at many carts in Midtown - and absurdly cheap for $5-$6 for a heaping portion. 

    Location: 44th St. and Sixth Ave.

  • Kim's Aunt Kitchen Cart

    Fried fish is the catch of the day at this Midtown cart, which has the motto "food is love" posted above its menu. Diners line up for fried whiting or flounder, which can be enjoyed as a platter or on a pita sandwich. The stand has been around for years, and once you bite into the crispy fish, you'll see why it's sure to be a fixture for years to come. 

    Location: 46th St. and Sixth Ave.

  • Rickshaw Dumplings 

    This dumpling truck was one of the first major players in the city's mobile eatery scene, and you'll still catch its red four-wheeler at many of NYC's main food-truck events and markets. Though folks criticise the dumplings for being pricey (it's basically a dollar a dumpling), you can't deny those classic pork and chive ones are tasty. 

    Locations: There are a few permanent locations around NYC - one in the heart of Times Square, and there are also brick-and-mortar versions in Flatiron and Midtown East. You can also always track the truck on Twitter @RickshawTruck.

  • Mr. Softee 

    Whether you take delight in this ubiquitous ice cream truck's logo or are frightened by his strange ice-cream-cone head, the blue-and-white truck is a welcome sight on hot summer days. It's classic soft serve, without trendy frills or specialty ingredients - a familar and comforting treat for the kid in all of us. 

    Location: Multiple. There's usually one parked at Columbus Circle and also wherever large numbers of people congregate outdoors. 

  • The Deckle at Smokeline

    The signature sandwich at Daniel Delaney's BBQ stand on the High Line showcases the Texas-style brisket that made it the must-try dish for 'cue fanboys across town. The Deckle comes adorned with pickles and onions, proving that good barbecue doesn't need gussying up. Enjoy it alfresco at the picnic tables that dot this area of the porch. 

    Location: High Line at W. 16th St. and 10th Ave.

  • Dirty Water Dog

    Would any tour of New York City street food be complete without biting into a dirty water dog? The streetside frankfurter is iconic because - well - we don't really know why, but even if it's not our go-to food, it's still somehow comforting. 

    Locations: Everywhere 

  • Carnegie John's

    This is the food truck that has it all, with a menu that ranges from hot dogs and burgers to gyros. You can get the meat that this cart churns out over a salad, but if you're going to gorge, you might as well go all out. Rib-eye sandwich, nice to meet you.  

    Location: 56th St. and Seventh Ave.

  • Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs

    This Chinatown stand specializes in meat on a stick, with many of the skewers available for the low price of $1. There are conventional options like chicken and beef, but if you're going to trek over to the location near the Manhattan Bridge, you should go bold with offerings like quail and chicken kidney. 

    Location: Division St. at Forsyth St. 

  • Uncle Gussy's

    This food truck serves traditional Greek cuisine from its perch near the Met Life building in Mditown East. Think pitas and sweet bites of baklava for dessert. 

    Location: Park Ave. and 51st St. 

  • Tony "The Dragon" Dragonas

    Tony has lured street-cart addicts north of the traditional street-meat zone with an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink menu that includes burgers, pitas and sandwiches. If you can tell which street vendors offer the best grub by the length of the line, then Tony has just about everyone in this neighborhood beat.

    Location: 62nd St. and Madison Ave.

  • Hallo Berlin

    If you don't want to trek over to 10th Avenue for this stalwart's German grub at its brick and mortar, they will bring the wurst to you. Well, as long as you're willing to visit their food cart that's on a more accessible stretch of Fifth Avenue. The stand has a sweet lineup of sausages made from veal, chicken, beef and pork, and the attendants don't hesitate to slather on the pickled cabbage and mustard.

    Location: 54th St. and Fifth Ave. 

  • N.Y. Dosas

    This stand serving vegetarian fare has long been a favorite of NYU students drawn to its Washington Park location and affordable prices. Indian crêpes (made with rice and lentils) are stuffed with ingredients like potato and mixed veggies. 

    Location: W. Fourth St. at Sullivan St.

  • Country Boys

    Two saucer-sized memelas are slathered with a layer of refried beans and your choice of meat and vegetables. Watch as the fresh dough is prepped and tossed on the griddle before being covered in a pile of fixins’ and handed through the truck’s passenger-side door.

    Location: Corner of Clinton and Bay Sts., Brooklyn

  • Piaztlan Authentic Mexican Food

    The women slinging tacos at this Red Hook truck have mastered the art of slow-cooked meat. The barbacoa de chivo (pulled goat) is nearly as tender as the tortilla it sits on, and the same goes for the pork, steak and chicken.

