Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Street Meat Manifesto


Thanks for the recommendation on the Calexico cart (which, while delicious, sounds to me like a newly launched company of gas stations... is the resulting dyspepsia coincidence, or intended?)

Your mentioning of carts brings me to what my friend Paul has coined (or stolen but I never heard it before him so he gets credit) as "Street Meat." It doesn't sound pleasant, and I think that's the point. You'll be hard-pressed to see Paul standing on a winding line on some intersection corner for a Styrofoam container filled with rice and white sauce.

What do I know of Street Meat? Well, I know that I don't eat it. I'm sure it's plenty good, but for some reason I take greater comfort eating food that's not exposed to the elements all day long. I also know that most Street Meat carts tend to not have long lines, except in the morning when cheap bastards queue up, pretending that the dishwater swill they are imbibing is anywhere near as good as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or any other store-bought coffee.

Except for one anomaly. Maybe you've seen it. Because I, myself, am cheap, I often try to avoid taking cabs. I also hate making subway transfers. For this reason I often find myself walking partway during any of my city commutes. One night I was walking cross-town from Hell's Kitchen (okay I was stumbling and drunk dialing my brother... "HEY BRO! WHASSHUP? YO SHWEEPING? WHY? ISH ONLY... OH WAIT... I CAN'T SHEE THE TIME ON MY CELL. HODE ON ::accidentally hangs up the phone::")

I came across the strangest thing - a very, very long line. One spanning an entire city block. Was Britney here? Or Jesus? Was Britney making out with Jesus? No. The line led, it turns out, to a Street Meat cart. In the line stood your Bridge and Tunnel crowd, the guys with enough hair gel to sustain the fire on the grill in the cart, and the girls with enough exposed cleavage between their fake boobs to hold all the tsaziki in every diner on the planet.

But really? A cart? There are Street Meat carts everywhere! Why this one? What was so special about this metal and steel, wheeled cart that I didn't understand? In fact, the cart was SO popular that other carts - selling beverages and things to go along with the Street Meat, had set up shop in the vicinity to take advantage of the B&T runoff.

Well, today you inspired me to Google that very cart. And what I found is astounding. It is called The Famous Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. Even funnier? It was JUST written up in the New York Times!
They make their approach from the south – a steady stream of yellow taxicabs, black town cars and vehicles distinguished only by their New Jersey license plates, weaving their way past the lights of Times Square and into the relative dark of an emptier Midtown. Their destination is a floodlit corner of Avenue of the Americas, where a line of glittering short skirts and dark designer jeans trails down 53rd Street under a fog of smoke. It’s 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and if their parties are no longer quite in full swing, they are at least ending on a satisfying note.
Oh and I was apparently wrong in calling that white sauce Tsatziki... Turns out it's a "mystery sauce," or, as the doll interviewed by the Times blogger says...
It was called “crack sauce” by Shirley Wong, 22, from Boston, who was visiting the food cart for the first time, on the advice of friends who told of the platter’s famous qualities. The phrase has been chanted here for the better part of two decades, and it doesn’t vary much — chiefly by those who want to add a little lamb and those who can’t handle a “lotta hot.”

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