Click here to see the New York City’s 10 Best Food Trucks Slideshow
June 27, 2013
Track down these top selections for a taste of the city’s finest food truck fare
10. Luke's Lobster
It’s just the kind of embarrassment of riches that food trucks have brought that New Yorkers can fight over who has the better lobster roll truck. (It also says a lot about the migration of lobster rolls as a sandwich that besides finance guy Luke Holden’s lobster roll truck Nauti, he also now has five New York locations, and four in the Beltway.) Born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, a small town on the coast of Maine, Holden "grew up lobstering, built his own skiff, and launched a lobster company while still in high school." These days, the lobsters are taken from the dock to Luke’s family seafood business Portland Shellfish. According to the Luke’s Lobster site, "In just hours, the frisky pinchers are steamed, picked, and individually wrapped before they’re sent south." At Luke’s Lobster, chilled lobster is served in a buttered and toasted split-top bun "with a swipe of mayo, a sprinkle of lemon butter, and a dash of our secret spices." You can order it without mayo, butter, and spices, too if you’d like, or opt for either the crab or shrimp roll, but this menu's move is the lobster roll.
9. Souvlaki GR
Ah, souvlaki, the "hamburger of Greece." You may be able to find a great souvlaki on every street corner in Athens, but in New York it’s not quite as easy. (New Yorkers, don’t you feel as though the city needs a quality gyro resurgence? Where did this once proud sandwich go?) Promising "a little bit of Mykonos in the heart of New York City," Souvlaki GR has been working to solve that problem the past few years. The owner of the young truck, Kostas Plagos quickly rang up Vendy awards in 2010 as Best Rookie and in 2011 as the People's Choice winner, and opened up a brick-and-mortar version on the Lower East Side.
What’s the fuss? Warm pita wrapped around charcoal-grilled chicken, pork, or sausage with tzatziki, tomato, and onions. There’s also a great Greek burger, the fries are sprinkled with feta (which you can order baked, too), and all your favorite mezedes, from skordalia and hummus to melitzanosalata and taramosalata (eggplant and salmon roe, if you always have trouble remembering which is which).
8. Taïm Mobile
In 2005, chef Einat Admony and her husband Stefan Nafziger, homesick for their favorite Tel Aviv street food, opened their own falafel shop on Waverly Place. Five years later, and with much anticipation, they launched the food truck version of Taïm. And while some of New York City’s chicken and lamb carts might not be too happy about their presence (don’t worry Moroccan mystic on 21st and Fifth, you and your secret eggplant and onion stash have nothing to be insecure about), most of Gotham’s street lunch seekers are, especially those who don’t eat meat (though it’s a welcome break for even the most ardent carnivore). The menu features the standard falafel sandwich with hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage, and tahini, as well as platters and salads and sides made from just about the same ingredients. But you shouldn’t miss the special red pepper falafel they frequently offer, and make sure to ask for everything (and extra of it) and they’ll add s’rug (Yemeni hot sauce), amba (pickled mango chutney), Israeli pickles, and spicy peppers for a spicy, crunchy, wet, delicious mess.
7. Korilla BBQ
You’d have thought it would have hurt team Korilla BBQ for being called cheaters for adding more than $2,000 of their own money into their cash drawer on what has basically been the representative show for food trucks on cable TV (Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race). But chef Tyler Florence sending this truck packing didn’t relegate its owners Edward Song, Paul Lee, and Stephan Park to obscurity — it has quite the following in New York City.
Taking a cue from Kogi like so many others before it, Korilla BBQ does the whole Korean-Mexican fusion thing, but in orange tiger-striped fashion. Offering three ways to KBBQ: tacos, burrito, or the chosun bowl, the menu features several playfully named options including the "Ribeye of the Tiger," "Porkinator," "Wonder Bird," and "Kimchi Time."
6. Country Boys/Martinez Taco
This 2009 Vendy’s winner and number 39 truck on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list doesn’t need introduction to New York’s taco lovers (especially the desperate ones from Texas or those who are either from California or spent time there gaining the taco cred and need to lord the "there’s no good Mexican food here" mantra over Manhattanites). It’s one of the city’s best Mexican food trucks. It’s just a pain to get to for most everyone besides people who live near the Red Hook Ball Fields, where Fernando Martinez and his wife Yolanda (originally from Puebla, Mexico) have set up since 1993 when they "started off with one grill and two tables" near the intersection of Clinton and Bay.
Yes, there are tacos, quesadillas, sopes, and chalupas, but the reason to wait on the at times more than hourlong line at Country Boys/Martinez Taco, are the huaraches: pressed to-order masa filled with a layer of soft beans, which is then cooked and topped with your choice of meat, shredded lettuce, guacamole, crema, and salsa.
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LOCATION/SCHEDULE: Saturday and Sunday, corner of Clinton and Bay Streets, starting about 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
5. Wafels & Dinges
In 2007, Thomas DeGeest quit his job at IBM, bought a yellow 1968 Chevy box truck, and parked on a corner of Broadway in SoHo to sell his first Liege waffle. He made $84 that first shift and never looked back. Some six years and several trucks and carts later, DeGeest helms one of the most iconic, lauded (they were at number 14 in last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list, and beloved trucks (now three!) and carts in the city.
