FoodFrom our Archives

Food journeys of a life time: New York & Pennsylvania

Extraordinary places to eat around the globe

Eating is part of what makes travel so exhilarating. When one thinks of a place, one of the memorable experiences recalled is either because of the food eaten or the people one has shared it with. A meal abroad is more than an intake of calories, it is an exercise in cultural immersion. What people eat, when they eat, where and how they source their food, what gastronomic rituals they observe – all offer telling insights into a place and its people.

Celebrating a unique relationship between food and travel, between place and plate, this endlessly fascinating adventure will be regularly featured in our pages.

New York

New York’s sidewalk chefs

Who needs smart restaurants when street carts and stands offer some of New York’s most exciting and least expensive dining?

The city that never sleeps needs to be able to refuel quickly, so the streets of New York are home to a legion of trucks, vans, stands, and pushcarts all selling food. Most of the vendors are immigrants bringing street version of the world’s multifarious culinary traditions to this already international metropolis.

You can snack on Jamaican goat patties, sample Chinese cheung fun (broad rice noodles wrapped around a savory meat, seafood, or vegetable filling), take a bite of Egyptian falafel, or enjoy vegan Sri Lankan curry and dosas (rice and lentil pancakes). New York takes its street food so seriously that there is an annual award ceremony, the Vendy awards, for the best sidewalk chefs. Part of the fun is tracking down the best offerings.

Trucks and vans often visit different areas of New York on different days, some chefs operate only at certain times of day or only on weekends. Even stalls with regular spots and hours occasionally vanish, as the owner finds a better spot or takes a week off. Follow the crowds, or ask locals for information-hotel doormen and concierges will often let you into the secrets of a neighborhood’s best vendors.

When to go: New York’s summers are hot and steamy, and its winters can be very cold. The best times to visit the city are in spring and fall, when you can eat your street foods without either wilting in the heat or freezing your fingers.

Planning: As well as asking people to recommend good street food, you can check the website of the street Vendor Project for a list of the finalists in last year’s Vendy Awards: this tells you where and when they can usually be found.


• Manhattan

Wurst and Arepas

For an authentic German sausage cart, head for 54th Street in Manhattan. Near the fifth avenue crosswalk you will find Hallo Berlin, offering some of New York’s best wurst. Brothers Rolf and Wolfgang Babiel have been running the cart for a quarter of a century. Try the Democracy Special- your choice of wurst with sautéed potatoes, sauerkraut, and homemade sauces. If you want to enjoy your wurst and beer sitting down, the Babiels also operate beer garden restaurants.

Crisp, mouth-melting Colombian corn puffs, called arepas, are the specialty of the Arepa Lady. a regular winner of the Vendy awards. Based in the borough of Queens, she operates only in the warmer monthsafter 10 pm. on Fridays and Saturdays when she feels like it, that is. You would think this was bad for business, but customers flock from Manhattan in arepa-craving droves whenever she is around. Check her MySpace page to find out where she is.


Philly sandwiches

Sink your teeth into Philadelphia’s famous two-fisted sandwiches in their gritty urban birthplace

Paradise on a bun-a-cheese steak, garlicky roast lamb or a hoagie-ground zero lies in the Old Italian row-house neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, where long, crusty rolls brimming with meat come with E extra side of ‘atty-tude”.

The cheese steak-essentially, shaved beef grilled with cheese and onions-inspires the most passion, launching long lines from window-service places clad in steel and neon. Crowds gather at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue, where the sandwich’s inventor, Pat’s King of Steaks, duels every day with rival, Geno’s But locals have ceded these titans to the tourists, opting for establishments in the deeper reaches of industrial South Philly, such as John’s Roast and Tony Luke’s, both close to the Delaware River.

Here, the sandwiches groan with heftier portions of meat and molten rivers of sharp provolone. John’s and Tony Luke’s are also prime spots for juice-drenched meat sandwiches. served with garlicky greens and spicy long hots’ (chilies).

The hoagie has its roots among 19th-century Italian Street vendors called “hokey-pokey” men, who sold “pinafore” rolls filled with antipasto salads. The best can be found in South Philadelphia’s corner delis, such as Lombardi’s, Cosmi’s, and Ricci Bros, where the cold cuts fall directly from the slicer onto rolls fresh from nearby bakeries.

When to Go: For weather, the best months are March through May and September through November. The first week of July brings the Philadelphia Freedom Festival, with fireworks, parades, concerts, and other events commemorating the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia in 1776.

Planning: Ninth Street and Washington Avenue also embraces Philadelphia’s Mexican and Vietnamese communities. At La Lupe, 1201 South Ninth Street, try the slow-roasted Mexican barbacoa lamb wrapped inside freshly pressed tortillas. On Washington, Vietnamese pho soup halls vie with restaurants such as Nam Phuong, where you eat off platters laden with spring rolls, broken rice and meat cooked with lemon grass.


• Philadelphia

The Italian Market

The awning-fringed sidewalks of Ninth Street near Washington Avenue are home to South Philadelphia’s Italian Market. one of the oldest continuously operating open-air street markets in the U.S. Here, a century-old roster of Italian merchants offers mouthwatering medleys at a variety of food stalls and stores.

Make your choice among hundreds of cheeses, salamis, and olive oils at import stores, such as Di Bruno Bros and Claudio’s. Fiorella’s. Cappaccio’s, and D’Angelo’s are old-school butchers, tempting you with sausages and house-cured wild boar proscuiutto. For fresh pasta, try superior Ravioli or Talluto’s. Finish your shopping spree at a pastry shop. such as isgro’s, with fresh cannoli piped full of sweetened ricotta cheese.

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