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Mobile Munchies From Coast to Coast – Budget-minded travelers can load up on taste and local color from street-side vendors
The phenomenon of street food, via carts and trucks, has blazed a trail from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore. (home of the “world’s best street food,” according to CNN).
As in years past, you can still buy a hot dog or pretzel from a stand. But these increasingly diverse wheeled meal outlets have expanded far beyond such simple fare. For the savvy gourmand, food carts can provide a tasty and inexpensive budget break that comes with a heaping side of local flavor.
Here are a few flavorful stops in two of the nation’s biggest cities.
New York City – Street vendors keep it real and surreal
The reigning “king of the food carts” is Midtown’s 53rd & 6th Halal Cart, known for its aromatic Middle Eastern cuisine covered in spicy white sauce. The cart’s fan-run website claims the secret to the nirvana-inducing chicken-and-rice platter is the mysterious white sauce: “Nobody knows what’s in it, but everybody knows to ask for lots of it.” Don’t let the long lines deter you; the food is well worth the wait. Location: A half-block from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 53rd Street and 6th Avenue, Midtown West.
Voted New York’s best mobile street vendor by MobileCravings.com, Schnitzel & Things delivers delicious hand-pounded pieces of chicken, pork and cod to the Big Apple’s teeming masses. Must-try item: Chicken schnitzel served with a lemon wedge and Austrian potato salad. Location: Varies; check schedule online or via Twitter.
The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (seasonal) mixes traditional soft-serve ice cream with such unusual toppings as wasabi pea dust, curried coconut, olive oil and sea salt. Only in New York, kids. Location: Varies; check schedule online or via Twitter.
Los Angeles – In this car-centric city even the food has wheels
Perhaps the most famous of all food trucks in Los Angeles (and maybe the nation) is the Korean barbecue-fueled Kogi truck. The roving cart tweets its location daily, and posts its schedule prominently on its website. Once you have the truck’s coordinates, hightail it there for the best short-rib tacos in town. Location: Varies.
Talk about star power! The Border Grill Truck, aka “BeeGee,” offers inspired eats from the Food Network’s “Too Hot Tamales”: Susan Feniger (a Season 2 contestant on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters show) and grill goddess Mary Sue Milliken. This mobile cocina cruises LA, supplying celebs, office workers, film crews and beach goers alike with gourmet tacos and chic quesadillas. Location: Varies; check schedule online or via Twitter.
Pork belly buns and crispy tofu buns live in harmony at the aptly named Flying Pig Truck. The duck taco is also a hit at this highly regarded mobile eatery that fuses Asian street-food flavors with the techniques of French cooking. Location: Varies; check schedule on Twitter.