You’d probably be thinking: “Why should I even consider having street food in New York City when it has so many fine-dining restaurants, historic delis, ethnic eateries and fast-food chains all over the metropolis?” Well, simply because street food is a vital part of the NYC experience. In a city famous for its unrelenting pace, its bustling workers need meals on the go, something they can munch on while walking back to their offices or talking on their mobile phones. What better option than to get a satisfying lunch from these meal trucks or pushcarts all over town? For leisure travelers, it also makes for a great “refill” when your energy is low after hours of non-stop sightseeing. So don’t think of NYC street food as your last option, instead, make plans to visit some of its best vendors, like those listed below.
1. Melting pot of food culture with Korilla BBQ
The Big Apple is well known for being a melting pot of cultures, and sometimes it manifests in its street food, as inventive chefs mix and match different cuisines from different cultures. One of the most famous is Korilla BBQ, with its instantly-identifiable tiger-striped meal truck, which serves Tex-Mex food like burritos and tacos filled with Korean-styled meats such as beef bulgogi (marinaded rib-eye), braised pork shoulder and ginger chicken. It is a wild but tasty combination, and it has garnered over 28,000 followers on Twitter, eager to track down the truck’s daily locations. Don’t forget to spice up your burritos with Korilla’s homemade kimchi and sauces.
Address: E 47th Street/Park Avenue
Website: Korilla BBQ
If there is one NYC street food that can be described as iconic, it must the dirty water hot dog. Now, before you frown about any hygiene issues, the dirty water refers to the warm, bubbling, briny water that the hot dogs are soaked in. After ordering, the hot frank is served in a soft bun (which sops up residual water) and then topped with ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, and sauerkraut. It is cheap, it is easy to carry about, and it is ubiquitous. You can find hot dog carts everywhere in town – outside museums, along with shopping districts and amid the city parks. This is not gourmet food by any account, but everyone can agree that this is “New York” food.
Hot Dog Cart At South End Ave
Address: 331 South End Avenue, New York, NY 10280
Website: Sabrett Hot Dog
Small-Group Historic Downtown and Chinatown Walking Food Tour
Duration: 4 hours
What is street food without dessert fare? From ice creams to doughnuts to pretzels, the streets of New York offer plenty of sweet and savory delights that you can munch on the go. One of the most popular dessert food trucks is Wafels & Dinges, which is Dutch for Waffles and Things. The chefs sling warm and toasty Belgian waffles stacked with “things” – mainly a slew of sweet toppings like cookie spread, fresh strawberries, Belgian-style chocolate sauce and classic maple syrup. If you visit their stationary cafes in Manhattan, you can find even more toppings such as sour cream, cheese, and bacon. And since they have three carts in NYC’s iconic Central Park, they make for great snacks as you relax amid the urban oasis.
Wafels & Dinges
Address: 5th Ave/60th Street
Website: Wafels & Dinges
New York City Food Cart Walking Tour
Duration: 2 hours
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
Besides food carts, meal trucks have also become a regular sight in the Big Apple. These mobile eateries generally offer a more upscale variety of street food, and some of them may even set up tables or chairs for you to dine in. The only catch is that you will have to check their websites or social media pages regularly to find out their locations. One joint that has earned a huge and loyal following is Milk Truck, easily identifiable by their sunshine-yellow food truck. They serve classic American comfort foods like mac and cheese, turkey chili and their specialty, the grilled cheese sandwich. Go hunt them down!
Address: E 27th Street/Park Avenue S or Wall Street/William Street
Website: Milk Truck
New York: Financial District Street Food Tasting Tour
Duration: 2 hour
With millions of immigrants and hundreds of ethnic groups living in New York, it is no surprise that you can find food from all over the world on the streets. One cuisine that has thrived in such a setting is the Middle Eastern fare, with its ready-to-go bites like falafel, kebabs, and gyros. Several Middle Eastern street food chains have carved a name for themselves; One of them is The Halal Guys, who started out in 1990 as a food cart in the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, and has grown into a casual restaurant franchise with branches all over the United States. The food is outstandingly delicious (Tip: Great for curing hangovers after a night at the pub). Try the gyro meat with rice, and insist on their secret white sauce. You will understand why the food cart has long but quick-moving queues even late into the night.
The Halal Guys
Address: SE corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue
Website: The Halal Guys
New York: Midtown Manhattan Street Food Walking Tour
Duration: 2 hour
Quintessential activity in NYC
Many travelers view street food culture as a microcosm of life in a particular city, and this is undeniably true when it comes to New York. Like its multitude of ethnic cultures, you have a dizzying array of cuisines lining up along the streets, eager for you to sample their takes on their traditional food fares. And just like many of its uber-successful residents, New York street food is inventive and efficient, with hardworking chefs whipping up amazing dishes with aplomb. So do not dismiss NYC street food as optional, or even worse, as a last resort. This is a quintessential activity in this extraordinary metropolis, and you will be rewarded with a glimpse into the beating heart – and hungry tummy – of the city.
Get Trip101 in your inbox