You’re living the dream. You got into your favorite college, moved to one of the world’s most exciting cities, and immersed yourself in the New York culture – a conglomerate of our world’s many cuisines, fashions, languages, and so much more. Unfortunately, the New York experience doesn’t come cheap. Dining out certainly racks up a tab quicker than you may think, but we’re all tempted to try the many marvelous restaurants the city has to offer the second we step out of our apartments.
Dining halls, while a solid, affordable option, rarely deliver that same authentic taste of New York that you get from a bagel shop, Indian take-out spot, or a taco joint. They also get repetitive and mundane, and who wants their time at college to be drier than the chicken served at Downstein on Tuesday nights? Aside from our thin budget, us college students are flooded with a wide array of stresses and emotions every day, so we’re always on the hunt for a cheap but scrumptious pick-me-up meal. Where can you find such a meal on a consistent basis?
Food trucks! Nothing screams New York quite like the many food trucks parked all throughout Greenwich and East Village. Below, I’ve listed food trucks of all cuisines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that are guaranteed to deliver the New York flavor we all moved here for. If you’re not sure if you’ll regularly be in the mood for some food truck grub, take a gander at the scenarios I’ve described below and see if any of those feelings apply to your life as a college student. Alright, enough talk… grab your wallet (most trucks are cash-only), and let’s get our food truck tour rolling!
The late-night grind got to you again. Between working on your term paper, problem sets, and the occasional Tik-Tok or Netflix break, you failed to get a goodnight’s sleep and overslept for your 10 am lecture. For those of us living by Union Square, you know the Palladium scrambled eggs will be cold and soggy by now, but you don’t have time to hit up your corner bagel shop. You can’t skip the most important meal of the day, so I highly recommend that you hit the Halal Kitchen Breakfast Cart parked on East 12th and 4th ave, right in front of Founders Hall.
The bacon-egg-and-cheeses here are unbeatable, and with an iced coffee and a banana for $5? You can’t beat that. They grill the bacon and/or sausages, fry the eggs, and toast the bread upon your order, so you’ll have a fresh, warm, comforting breakfast sandwich in your hands in under five minutes. Also, if you’ve got a long day ahead, treat yourself to a donut; they’re just an additional dollar. Two other sweet options are Ferooz Halal Food on University Place and E 10 and the Halal Breakfast Cart in front of Stern. They have great prices and quick service, and they are much closer to the main campus. A New York bacon-egg-and-cheese is without a doubt the best savory start to a long week.
I don’t know if I can safely say there’s a better lunch option than the Sidewalk Tacos’ Mexican food truck parked in front of the Stern building around lunchtime. After enduring a lecture that seemed like it would never end or getting wrecked by a test you didn’t study for, nothing will get your day back on track like a banging Mexican meal packed with spice, crunch, and savory goodness.
Pictured on the left, we have their vegetable platter served with a side of tortillas. This meal explodes with amazing Southern flavors paired beautifully alongside a perfect blend of textures. Their guacamole is rich, creamy, and tangy, their rice is smooth and flavorful, and their vegetables are seasoned and grilled to perfection. With gourmet quality and ridiculously cheap prices, you can’t go wrong with this joint. Grab a couple of friends from class, get some tacos or a burrito, and enjoy on the benches right by the Management Center. They leave at 4 pm, so make sure you carve out some time beforehand to hit up this magnificent lunch option.
When the weather’s warmer, like in the spring or early fall, do yourself a favor and hit up NY Dosa, an authentic South Indian-style food truck that parks in Washington Square Park near the West 4th street entrance. Thiru “Dosa Man” Kamar is the world-renowned Indian chef who runs this famous food truck. In addition to being named the best food vendor in New York City in 2007, he’s been featured in Food Insider, as well as Munchies’ “Street Food Icons” series. He has a remarkable life story rooted in his quest to serve New Yorkers some unbelievable Indian food.
His highly-acclaimed dosas, which are thin rice and lentil pancakes filled with spiced potatoes and vegetables, are in hot demand, as there is always a line backed up to the southwest corner of the park. In addition to his famous dosas, he also sells samosas, vegetable platters with roti and chutney, and spicy noodles. Kamar has redefined Indian-style street food in New York with his deliciously spicy and savory menu, bringing a little taste of South Asia to the heart of our NYU community. What sounds better than a quick immersion into South Indian cuisine in the lovely Washington Square Park to kick off your well-deserved weekend?
Finally, the midweek grind has paid off and the weekend is here. You turned in your big paper for the week, you’re ignoring the rest of your homework until Sunday night (or Monday morning), and now you’re getting ready for a much-needed night out on the town with some of your best friends...except your friend who made all the plans didn’t call to make a reservation (and we all have that one friend). Now you’re stumbling through the streets, desperately searching for an open table and giving that one friend the side-eye all night long.
When this happens, and we all know it will happen more than once, hit up Caribbean King Food Trucks on 6th ave and West 4th. Even if those munchies aren’t kicking in just yet, this fantastic blend of jerked spice seasonings and sweet, tangy Jamaican influence is sure to deliver mouthfuls of Saturday night satiation. This is their permanent location, and they have several food trucks throughout New York City, with updated locations posted on their website. Now you’ve got a plan B for the next time no one makes a reservation, but you also need a 24-hour spot for when the party continues deep into the night.
We all know no one’s going home at midnight, and food just always seems to taste better at 1 am. You came here for the New York experience; nothing is more New York than hitting the Halal food trucks in Union Square. My personal favorites are Farook’s Halal Cart at the corner of East 14th and 3rd Ave in front of Palladium Hall, and the Halal Kitchen Food Truck on the corner of East 14 and University Place. Farook offers a wide variety of delicious and affordable options, ranging from his fresh and tangy shrimp over rice (pictured on the right) to his loaded chicken and lamb combo platters topped with crispy pita chips. As for the Halal Kitchen truck, you can’t go wrong with a falafel gyro or the shaved lamb over rice, as long as you top it off with white sauce and hot sauce, the true New York way.
The Halal food trucks are also the cheapest late-night food option you can find, which is probably a good thing considering your wallet will be a little light after a night of various excursions and adventures. If you’re not up for Middle Eastern food, almost all the Halal food trucks also have hot-dogs and hamburgers, but you’re certainly missing out if you pass up on some fresh, homemade Middle-Eastern food. The perfect end to any fun-filled evening in New York City must have falafel, your closest friends, and whoever else decides to join you—we’re all family here in New York. I can assure you that you’ll be hooked from that first bite and you’ll be coming back for more, although it does not taste quite the same during the day as it does after those big nights out.
I hope you can relate to at least one of the scenarios I’ve described here. If you can’t, hopefully these mouth-watering pictures can convince you to try one of the aforementioned trucks. To quote my good friend Charlie Paparella, a freshman at the College of Arts and Sciences, “the smaller the space, the greater the taste.” The food trucks in New York City never disappoint, and they may even surprise you with how much flavor they can deliver from that tiny kitchen on wheels. You came here for the authentic New York experience, and it’s waiting for you just around the corner.