Wafels, whether Brussels (rectangular, doughier, and saltier) or Liege (usually more ovoid, chewy, and sweet), come with your choice of dinges (sides) that include dulce de leche, Belgian chocolate fudge, maple syrup, whipped cream, walnuts, bananas, butter, Nutella, strawberries, and perhaps one of the most underrated toppings of our time, speculoos. Imagine Golden Grahams cereal in dessert sauce form. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it actually originates from a thin, crunchy cookie typically made using butter, sugar, and a combination of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and sometimes ginger), and if it’s your first topping, it’s free (for $2 you can load your wafels with every topping in the truck).
While a dessert truck, there are definitely some elusive savory options worth investigating (they’re not available at the carts), including the seasonal "pulled pork wafel”: BBQ pulled pork, coleslaw with a coolickle (yes, the Kool Aid pickle), and sweet BBQ sauce.
4. Schnitzel & Things
Tacos, banh mi, gyros, bistro food, Spanish sandwiches, meatballs — a few years ago, it kind of felt like you’d seen it all. Then in 2009, Schnitzel & Things showed up on the New York City food truck scene and won the Rookie of the Year at the Vendy’s. They also appeared as number 28 in last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list. Clever, huh? Not something you would have thought you’d find on a food truck, right?
The hand-pounded, lightly breaded, thin cutlets of fried veal, chicken, pork, cod, and (yes there's a vegetarian option) eggplant are really good — so too, the sides, especially the Austrian potato salad (Yukon Gold dressed with white wine shallot vinaigrette and scallions) and the cucumber salad. Count Schnitzel & Things among the other trucks whose asphalt success has led them to a permanent home. Their brick-and-mortar spot on Third Avenue is closing temporarily, but they’re planning on re-opening in Brooklyn soon.
3. The Cinnamon Snail
"Has a 1991 Grumman / Chevy P30 become a Buddha?" asks The Cinnamon Snail’s website. No, you don’t have to prepare to get into chaturanga, but this is a full on vegan and organic food truck — right down to the grill, which when the truck was gutted was replaced with "a brand-new commercial grill which had never touched animal flesh." So what food inspires food and bliss? What kind of menu serves "food to help you transform into a being of pure light who can serve all living creatures simultaneously and eternally"? Well, a seasonal one to start. But the truck, a longtime dream of Adam Sobel (who before the truck ran a vegan catering service in New Jersey), has a menu that features breakfast, raw food, sandwiches, and pastries. There are burritos with scrambled tofu and refried beans, blue corn or fresh plum pancakes with pine nut butter and chamomile blood orange syrup, and sandwiches featuring seitan burgers, tempeh, and grilled tofu. Despite being vegan, this truck clearly caters to a pretty universal crowd, which explains it winning the 2012 Vendy Award and Mobile Cuisine magazine’s "America’s Favorite Vegetarian Food Truck," making New York Post’s top trends of 2012, earning first place on the Best of Yelp NYC Restaurant list of 2012, in addition to coming in 20th place on last year’s 101 Best Food Trucks list.
2. Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
A summer experiment in June 2009 by founders Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff soon turned into one of New York City’s most iconic food trucks, and even went brick-and-mortar. Big Gay Ice Cream Truck’s creative toppings (olive oil, wasabi pea dust, Sriracha, Nilla Wafers, and Trix), clever dessert names (Salty Pimp, Mexican Affo’gay’to), flavor combinations (apple butter and bourbon butterscotch), and army of Twitter followers all helped put them at number three on our 101 Best Food Trucks list last year. Since then, the truck has added a second permanent location in the West Village. But everyone’s favorite unicorn- and rainbow-chasing mobile ice cream vendor is still on the move, and the custard is still the star of the show. It’s one of the softest, most wonderful soft ice creams you’ve ever tried, and that’s not hyperbole — this is the stuff that takes you back to your very first time of… eating ice cream. Hopefully some of their delicious secrets will be revealed soon — they have a cookbook to be released in 2014.
1. Red Hook Lobster Pound
What started at Ralph Gorham's and Susan Povich's kitchen table (yes that Povich — she's the daughter of former A Current Affair host and daytime TV star Maury Povich), has turned into a hugely successful multi-city lobster roll truck. The truck, "Big Red," opened in 2010 in New York City, bringing "Maine-style" lobster rolls to the masses. The Red Hook Lobster Truck has a variety of seafood indulgences to offer. There are shrimp rolls, a lobster BLT, lobster bisque, and New England and shrimp and corn chowder, but let’s face it, it’s about the lobster roll: lobster, served cold with celery, spices, a touch of homemade mayonnaise and on a J.J. Nissen split-top bun (or Connecticut-style, warm and buttered). Save for Pearl Oyster Bar's version, many folks (including Time Out New York, Zagat, and us) agree that it's one of the best lobster rolls in New York; it appeared at number 11 on our 101 Best Food Trucks last year before this year's jump to number on.
The team recently opened a shop in Montauk, N.Y., with partner Sweet’tauk Lemonade. In addition to their new ventures, the truck is still driving around New York. The lunch move? The Hookup: a lobster roll with Cape Cod chips and a choice of Maine Root Sodas (root beer, ginger brew, mandarin orange, blueberry, sarsaparilla, or lemon-lime).