Last week, I read an interesting article in the free newspaper amNewYork about midtown businesses complaining about the street vendor carts. Their complaint is that they don’t follow the rules and are making the streets dirty. While I love the food and character that the street food carts bring to NYC, I wanted to see if their complaints had any validity. Last Wednesday, I was walking down 34th street, one of the busiest streets in NYC. I walked from 6th avenue to 9th avenue and payed special attention to the several street carts lining 34th Street. There was no garbage around their carts, as indicated by the complaining group.
Street Food has been in institution in NYC since the first immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe. Pretzel vendors were the first and from that, the hot dog cart was born. The hot dog cart evolved to sell pretzels, hot dogs, hot sausages, knishes and beverages. Some of these also sell chicken and beef kebabs now. While hot dog carts still dot the streets, the more popular Halal carts has overtaken their popularity in recent years. The use of many spices in Middle Eastern cuisine, plus the vegetarian options is what has led to their popularity. In recent years, the Halal carts have also started to include American favorites. For $5-$7, you can get a plate of lamb, rice and salad or falafel or burgers and fries…plus other options.
In the past 3-4 years, the variety of Street Food carts is endless…Mexican, Korean, Indian, Caribbean, Crepe carts, Waffle carts…You can get anything from Kathi Rolls to BBQ Pulled Pork Waffles! We even now have an annual award event…Vendy Awards…celebrating the best that NYC street food has to offer. However, elitist corporations want to get rid of the character of NYC, which celebrates our immigrant population through the appreciation of their diverse cuisines. What makes NYC different from the rest of the nation is its diversity and the many ways we celebrate it – their cuisines, Independence day parades of many different countries, cultural street fairs..we celebrate our diversity.
Whenever my family visits from Europe, they don’t crave 4-star restaurants, the first thing they ask for is the food from one of our street carts…they especially LOVE the dirty water hot dogs….sausages are common in Holland, where they are from…yet still they always say that in New York, they get the best hot dogs ever!
Street Food vendors are part of the character of New York. Without them, the landscape would be boring and we would lose a part of our essence, a part of our diversity and our uniqueness…that makes people all over the world want to come here!