Friday, August 27, 2010

Vendys, schmendys

Next month’s Vendy Awards party has snubbed Brooklyn — but who needs those supposed street food know-it-alls to tell us where to get the best grub? Our hungry reporters hit the streets this week to compile our own “Vendy” award nominees — five street trucks that those Manhattanites should have invited to the ball.


This popular Mexican food vendor started out on the street, serving its So-Cal-inspired grub in Manhattan. Then Brooklyn got a taste with a permanent spot on Union Street in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. This summer, Jesse Vendley and Peter Oleyer returned to the streets with a food cart at Brooklyn Bridge Park at the end of Old Fulton Street, so you have even more chances to get addicted to their burritos and quesadillas.

These past Vendy Award winners have reasonably gained fans for their filling, but not overstuffed, burritos ($7-$8), generously packed with chicken, steak or pork. Their quesadillas ($5-$7) are pretty special, too. These tortillas are perfectly packed with melted cheese and your meat of choice and rolled so it’s even easier to dip into their addictive — and appropriately named — chipotle crack sauce.

And at these prices, you can keep coming back for more.

Calexico Food Cart in Brooklyn Bridge Park [enter at Old Fulton Street and Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 488-8226] is open from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm, Thursday through Saturday.

— Meredith Deliso

Asia Dog

Since opening two years ago in Fort Greene, the Brooklyn Flea has come a long way in its food offerings. Hungry shoppers can feast on lobster rolls, pizza from a wood-burning oven, grilled cheese sandwiches made with Wisconsin Gruyere, gourmet coffee — it’s fast food for grown-ups.

Among the diverse offerings, Asia Dog is not to be missed. Steve Porto and Melanie Campbell rolled out a little over a year ago, making a name at Trophy Bar in Williamsburg, and, since hitting the road, with operations at Central Park’s Summerstage, Manhattan club venue Terminal 5, and at Summerscreen in McCarren Park.

The hot dogs themselves are pretty tasty, but the main attraction is the Asian-inspired toppings — spicy, sweet, savory.

“They’re all popular across the board,” said Porto.

There’s a banh mi–style dog called the Vinh; a frank topped with Chinese barbecued pork belly (the “Wangding”); and, for sweet tooths, a topping of Thai mango salsa (the “Sidney”). A good starter dog is the Ginny, topped with homemade kimchi and nori flakes for a slightly spicy, yet refreshing, sensation.

The hot dogs aren’t as cheap as those other street vendors (it’s $4 for beef or chicken, $7 for two; $5 for vegetarian or organic beef, $9 for two), but worth the extra bite in the wallet.

Asia Dog at the Brooklyn Flea (176 Lafayette Ave. between Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues in Fort Greene, no phone). Saturdays from 10 am-5 pm. For info, visit

— Meredith Deliso

Jason Kabuli’s Halal cart

Night and day, the Halal cart at Foster and Coney Island avenues serves up simple and savory food at fair prices.

The menu is limited — chicken or lamb, either over rice or in a wrap, and grilled chicken salad — but the hordes keep coming for food that is fresh and flavorful.

That’s why Yolanda Celestine and Kris Ramgahan were there at 9:30 one evening. The two say they patronize the cart frequently, because the “food is good and inexpensive, and it’s fast service,” said Celestine.

For $3.99, the overstuffed chicken gyro was filling and lavish, with chunks of meat bathed in a pleasantly tart yogurt sauce and mixed with fresh vegetables in a flatbread wrap. For $4.99, the chicken platter featured the same addictive chicken, a salad (also bathed in yogurt sauce) and a bed of nutty, slender rice.

The cart owner, Jason Kabuli, has a few carts in different places, but only the one in Brooklyn, he said. The choice of location is simple: The corner is at the heart of Brooklyn’s Pakistani community, where many people are practicing Muslims and must eat Halal meat.

But, they’re not the only ones who stop by, Kabuli added. After five years at the corner, the clientele is now “50-50,” with fully half the customers stopping by simply because they likethe food, not because they are bound by dietary laws.

Jason Kabuli’s cart (Foster and Coney Island avenues in Flatbush) is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 am to 10 pm.

— Helen Klein

Jen ’n Outlaw’s Fish Fry Truck and Crawfish Boil

If you’re looking for southern fried goodness, just hop on the L.

Jen ’n Outlaw’s Fish Fry Truck and Crawfish Boil, a new mobile outpost offering up fresh Gulf-area seafood, is on track to put Bogart Street on Brooklyn’s culinary map.

The menu at Jen ’n Outlaw’s is just three items long — there’s a fried catfish po’ boy, fried pickles and a proper Southern crayfish boil. But it’s really a blessing in disguise: you’ll want an order of everything, and potentially two or three orders of the pickles, which are house made and served with a finger-lickin’ good buttermilk dill sauce.

The truck is the brainchild of Paul Outlaw and Jennifer Catron, a Bushwick artist couple hailing from Alabama and Southern Illinois, respectively. The pair have made sure that dining at Jen ’n Outlaw’s isn’t just your average street-food experience — with the Allman Brothers blasting, Outlaw’s thick Southern drawl, Catron’s high-waisted Daisy Dukes and the sprawling umbrella-shaded picnic tables attached to the back of the truck, a meal at the truck is an experience in good ol’ Southern hospitality.

The truck will be parked around Bogart Street every Saturday, with plans to make stops in Manhattan as well come fall.

Mint juleps, anybody?

Jen ’n Outlaw’s Fish Fry Truck and Crawfish Boil sets up near Bogart Street in Bushwick on Saturdays. For info, follow the Twitter feed at

— Kristen V. Brown

Van Leeuwen

The delightful sweetness of palm sugar. The bursting tartness of currants and cream. The luscious smoothness of vanilla.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is less about ice cream

and more about evoking memories of one’s rustic, suburban childhood, which explains the long lines of dairy denizens of all ages on Bedford Avenue at N. Seventh Street.

The Greenpoint-based mobile street vendor has been at the vanguard of gourmet ice cream that has swept through the city, charging upwards of $4 a scoop for flavors derived from vanilla beans harvested in Papua New Guinea, pistachios from southern Italy, milk and cream from Lewis County and red currants from the Hudson Valley.

Van Leeuwen — run by brothers Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen and Pete’s wife, Laura O’Neill — has since opened a storefront on Manhattan Avenue and is even selling pints in grocery stores, but the truck on Bedford is the heart of the operation, and remains among its best-selling locations.

Get there early in the day or you’ll be scooped on flavors such as mint chip, earl gray, and chocolate with hazelnuts.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream (Bedford Avenue between N. Seventh and N. Eighth streets in Williamsburg) is open noon to midnight on weekdays, noon to 1 am on weekends.

— Aaron Short


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