Last Updated on January 29, 2023 by Maria Kennedy
Whether catching a show on Broadway or visiting the Empire State Building, New York City has enough to keep you busy for a lifetime! In between all the activities and sightseeing, you’re bound to get hungry. But when you don’t want to splurge on a sit-down meal at restaurant price, there are some great street food options that will hit the spot and get you on your way. Here are 5 unmissable food carts in Manhattan that New Yorkers know all too well!
Blending the best of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, Halal carts are undoubtedly one of the best options for street food in the City. Halal is a way of food preparation in Islam and widely practiced in the Middle East. It’s a hearty meal of chicken or beef gyro cooked to perfection over a bed of yellow rice. Gyro, originating from Greece, is traditionally made with meat cooked on a rotating vertical rotisserie then sliced in thin shavings. Have it sandwich-style wrapped in soft pita or bowl with pita on the side. It’s not complete without the ever-popular white sauce. Drizzle, mix, and enjoy! But be prepared to wait in line for this one. The nine-to-five-ers will stand on the corner of 53rd up to half an hour for their halal!
Honey roasted nuts are a great source of protein to power you through your walk in Central Park. Caramelized peanuts, pecans, cashews and almonds sizzle in a copper bowl to evenly distribute heat and then dusted with sugars and spices. The crunchy delights are coated in a gooey molasses sauce. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire has a new attitude! This street cart draws in tons of pedestrians during the cold months as the unofficial aroma of winter in the city.
Hot Dogs & Pretzels
New York has been selling hot dogs from a pushcart since the early 1870s. Adopted from the Germans, beef franks have now become an American staple with a total consumption of 20 billion per year. The classic hot dog is served on multiple corners in Midtown. Grilled and placed on the wings of a soft bun, the dogs are topped with relish and sauerkraut customer after customer. Hot dogs go hand in hand with a big soft pretzel. Chewy and sprinkled with salt, pretzels will always be a crowd-pleaser. After all, Yankee Stadium makes a killing off of these two concessions alone! The two fight for the love of mustard, but there is enough space in our hearts for the both of them.
TAKEAWAY: The busy streets of Manhattan offer a ton of tasty foods options to make you feel like a local. Save time and money, and keep in mind, each street cart is different. Be sure to evaluate the cleanliness of the vendor before ordering your food. We want to ensure the best options for an authentic New York City experience, while keeping your health in mind!
Fruit Smoothies & Juices
Want something refreshing and nutritious? We’ve found more and more pop up carts offering custom made fresh fruit smoothies like Sunrise Splash or Tropical Blast. These smoothies use seasonal mangos, strawberries, pineapples and blueberries mixed with bananas and blended with crushed ice. Some carts will offer variations specializing in juices. The juicing trend came on the scene a few years ago when people desired an easy way to get in lots of nutrients through fruits and vegetables, without having to constantly snack on apple slices of carrot sticks throughout the day. The NYC street cart industry capitalized on this and you can get freshly squeezed concoctions of oranges, grapefruits, spinach, beets, celery and cucumber. At any rate, smoothie carts are a great option for those are watching their figure and want a no-mess breakfast to get the job done!
Muffins & Coffee
Speaking of breakfast, try skipping the Starbucks and opt for a cup of joe from a muffin and coffee cart. These no-frills street carts have everything you need and are gentle on your wallet too. The coffee is strong and plentiful, catered to the average. Ordering made simple- regular or decaf, whole milk or skim, small or large- and you’re on your way. Sure, it may not be a venti caramel Frappuccino, but for $1.50, you can’t beat it! Beyond muffins, there are croissants, bagels with spread, and an assortment of parties to choose from . These carts pop up in the morning and vanish by noon, but trust us; the 5 AM commuters will be waiting at the crack of dawn so get there before everything sells out!