Maybe you’re the type of person who turns his nose up at the carts found on nearly every street corner in Manhattan. I bet if they called it viande hachée de la rue, quadrupled the price and served it on a white tablecloth though you’d be fine with it. In any case, I’ve had it thousands of times with no ill effect (clutches chest).
I don’t know what it is about street meat that keeps me coming back. The fact that it’s the cheapest thing for lunch in Midtown Manhattan? The instant gratification of a meal cooked in front of your eyes on demand. The exotic and occasionally overpowering flavors served up by the Indian/Afghan/Arab proprietors? The danger that an unscrupulous operator is feeding you chopped up sewer rat or homeless guy?
Sorry. Anyway, I had a fantastic experience last month when I applied and was accepted as a judge in Street Meat Palooza 6, run by Zach Brooks’s Midtown Lunch website. I nominated my favorite guys at the Kabab stand at 55th and 6th by the Love sign. When I worked at the FT, I frequently bypassed the Famous Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th (who really are sort of famous) and went there instead. They did pretty well too, placing 8th. The contest involved doing a blind taste test on 16 different dishes.
The winner this year? Drum roll please …. the Trini Paki Boys Halal Food cart. I remember it and rated it highly. I will say, in my guys’ defense, that it’s a tad pricey at $6 to $8 a plate compared to $5 for the basic chicken or lamb over rice up on 55th. But, in Zach’s wise words:
Street Meat Palooza isn’t really about winning or losing. It’s about discovering that even after 6 years of some hardcore street meat eating, we still discover new things year after year. Here’s to unlocking fresh surprises next year!