Cheap Eats Food Cart

Cheap Eats: Food Trucks vs. Food Carts

“Cheap Eats” is my post-series on cheap restaurants and prepared food options in New York. I recommend cooking your own food most of the time, but every once in a while it is nice to indulge and you don’t have to pay through the nose to do so. I plan to review many of the cheap options I find on various websites and will let you know if they are as good and as cheap as advertised. If you have a suggestion for a place to review, feel free to let me know through my contact page.

It was only a couple of years ago that food trucks took NYC by storm. I admit, I was enchanted by them (I still am to a certain degree). What’s more “hole-in-the-wall” than an actual hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Food trucks! You can peer in the window and see the person making your food in front of you. They always have an interesting theme or hook for the style of food. But as tried more and more of these food trucks, I realized that I expected to be getting cheap eats, but often ended up paying $10-$15 for lunch! For a $15 lunch, I can go to a sit-down restaurant. Food trucks are expensive, so eventually, I found my way back to a vendor that’s been a part of the NYC landscape long before food trucks blew up:

Cheap Eats Food Cart
This particular food cart sets up outside my office on Hudson St between King and Charlton every weekday.

That’s right. The food cart! Food carts typically don’t have a cute name or nice branding, but the easiest way to tell the difference, for you out-of-towners, is the fact that they park on the sidewalk, not the street. You’ll find food carts all over the city. Many of my friends who love food trucks won’t even consider hitting up a food cart. I’m not sure why.

In my opinion, some of the carts sell food that is every bit as good as many of the food trucks. I love getting a delicious chicken gyro with white sauce and spicy sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.

Cheap Eats Chicken Gyro
It’s a little difficult to keep the gyro together, but it sure is tasty!

For my cheap eats breakdown, I’ll be looking at this particular food cart and this particular chicken gyro, but you should know that different carts have a WIDE variety of foods, including super cheap breakfast sandwiches, traditional Middle Eastern foods, classic hot dogs, and many more. Next time you pass one, take a look at what they have and how much it costs.

THE CHEAP EATS BREAKDOWN

How was the ordering experience? The middle aged couple that works in the food cart near my office have great energy! They are always laughing, making jokes and generally happy. The line is never more than 2 people long, unlike the food trucks right nearby. I once waited a full 45 minutes to order. That was the beginning of the end of my love affair with food trucks.

How unique is the food? It’s hard to say it’s unique since you can find similar food carts on every other corner in the city, but it is really good food and often good ethnic food.

How delicious was the food? There’s a reason I keep going back to this food cart and ordering the same chicken gyro. It is SO delicious. If you are at another food cart though, I encourage you to experiment. It certainly won’t cost too much.

Did it fill me up for $5 or less? Definitely! It takes me 5-10 minutes to pop down from my office and grab a chicken gyro. I spend the rest of my lunch hour sitting back in my chair, satisfied with my meal that cost only $4.

Conclusion: Whether or not you are a food truck fan, get out there and give the food carts a chance. They might surprise you!


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10 thoughts on “Cheap Eats: Food Trucks vs. Food Carts

  1. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life August 18, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Yeah, the whole food truck thing has gotten out of hand. Like you said, for $10 or $15, I can go have a three course, sit down, lunch special at my favorite thai place.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted: Four Tips for Decorating On a BudgetMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget August 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

      Exactly, yet somehow there is still a perception that it is a cheaper lunch option.

  2. Kassandra @ More Than Just Money August 18, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Before I moved to NY, in Montreal last year it was the first year they tested the waters of the food truck – apparently a success I’m told because they are back this year. I have yet to eat from a street vendor with the exception of roasted honey almonds…those things are addictive!
    Kassandra @ More Than Just Money recently posted: Financial Fire Drill – Are You Ready?My Profile

    • Mr NYBudget August 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

      The Nuts 4 Nuts carts here in NYC are geared towards tourists, but are SOOO good. I definitely indulge in those from time to time.

  3. The Jackal August 18, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Love me some street meat! Mr. NY Budget – I think it’d be very helpful if on the Cheap Eats landing page there was a map of NYC with all of your reviews. That way, if I find myself in an area I don’t frequent, I can quickly see if you have any recommendations there.

    Just some food for thought 😉

    • Mr NYBudget August 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Jackal – I think that’s a great idea. I just have to find someone that can help me code something like that!

  4. Even Steven August 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Food trucks in San Francisco I think are better than some of the sit down restaurant and usually it depends on how much you want to spend, but for the most part i’m spending $10 almost no matter what. They have become larger and larger in Chicago, I use it as a change of pace from the usual down town stuff.
    Even Steven recently posted: I make $0 writing about my Personal Finance LifeMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget August 18, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Yeah, I definitely still hit up my absolute favorite food trucks from time to time. But it’s definitely a treat as opposed to the every day lunch destination that most of my coworkers use it as.

  5. AldoRancier August 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I stay away from food trucks for the same reason, they are expensive. I love the food carts though. There’s just so many good food all over the sidewalks of NYC and cheaper than food trucks. There are also so many great, cheap hole in the wall restaurants all over the city that food trucks, to me, are not worth it.
    AldoRancier recently posted: 7 Tricks Supermarkets Use To Get You To Spend MoreMy Profile

    • Mr NYBudget August 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Power to the real cheap eats of NYC – the carts and the hole-in-the-wall restaurants!

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