    Location: Clinton St. near Bay St., Brooklyn

  • Solber

    El Salvador-style corn masa patties are hand-shaped and stuffed with cheese and meat or veggies at this Red Hook truck. Get it with everything ­- tomato sauce, curtido, sour cream, jalapeño - and you’ll definitely need a fork to handle it all.

    Location: Bay St. near Clinton St., Brooklyn

  • Mo Gridder's

    Sweet and tangy pulled pork (seen here), ribs, chicken and brisket are all smoked at this trailer in the parking lot of an auto shop in Hunts Point. Get the ‘cue with a side order of collard greens, mac 'n' cheese or cornbread and enjoy it at the lot’s picnic tables.

    Location: 565 Hunts Point Ave., Bronx

  • Fauzia's Heavenly Delights

    Jerk chicken is the staple at this cart, parked just in front of the Bronx District Attorney’s office, and it’s served alongside an ever-changing menu of sides, like the spicy lentils and spinach that came with our meal. Make sure to get here before the daily rush of cops and lawyers taking 1 PM recess from the courthouse across the street.

    Location: Tuesday-Friday, Corner of E. 161st St. and Sheridan Ave., Bronx; Saturday-Sunday, Governor’s Island

  • Cloud Coffee

    Before heading over to Smorgasburg for some epic face-stuffing, stop by this charmer of a cart outside Artists and Fleas on the weekends. Owner Kendall Holmes will hook you up with a tasty - and caffeine-packed - cold brew that will leave you pleasantly wired during your snack session. 

    Location: Saturday-Sunday, Smorgasburg 

  • Milk Truck

    The Milk Truck classic is a grilled cheese sandwich made with aged Wisconsin Gruyère and cultured butter on Balthazar Levain pullman bread. If you want to really go crazy, you can add caramelized onions, sautéed onions and bacon. Um, why not add all three?  

    Location: Like a lot of the other vendors on the list, find these cheesy purveyors at Smorgasburg. You can also see their truck schedule here.  

  • Calexico  

    You'll find this iconic street-taco-slinger in the form of a number of stands around town (most popularly SoHo) and a few brick-and-mortar locations that were spawned once the street eats became so successful. Offerings include carne asada burritos, "gringo ground-beef" quesadillas, and heaping burritos and bowls. All of that is great, but tacos are what made them famous, so tacos are what we'll have. 

    Locations: Multiple. Their SoHo location is at Prince and Wooster Sts. 

  • Cinnamon Snail 

    When it's time for dessert, get the signature "cinnamon snail" bun at this truck, which bills itself as the "most raunchy mobile vegan organic restaurant" ever. Sounds fair to us. In addition to the sweet treat, this Jersey-based purveyor serves everything from breakfast burritos to veggie burgers. 

    Locations: Multiple. Follow them on Twitter @VeganLunchTruck.

  • Big D's Grub

    The "Big D" behind this truck is a New Yorker known as Dennis, and he works bold flavors into his mobile fare inspired by his childhood in culinary melting pot Queens. Grab tacos, grinders or bowls stuffed with ingredients like bulgogi or ginger chicken.

    Location: Big D rolls around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Track him down on Twitter @bigdsgrub.

  • Waffles and Dinges 

    These iconic yellow carts take Belgian-style waffles and load them up with delicious dinges, or treats like strawberries and chocolate (not to mention the mind-blowingly fluffy whipped cream). This is one of the city's more popular dessert offerings, and you'll frequently see the trucks perched in high-traffic areas around town. 

    Locations: Multiple. Twitter has the deets @waffletruck.

  • Carpe Donut Truck 

    Forget about the Cronut: the apple cinnamon donuts at this red truck are sweet, delicious and come without the line. The mini-morsels can be ordered one at a time, but since they're so small, you'll want to load up with at least half a dozen. Just pretend you're going to share them with your coworkers before finishing off the bag yourself. 

    Location: Twitter has your donut hookup @CarpeDonutNYC.

  • Coolhaus 

    With combos like red-velvet cookies and key lime ice cream, it's not a surprise that the cool kids behind this shiny metal ice cream truck have a national following. In addition to their trucks in NYC, they've got mobile vendors in locations as far ranging as Austin and LA. 

    Locations: Multiple. You can track the Coolhaus NY truck on Twitter @CoolhausNY.

