There are few questions in life quite as important as the one we face almost every work day: Where are we going for lunch? A few of my colleagues and I set off around 12:30 each afternoon and take a little walk around the neighborhood looking for some tasty morsels to take back to our desks and sustain us through the afternoon. We often end up at Texas Rotisserie on 97th street (2 pc. fried chicken for me, chicken finger burrito for Cory, a side of sour cream and hot sauce for Darren), and depending on our mood we’ll sometimes visit Blimpie (also at 97th) or Subway (either at 94th or 98th, depending on where else we’re visiting). If it’s Friday, that means it’s French Toast Friday and we can be found at the large booth at the back of Key West Diner & Cafe across the street from the theatre. (R.I.P. Waffle Wednesday and Three Egg Thursday. The recession took you from us too soon.) But more times than not, there are two places that win our lunch money–and both are mobile.
I don’t remember why we started visiting the NE corner of 96th Street and Broadway, or if the cart was even there before we started frequenting it, but about a year ago halal food seemed in order, and a mix of lamb on chicken on top of spicy rice with a little bit of white sauce and extra hot sauce really hit the spot. The tall gentleman who made it for us was friendly and welcoming, and he soon knew our orders by heart, preparing them as soon as he saw our faces. We started getting lunch from “the cart” at least twice a week, and instead of standing outside the theatre every afternoon contemplating our choices, we’d just start with the obvious: “Cart?”
Then, last fall, “the truck” rolled in to town. It parked every day on the NW corner of 94th and Broadway, right on the same block as Symphony Space (not having to cross a street to get lunch is one of those small things you quickly become grateful for). Some of us were kind of scared of the truck at first. It’s plastered all over with un-labled pictures of food, and there are trays of donuts in the window, but we couldn’t figure out what exactly it was they served (until they finally came out with a menu, that is). Turns out they also serve halal food. The same thing we were already eating, a block closer … but how could we turn our backs on our friend at The Cart? We stayed true to him.
Until winter came, that is. Suddenly, our friendly cart guy was replaced by someone we (affectionately?) called “The Chef,” mostly because he always wore an apron (even over his big winter coat) and a chef’s hat. Yes, a man cooking up meat on a cart on the corner wore a chefs hat every day. I’m sure it kept his ears warm, at least. The problem was, the chefs cooking was nowhere near as good as Original Cart Guy’s, and though he was friendly as well, we didn’t feel as welcomed as we once were. You can guess what happened next.
Turns out the food from The Truck wasn’t that bad. Still not as good as Original Cart, but tasty nonetheless. One day we stopped at The Truck, and then went on to Blimpie to satisfy someone else’s tastes, and we passed The Chef on the way back. He looked at us expectantly, and we were suddenly filled with guilt. “I can’t let The Chef know I’m cheating on him!” Darren said. And so, to keep up appearances, we started alternating between The Cart and The Truck.
The Chef has been replaced twice-over since the winter months, and in an interesting move in the street-corner-food world, Original Cart Guy now works on The Truck! What are the odds? Our allegiances now lie absolutely nowhere, and our choice for lunch is once again up in the air every afternoon.
Where do you go for lunch? Do you have any favorite places you visit regularly? Have you ever felt like you were cheating on your regular place if you went somewhere else? Have you ever eaten at the Taco Truck on 96th Street outside of Gristedes? (Oh how we wish they were there at lunch time!)