Fewer institutions in New York provoke a more love-hate relationship than the city’s food carts. Just ask the mayor. While some New Yorkers gleefully scarf down hot dogs, gyros, knishes, and falafel, others view them as agents of biological terrorism.
To fully understand the world of streetside dining, you must be aware of the two leagues of carts. First off are the hot-dog-knish-soda-and-nothing-else carts – lightweight and highly mobile, they can show up just about anywhere, but their diminished size limits their ability to satisfy sudden guilty cravings. What are truly worthy of attention are the Nimitz-class carts, replete with griddles, deep fryers, and the always-entertaining rotating minced lamb on a spit. An armada of these wait on the west side of Sixth Avenue at 50th Street, where the steam and multilingual service lend the block a Blade Runner-like ambience.
But for truly superlative gyros, kabobs, and all things greasy, you really need to walk a few blocks southeast, to Rafiqi’s cart, located on the northeast corner of Madison and 47th. There’s nothing haute about what Rafiqi offers; no olive tapenade to go with that mozzarella on ciabatta. One gyro with everything on it, served up expertly by Rafiqi himself (whose quick and friendly service may be the only thing that surpasses the quality of his food) at the low price of $2.75, and with God as your witness, you’ll never go hungry in midtown again.