  • Korilla BBQ

    This tiger-clad truck combines two things we love: Korean barbecue and burritos. No wonder the lines regularly stretch down the block wherever they show up. The bold flavors also landed founder Edward Song a spot on our 2012 30 Under 30 list

    Location: Follow them on Twitter @KorillaBBQ. Get there early. 

  • Schnitzel and Things 

    Serving pounded, Austrian-style meat since 2009, this truck inspired a short-lived brick-and-mortar outpost. Though the Midtown East address has closed, you can still find the truck rolling around town, and a Brooklyn brick-and-mortar location is planned for down the road. For now, get dishes like the signature chicken schnitzel or this massive bratwurst from the mobile eatery. 

    Location: The Twitter account is @schnitznthings. You know the drill.

  • Chipsy King 

    Belgian-style fries are this relatively new truck's speciality, and these twice-cooked pomme frites can be amped up with dozens of sauces. The only problem: how do you choose? 

    Location: You can usually find them stationed around 51st St. and Park Ave., but Twitter has the full info @chipsykingny

  • Breakfast Carts

    New Yorker's love their bagels, so it's fitting that you can get one on pretty much any street corner during the AM rush. While these may not be Russ and Daughters, in a pinch they hit the spot.

    Locations: Everywhere! But if you're curious, ours was from a cart on 15th St. and Eighth Ave. 

  • Ramen Burger 

    We had to include at least one legitimate craze on this list, so behold: the ramen burger. This creation is just what it sounds like, a grilled patty stuffed between two ramen buns, and it has people lining up by the hundreds on Saturday morning at Smorgasburg to try it. Oh, and a special shout out to that street fair for giving so many Big Apple vendors a chance to make it on these unforgiving streets.

    Location: Smorgasburg

  • Shake Shack

    But would the ramen burger even rank in a city that isn't used to standing in line for a choice patty? Sure, Shake Shack isn't necessarily considered street food now, but tell that to the folks that still snake through Madison Park in inclement weather, attempting to score a classic at the original location. 

    Location: If you want to eat this on the street, head to Madison Square Park and look for the line. 

  • Frites‘N’Meats

    The double-fried Belgian-style frites come in a cone with a choice of condiments that include: garlic aïoli, wasabi mayo and cheese sauce. Hungry for more? The Wagyu burger and steak sandwich come gussied up with fancy cheeses like Gruyère, goat or brie.

    Location: Track the truck on Twitter @FritesNMeats.

  • Toast Monster

    French toast “Sammiches” (try the peanut butter and jelly with banana) or “Texas Size Sammies” come griddled golden brown and stuffed with a heaping helping of fillings. And don’t forget to leave room for - or just skip right to - the grilled lemon pound cake with Nutella.

    Location: 50th St. and Sixth Ave.

  • The Crêpes Truck

    The truck itself is a sunset mural of Parisian landmarks, but the eponymous product comes as sweet or savory homages to a plethora of cultures. From the “Italian” to the “New Porker,” the one constant is a speckled golden crêpe that could easily come from an actual Parisian cafe.

    Location: Track the truck on Twitter @TheCrepesTruck.

  • Luckyim Thai

    You may have to wait up to 30 minutes during lunch rush at this FiDi cart. It's worth it. It's all about the noodles at this stand, and it's nearly impossible to figure out how the operation churns out so many aluminum bowls full of pad see ew and drunken noodles. While you wait, you can figure out whether you want chicken, shrimp or veggie. 

    Location: Liberty St. near Rector St. 

  • Neopolitan Express 

    Turns out you can get great pizza in NYC from a four-wheeled operation. Not only does this pizzeria on-the-go churn out a simple but delicious menu of pies like the Margherita (pictured), they do so running on environment-friendly compressed natural gas. Oh, and they serve organic French press coffee during breakfast. Bet your local java shop doesn't do that. 

    Location: Tweet tweet (@NeaExpress)

  • The Steel Truck

    If the stainless steel breakfast carts that dot every corner feel too similar to hot dog vendors (and yes, some of them do serve hot dogs), head over to The Steel Truck, which dishes out higher-end offerings like steel-cut oats with toppings like candied pecans and fresh mixed berries. For lunch, it's artisanal sandwiches and soups. 

    Location: You can follow the self-described "little brunch truck" on Twitter @TheSteelCart.

  • Morris Grilled Cheese Truck

    Okay, the grilled cheeses at this silver vehicle are great, but we'll be honest: we love the truck because of this sign, smacked right by the ordering window, that encourages those in the line to do exactly what they came for. We'll cap this list with it, in case you need a reminder. 

    Location: If you want to see the sign for yourself, track the truck on Twitter @morristruck.