Sorry, Restaurants: New York's Best Street Food

When you are moving and shaking and moving some more in New York City, you get hungry. You need something you can put in one hand, while your cell phone is in the other, moving your feet at the rapid city pace that is the norm for this part of the country.

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What better than street food to fill any suggestions of emptiness in your stomach? While street food was once considered a last choice option, it has arguably become more popular than sit-down restaurants. Food trucks are still on their meteoric rise and before they crash and burn, we would like one more taco, please.

Have some Korean BBQ in an unexpected format with Korilla BBQ. A burrito with kimchi slaw and smokey sauce might not be found on the streets of Mexico, but that is why you are eating in New York City. 

Afterward, track down a sweet treat with a scoop of ice cream at Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. Though this spot now has outposts all over town, there's something romantically nostalgic about ordering a cone or a cup from an ice cream truck.   

No need to leave the pulse of New York's streets, pretty much ever. Get out there and open wide.


Unlike most snails, the Cinnamon Snail was not so easy to catch. It was available for public events and private catering until they opened a new brick and motor by Penn Station. Still, the truck can be found around the city through their Twitter account, with "samiches" like Thai BBQ Tempeh and Maple Mustard Tempeh to satisfy every vegetarian whim you may have. The donut and pastry selection changes daily, but they are so popular they have been called the "gateway drug" to vegan food. Due to permit issues, the Cinnamon Snail almost closed its doors in 2015, but New York was happily saved the heartbreak.

East Village

Wafels and Dinges roughly translates to "Waffles and Things" in Dutch. But basically, the "things" are the toppings on the crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside golden Belgian waffles. From Bartlett pears with walnut, blueberry crumble to bacon, peanut butter and banana, there is a whole world out there that can open up with the help of a waffle iron. Not just for the sweet inclined, there are also savory waffles, piled with diverse toppings from salmon to cheese. This food truck has taken New York by storm, so now you can find locations and trucks all over town. Visit their website to see which truck is closest to you â€" and keep in mind that some of them close down during inclement weather.

The rice noodle rolls on Elizabeth at Hester deserves time in the spotlight, even if they are nameless and rather mysterious. Interestingly, there are two carts directly opposite one another - both delicious, both viable options.

English is an afterthought here, so don't go armed with questions. Here's all you need to know: you want the minced pork roll, add the egg, and slather on the Sriracha and soy.

Don't even think about skipping the cilantro and onion or traveling more than a block before popping open your Styrofoam box of yum. These gelatinous beauties lose their luster by the minute, so order and eat. Also, take note that the times listed are approximates - the rice carts don't play by traditional time rules, making them even more desirable to foodie fiends.

Photo courtesy of Calexico

Two words for you: crack sauce. This Tex-Mex truck took New York by storm when it burst onto the street food scene. Now, Calexico's got locations all around town, plus in the far reaches of Detroit and Bahrain. Still, there's nothing quite like getting tacos from the OG outpost parked on Wooster Street in Soho. Alongside meats and veg served on corn tortillas, you'll also find quesadillas, burritos, and bowls piled high with accouterments like guac, black beans, and shredded cheese. And of course, there's the crack sauce. A secret blend of chipotle goodness, this is the sauce that the city went wild for. Don't skip it.

Adding to our culinary education, this El Salvador treat translates as yum (well, not literally, but you know what we mean). The round patties appear like tortillas at first glance but are stuffed with fillings from cheese to perfectly seasoned meats. Solber Pupusas hangs around the Red Hook Ball Fields, the Brooklyn Flea, and Smorgasburg and often has a lineup of dedicated customers. The sides are so plentiful, they can take up most of the container: cabbage, jalapeños, pickled onions, tomato sauce and sour cream. You can also get tamales, maduros (sweet plantains) and hot chorizo. If you're not sure, a sample platter is a very good decision indeed.

New Yorkers can spot the Van Leeuwen truck from just about anywhere. What started as a pale yellow ice cream truck has now set up permanent shop at numerous locations in NYC. Each of them is equally good, though there's something special about getting great tasting, high-quality ice cream out of a truck. Luckily, there are two different ones still rolling around town.

For a fun adventure, head out on a scavenger hunt through Williamsburg or Soho to discover one (they're parked in the same spot daily, so it shouldn't be too hard). Once there, vegans will delight in scoops made with cashew and coconut milk, while purists can dig into a creamy assortment of dairy-based choices.

Here is a New Year's resolution you can stick to: eat more grilled cheese this year. And why not? It's good for the soul and it reduces stress. The Morris Truck is a prime way to stay on top of this resolution with buttery and crunchy bread stuffed with melty cheese in the perfect ratio. It definitely goes beyond the basic cheddar with options like gouda and bacon, grilled cheese with truffle butter and shallots or mascarpone with orange peel. Get spicy tomato bisque on the side and one of their house-made sodas for a meal made in ooey-gooey heaven.

Theatre District

On the website of Nunchas, they quote a customer as saying, "So, like, I don't want to be overdramatic, but the Argentinian beef empanadas are the light of my life and I die a little every day we can't be together." Although that certainly is dramatic, it does peak interest. Nunchas is a series of Argentinian food trucks and stands that does two things and does them well: empanadas and medialunas. The first comes filled with everything from meat to Nutella in a classic pastry ruffled at the edges. The second is a croissant "done the Argentinean way." Sorry, France, but these pastries are goooood.

Tex-Mex has become so common, we almost no longer put it in the fusion category. But what about ko-mex? That's the new Tex-Mex: Korean Mexican food. The Korilla BBQ food truck somehow knows how to make the result of the two diverse cultures better than the individual cuisines. Consider a burrito with bulgogi or bacon kimchi fried rice, which has become so popular that the trucks even expanded to a grounded location in the East Village. Follow their Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates, such as when they're sold out (which happens frequently). You may get off-road rage, but the Kimcheese waffle fries will make all of your troubles melt away.

Flatiron District
Mad. Sq. Eats
Photo courtesy of Urbanspace

Technically a bit of a cop-out, Mad. Sq. Eats isn't one lonely food stand. Instead, it's a collection of vendors who all descend on the triangle next to Madison Square Park to serve up lunch and dinner to hungry throngs of New Yorkers and travelers passing through. During feeding frenzy hours, the lines can get a little unruly, so we recommend trying to hit the stands during slightly off hours. This is a great place to go when everyone in your group wants something different, but still wants the communal experience of ordering from a truck and eating outside. Note that it's only open in warmer weather, so don't head here in the dead of winter expecting grub.


Meet Andrea Wien

Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.

When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll...  More About Andrea