Somehow food trucks have beaten the odds. Beat up, hollowed-out old trucks with teeny, tiny, steamy kitchens complete with overheating chefs have become chic! I grew up in the midwest and when I tell people that I eat street food from restaurants on wheels they look at me funny. But I’m here to tell all the disbelievers out there that even the trendiest gourmands of Manhattan were out celebrating food trucks in all their gourmet glory!
On May 7, 2013, the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum hosted over twenty food trucks for the Village Voice’s acclaimed second annual ‘Choice Streets’ extravaganza. The event is a twist on the Village Voice’s famed ‘Choice Eats’ event. As you might guess, instead of inviting the city’s best restaurants, the VV crew invites the most sought after food trucks and then parades them proudly on Pier 86, just below the Intrepid museum. And why shouldn’t food trucks have their own par-tay? Food trucks are amazing and an integral part of nearly New Yorker’s dining repertoire!
I was psyched to spend a balmy, Spring evening out under the stars on the Hudson at ‘Choice Streets.’ The event delivered unlimited drinks and some of New York’s best street food all accompanied by live music by DJ: Finger on the Pulse. There were many “restaurants” I had been dying to try and they were all gathered in one place for me to check out. I planned to arrive early to guarantee that I wouldn’t end up missing half the event. Luckily a more responsible friend, Noah over at Somewhere or Bust (See his review of the event here), saved me a spot online. Why can I never be on time?
Me and My So-Called Responsible Friend
After passing through what seemed like ten different lines we finally made it in. There was a long line of trucks down the pier that seemed never-ending in an awesome way! Opposite from the trucks were the event’s sponsors, which ranged from Google and Verizon to delicious spirits like Bulldog Gin, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and more. Our first stop was the truck closest to the entrance (go figure), Desi. As we stood on a line of two people for over five minutes I thought, what the heck is taking this lady so long? I spotted a wet paint sign on the truck and thought how apropos, I will literally watch paint dry as I stand bored on this line dying to explore the rest of the event. The Chicken Tikka Masala was pretty mediocre and although the Kati Roll was good, I was infuriated at the lady’s lack of speed. Man, at this rate we would only get to 3 trucks. I came up with the seemingly brilliant (yet not actually brilliant at all) idea to head to the far end and work our way back to the beginning. Turns out every other “genius” had the same idea. Wah-Wahh. Story of my life. Despite this, the lines were not yet that long and we were able to get food relatively quickly. To my delight, the other vendors were doing their best to keep the food coming.
Trucks in attendance included city faves like Mac Truck, Wafels & Dinges, Coolhaus and Mexico Blvd. After trying nearly every truck, I thought I would share with you my favorite trucks to follow around the city this summer:
I was surprised how incredible this was. Although this truck used to sit right near my old office, I kept resisting thinking, “How good could it be? It’s just ice cream” Turns out, it’s incredible! Coolhaus served up gourmet, made-to-order ice cream sandwiches that were insanely good. I went with salted caramel ice cream and a snack food cookie. It was wonderful! Just the right amount of salty and sweet! And for someone who never puts dessert above a meal, for me to call them out is serious business.
Seoul Food served up delectable Korean tacos and Seoul Sliders. My personal favorite was the Seoul Fries with a spicy, Korean mayonnaise. Unreal! And they gave you an entire, large order of fries!
This El Salvadoran food truck featured pupusas, a Salvadoran delicacy. Essentially it’s a thick corn tortilla made with a blend of cheese and either veggies or meat. Then they topped them off with fermented cabbage and a juicy tomato salsa. There were so many flavors and textures! Party in my mouth! Eww, except then I’m reminded of Noah being asked, “Is this the first time you’re eating Pupusa?” Innocent enough question but gross. On the plus side, I loved their on-site condiment bar. If you’re a vegetarian, this is definitely one of the best options.
I loved their vegetarian black bean flauta. Don’t be afraid to go spicy! It’s delicious. The flauta was the perfect blend of crispy and soft fillings with plenty of flavor.
Waffels and Dinges
These guys served up mini versions of their classic Belgian waffles topped off with whipped cream, bourbon-infused maple syrup and candied bacon! Words cannot do this bad boy justice. Yum!
Truth be told I was a bit disappointed when I found out they weren’t serving up Pad Thai. I was consoled by a perfectly cooked USDA Prime Angus Beef Burger. Cooking a burger medium rare at a street fair is no easy task so it was clear that these guys knew what was up. Somehow though their Lemongrass chicken empanada even topped the burger and was possibly my favorite dish of the entire event.
Neopolitan Express served up slices of authentic neapolitan pizza–ingredients are imported from Italy! While it wasn’t the most novel dish I’ve ever tried, if you’re looking for a solid, super-thin slice of pizza and this truck is nearby, I highly suggest you go!
While I’d say most of the trucks were fabulous there were a few misses. First, Souvlaki GR was terrible. They were serving up grilled chicken souvlaki sticks and fries. They literally served my friend a piece of gristle and 2.5 fries. Yuck. My other “miss” was the empanada from Nuchas. I was just in Buenos Aires and I’m not sure if maybe it was because it was the end of the night, but the empanadas were totally dried out. As I said though, for the most part the food was fantastic and the drinks were delicious as well.
If I had to complain, it would be that the lines got a bit long after the first hour of the event. To be fair, the food trucks were preparing the food fresh, on the spot unlike most food festivals, where the restaurants come with pre-prepped dishes. However, it was still a bit of a bummer to see a line 25 people long for a small glass of beer. My advice for attendees next year? Come early and eat fast–many of the most popular trucks were sold out by 9pm or earlier and by 9:30 nearly all the food vendors were closed for business. The other sponsors like wines, liquors and soft drink companies’ booths remained open for the duration of the event.
In my opinion the perfect schedule should go like this, pig out, stuff our faces, go wild at the food trucks, get a few drinks in between but mostly after and then walk around the museum. I don’t think most people even realized but attendees actually had free access aboard the Intrepid itself.
I would definitely go to this event again because although the lines got a little longer than I would have liked, the prices for a ticket was only $40. For unlimited food, drink and entertainment at a landmark location like the Intrepid on the Hudson, how can you say no?