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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Foraging and the Hunt

In August, 2007, I wrote an article, Lunch Limbo, about the perennial dilemma regarding lunch in the city - what to eat. We are spoiled with the plethora of foods here, but in time we still become bored with the choices: the deli counter, salad bar or perhaps the classic New York fall back - a "slice" (of pizza).
Restaurant delivery is an option but then you have all that planning, ordering by phone and the waiting. Bringing your own is an intelligent strategy - you get just what you want the way you want it and without paying wildly inflated prices. This however, requires advance planning, preparation and the schlepp.
Often, nothing seems really satisfying without foraging or the hunt in the concrete jungle. Enter the food cart - a great solution that satisfies these desires rather nicely. However, finding a quality food cart is not easy. There was a cap on vendor licenses instituted in the 1980s - permit holders typically have just held on to them and most vendors sublease their permits.
In Lunch Limbo, I did mention Calexico's food cart in the heart of SoHo at the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets. Lines there quickly become extraordinarily long, so my experience with them in 2007 was singular. The cart was opened the summer of 2006 by three Vendley brothers: Jesse (an ad copywriter), Brian (a graphic designer) and David (a musician). They hail from Calexico, California where their experience growing up with carne asada inspired the venture. Original plans for a restaurant were derailed by a visit to the Vendy Awards competition and the Calexico cart was born. In 2008, Calexico won their own Vendy Award.
They have since opened a second cart at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway. Here they offer an abridged version of the the full menu of the Wooster Street cart. Although the lines at the new location can also get long, they have a very efficient system of collecting orders and giving you a time estimate. I typically take a stroll of some minutes, return and voila - my food is waiting.
I had been critical of the lines and overall hoopla until I started eating there regularly and found out why they won the Vendy award, not the Trendy award. The food is excellent and the guys have gone the extra mile or two to make a quality product. Like meat marinated overnight and the rub they had customized by a professional spice mixing company. That's what their patrons are waiting for. See their website here.
These photos were taken a short time ago when there was still some snow on the ground. As you can see, frigid weather does not daunt the serious, hungry New Yorker from foraging or the hunt :)


ChickenUnderwear said...

A food cart with a website. The future has arrived!

renton said...

Muchas gracias por transportarme cada día a Nueva York. Tus textos me hacen viajar y sentir que vuelvo a pisar sus calles.