There’s no one cuisine that New York is known for. Italy’s known for pasta and France for bread, but NYC is a melting pot — as cliché as it sounds. Because people of so many cultures make their home here, it’s highly likely that you’ll find multiple restaurants serving completely different cuisines within the same block. The same goes for the many food carts scattered throughout our city. If you don’t want to be in a formal sit-down setting, or simply need to down a quick meal before jumping on the subway, you’re in luck because there is no shortage of street food in NYC — you’ll find it literally wherever you go. Here are the best seven places for street food and where to find them.
1. The Halal Guys, Midtown
Beginning as a hot-dog cart back in 1990, the Halal Guys has now expanded its business across the US. It has physical storefront locations further downtown and in other cities like Los Angeles, but nothing compares to its original food cart on the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. You’ll find it at its midtown location every day without fail, from early morning into the late night hours. One of the most popular dishes offered is the chicken and gyro over rice platter. Other menu items include sandwiches, chicken, beef gyros, and falafel. You can mix and match your toppings, but be sure to try the savory white and hot sauce — it’s famous for a reason.
2. Delicioso Coco Helado, Bronx
The sight of a green-and-white-striped umbrella with the words “Catch the Flava” means one thing for most born-and-bred New Yorkers: warm weather has finally arrived after a long winter and rainy spring. Delicioso Coco Helado is an ice-cream brand, and you’ll find it in street carts in the summertime. While the name literally translates to “delicious coconut ice cream,” there are plenty of other flavors to choose from such as rainbow, mango, cherry, and lemon. (For real though, the coconut is where it’s at.) It is reminiscent of Italian ices, but the creamy texture and natural taste are completely different. You’ll find these roaming carts all over the five boroughs, but venture into the Bronx (to areas like Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse) for the standard pricing of $1 to $2 depending on what size you want. (It’s marked up in the city.)
3. Nuts 4 Nuts, Manhattan
A New York staple, the Nuts 4 Nuts carts have been around since 1993. Alejandro Rad, having come from Argentina, began working as a honey-roasted nuts vendor and grew his brand from there. He was influenced by the French introduction of roasted pralines to Buenos Aires in the 1920s and their experimentation with various types of nuts. These push carts are just about everywhere — just follow their intoxicating smell — but your best bet is going to highly populated areas in Manhattan like Columbus Circle or Herald Square. You can get different honey-roasted nuts like peanuts, cashews, almonds, and pecans, as well as coconut. You can get a singular type for $3 or a mix for $5.
4. Wafels & Dinges, Herald Square
The waffle made its debut in the US at the 1964 World Fair in Queens, but it wasn’t until April 2007 that Wafels & Dinges came into being. With your waffle, you can get a variety of dinges (toppings) like strawberries, whipped cream, fudge, and syrup. The Wafels & Dinges trucks are ever-moving. Some locations are lucky enough to see a yellow truck every day, but there’s also a handy online tracker to help you find them. There are also several sit-down locations, as well as kiosks. Visit the kiosk in Herald Square, an ideal spot where you can nab an outdoor seat to eat — it’s going to get messy.
5. Street festivals
Much to the chagrin of drivers and excitement of passersby, street festivals are a common occurrence in NYC. Whether it’s a celebration of culture, life, or just a party, the street-closing events are chock-full of different foods. The Feast of San Gennaro, for example, is a multi-day festival that happens every September in New York and takes place all throughout Little Italy. Besides religious processions, there are parades and live entertainment. But for the food lovers out there, there’s also a wide array of food — all types of desserts, arepas, sausages, and creative sandwiches like steak on garlic bread with melted cheese. Unfortunately, there’s no official way to track the festivals, but some websites like New Yorkled do their best to list most of them. The best way to find them, though, is to simply walk around the city on weekends.
6. The food trucks on 6th Avenue, particularly near Rockefeller Center
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While the food trucks on this avenue may differ day to day, there are always a number of them parked by the sidewalks. The area is populated by tourists visiting sights like Rockefeller Center, but it’s also a great location because many companies have their buildings along it, so around lunchtime, there are a plethora of workers looking for grub. Some regulars are Phil’s Steaks, boasting authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks; Coney Shack, with Southeast Asian-style tacos; and Desi Food Truck, serving Indian fare. To find out what truck’s going to be where, check Roaming Hunger.
7. Sabrett hot dogs in Central Park
No list of street food in NYC would be complete without Sabrett hot dogs, found under the iconic blue-and-yellow umbrellas. They’re universally loved by New Yorkers, even if we all call them “dirty water dogs.” The water is probably not actually that dirty, but even if it was, they taste so darn good that we turn a blind eye. You’ll find these everywhere throughout the city, but they’re found particularly easily in Central Park. After traversing the Great Lawn and taking photos in front of the Alice in Wonderland statue, eating warm meat inside of a fluffy bun is the perfect way to replenish your energy. Just don’t pay more than $3 for one.