FOLLOW THE LOCALS
A Tour of New York's Best Street Food
From Ground Zero to Carnegie Hall, we sampled countless kebabs and kati rolls to come up with a visitor's guide to New York City food carts. Forget hot dogs: These cheap ethnic eats are way more transporting.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Eclectic American: Magdy's
Magdy's appeals to a more American palate with its well-known Philly cheesesteak: slightly greasy, very tasty shredded beef covered in melted American cheese on a hard roll ($4). But the real winner here is what Magdy—a former restaurant cook who has been in this same spot for 15 years—calls "chicken scampi over rice." It's a fresh take on the common street-cart dish of chicken over rice that is often Indian- or Middle Eastern-spiced. The bite-size pieces of white meat chicken are simply coated in salt, garlic, and black pepper, and perfectly grilled. It comes with saffron rice, fresh tomatoes, sweet sautéed onions, and just the right amount of red and white sauces. Service is speedy, so don't be put off by the typical lunchtime lines. Magdy's wife, Jennifer (who quit her job as a schoolteacher to help), takes your order and money while you wait, and two extra grill guys bag and prep. 46th St. and Park Ave.
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
South Indian: N.Y. Dosas
Even nonvegetarians line up for Thiru Kumar's Vendy Award winning South Indian crepes. The best is arguably the Pondicherry, a delicate, flaky lentil-and-rice-flour pancake loosely wrapped around curry potatoes, crunchy lettuce, and finely chopped vegetables, accented by coconut chutney and served with a side of spicy sambar. It's insanely tasty for something so healthy, and so cheap ($6). Kumar, who is somewhat of a neighborhood hero, is so friendly and enthusiastic about his food that he's even been known to give it away, occasionally throwing in a side dish or an entire meal. Bypass the dosa line by quick-ordering an appetizer like the crispy delicious drumstick (soy protein on a sugarcane stick, dipped in chili garlic sauce) at the side window. W. 4th St. at Sullivan St.
Greek/American: Carnegie John's
The modestly charming chef John has been in this spot next to Carnegie Hall for 12 years, and his one-man cart is so busy with regulars that he often runs out of the coveted chicken over rice. His chicken is amazing—a simple, marinated breast griddled and then grilled to order and delivered with a tzatziki that's thick with cucumber and not from a squirt bottle. The rest of the menu is similarly impressive because the quality meat is not drowned in sauce or spice and John has mastered the grill/griddle technique. The champion cheeseburger goes from griddle to grill and then back to the griddle for a charred, juicy patty that's then covered in thick slices of American cheese and a bun that's been griddle-toasted on both sides. It's the best $4 burger in Midtown. 56th St. and 7th Ave.
Jamaican: The Jamaican Dutchy
O'Neil, the cart's cook, makes a hearty curry goat that's long-stewed with terrific, subtle curry flavor. His herb-rubbed jerk chicken is the real thing—incredibly moist dark-meat chicken falling off the bone with heat that you feel in the back of your throat. Everything is served with steamed cabbage, naturally sweet fried plantains, and rice and peas (or dumplings). Don't miss the specials posted out front. Also of note: Stew peas are most certainly not vegetarian (rather, they're stewed beef and pigs' tails, bones and all!), and O'Neil and his sidekicks are on island time, so be patient (meals $8–$12). 51st St. between 6th and 7th Aves., twitter.com/Jamaicandutchy.
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