jetsetgreen

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Halal Cart on 53rd Street

There's always a line at the Halal cart outside the Hilton at BlogHer10.

No, I mean it, always a line. 9:00pm? Halfway down the block. 9:00am? Halfway down the block.

3:30am? Same.

Jenny went one night and when she got back to the hotel room I questioned her.
“What is that?”
“I saw a line and decided to wait in it.”
“What was it?”
“I have no idea. I still don’t know. I got up to the front and I think the man said ‘Combo?’ and I said ‘Sure.’”
“Is it good?”
“Uh, yeah, really good.”
I watched her eat the rice, meat (chicken?) and tzatziki (?) with obvious pleasure. I snacked on my knish (a pocket sliced into the side and filled with mustard, onions, and sauerkraut.) I decided I needed more of Jenny’s adventure.

The next day, finding myself at 11:30 pm without a meal in my belly and bereft of companionship, I walked down to the corner. The night was humid, still more than 90 degrees, and the smells of the August city wafted through the streets: human, fetid, sweet, metallic. And on this corner of midtown Manhattan, a spontaneous party was underway.

Cars parked around the block; one blasting pop music from Ethiopia, the other from Pakistan. A busker played his guitar on the steps near the fountain and a few people were dancing. Lights in the square reflected off the buildings and a steady hum of conversation in Czech, Swahili, Turkish, and English buzzed my ears. On line the people passed along what they knew about the cart:
“I’m not sure, but it’s famous.”
“I just saw the line.”
“Best gyro in the city.”

Once a breeze lifted my skirt a little and I thought about the subway train on its way to Brooklyn rumbling beneath the sidewalk. I slid forward in my wedges to listen to the couple on a first date in front of me. Her hair held elaborate braids with softly clicking beads; arms folded against the man making quiet advances on her right. She better guard her flanks, I thought, because that’s a breach in progress if I ever saw one.

The line moved and one of the men working the grill like a fiend crooked his finger at me and nodded. I asked for the lamb. “COMBO?” He said with a flat stare rapidly moving to disgust. I surrendered immediately and moved to the right. The tallest man with a long beard directed the cooks to double time their slinging, and then took my damp greenbacks. I accepted the round tin in return and stepped backward into the square.

The line was the same length as when I’d arrived: halfway down the block, as I knew it would be all night.

New York, I love you, can I stay?

17 comments:

ali said...

you always get in the line in NYC-- always. wherever, whatever, always get in the line.

nakedjen said...

I took a photo of that line on my way to somewhere else and posted it to twitter saying I had NO IDEA what they were serving but it HAD TO BE GOOD because that line was ALWAYS that long and ALWAYS there.

You described it perfectly. I hope the food was worth the wait.

Nicole said...

The Halal cart was my FAVORITE food I ate in NYC. Of course, I had about a $25 budget for food so I had to be choosy, but the Halal was incredible. Next time I'm in NYC, I'll definitely be back.

Eliana said...

Hmmm - loooove NYC street food.

rookie cookie said...

WHAAAAT? All that build up and no description about what you got??? Taste? Texture? Smell? I was waiting for it. Boo.

~j. said...

I ended up getting it twice during my stay.

Still not quite sure what it is.

Doesn't matter. It was six dollars, and it was heavenly.

黃英吳思潔吳思潔邦 said...
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Likely said...

fantastic. I always think there is something magic about it (nyc), but I have to give it up for the people that live there, especially with small children. h.a.r.d. It is such a fun visit. If you ever want to do it again and have a free place to stay, come see me -- we can do NYC, dc, philly and baltimore, all within 3 hours of our place. Even the Amish in Lancaster are only an hour ... Seriously -- bring your boys too. or not. either way.

Likely said...

and I am with cookie --- I want to hear about that food....

MediocreMama said...

I'm feeling hungry and hyper-aware that I didn't go anywhere cool this summer...

王雅俊 said...
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江仁趙雲虹昆 said...
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Author said...
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Azúcar said...

Rookie,

It tastes better in your mind than I could ever describe.

by...K@ Ashcroft said...

Wow. I have tasted that before, several times. Never in Manhattan but that's ok, your writing has brought it all back in living color. Complete with smell-o-vision. Mmmmmmm

Marie {Make and Takes} said...

Dang! I knew I should have stopped to eat. I bet it would have been delicious after Karaoke!!!

amydear said...

Been there, done that. Stayed in the Hilton and enjoyed the midnight feast with my husband after a show. Best food we had the whole dang vacation. And we don't even know what it was.