It may not be easy to run a food truck in New York City, but there are still hundreds of them out there, roaming the streets or settling down on street corners. It can be hard to navigate the options, to figure out what's good and not just overpriced. But there are a lot of trucks out there serving top-notch, super fresh food of every imaginable variety. So here's a guide to 11 great trucks that show off the diversity of options to be found in New York City. Whether you're looking for lobster rolls, falafel, ice cream, or an awesome cheeseburger, look no further.
For Tacos: Among the many roving, unpredictable food trucks of New York City, the Tacos el Bronco truck on 5th Avenue and 37th Street in Sunset Park is one that will never budge. This is a truck that has its own vestibule in the winter, and has been known to dispatch delivery guys on scooters. When its parent restaurant was closed for a long stretch because of a fire, this truck kept the business rolling, and now that the restaurant has opened, it's still a force all its own. It serves a wide range of simple, classic tacos, from al pastor to chorizo to lengua (tongue), all of them excellent, plus fat burritos. Just down the block is Melody Lanes, a truly old school bowling alley, which is a great post-taco activity. Always on 5th Avenue, at 37th Street.
For Socially Responsible Sandwiches: Of all the food trucks roaming the streets of New York, Snowday may be the one doing the most good. It's the first (and for now only) food truck operated by Drive Change, a non-profit organization that builds and operates such trucks to provide job training and employment to formerly incarcerated youths. But even that aside, the menu is a unique one for a food truck, employing local ingredients and focusing on maple syrup. That doesn't mean it's all sweets, however – the menu changes, but usually includes a maple-drizzled grilled cheese, pulled pork sliders, and "sugar on snow" (boiled syrup drizzled on snow so that it turns into a chewy candy). Follow the truck on Twitter for its locations.
For Burgers: You aren't likely to find Hard Times Sundaes roaming the streets near your office, unless you work in Mill Basin. It stays parked in the parking lot of a Home Depot way south in Brooklyn, but it's worth making the trip. Despite the name, Hard Times Sundaes specializes in burgers – specifically smashed thin, crispy-edged burgers in single, double, or triple stacks, which can be topped with lettuce, tomato, and onion, but also mushrooms, pickled jalapenos, bacon, or chili. Bacon wrapped, deep-fried hot dogs are also an option, as are Italian ices and fries, but it's the burger that everyone raves about. The truck is also a second chance, of sorts, for owner Andrew Zurica, who had to close his restaurant, the Luncheonette, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Always at 5700 Avenue U, Brooklyn.
For Falafel: Einat Admony's roving Israeli sandwich truck Taim dishes out crispy fried falafel balls tucked into fluffy pitas along with Israeli cucumber and tomato salad, a cabbage slaw, and nutty tahina sauce. The falafel can also be ordered as a platter, and there's also a Greek salad on the menu – a major plus, given that it's a rare food truck that serves a good salad. Everything is up to the standards of the two brick and mortar outposts of Taim, which is to say, far better than your average street cart falafel. The team shares their location daily on Twitter.
For Grilled Cheese: The Morris Truck serves grilled cheese sandwiches that are crispy on the outside and gooey inside in grown up flavors like green machine (fontina, fennel butter and kale two ways) and the gut busting habanero chicken (blue cheese, chicken chorizo, hot sauce, pickled celery). There are no Kraft Singles to be found here, but for true purists, the classic (which costs just $5.75) is made with New York cheddar and tangy Landaff. The team shares locations on Twitter and on its website.
For Indian: The super colorful Desi Truck is pretty hard to miss when walking down the street. The Vendy finalist has one truck permanently parked at Soho Square Park, while another roams the city dishing out chicken tikka masala over rice and salad, dal and rice, and flaky kati rolls stuffed with chicken, paneer masala, or aloo masala. Go for the puri bhaji, fried puffs of bread with a side of stewy, curried potatoes. There is also chai and fresh lassis to go with it all. One truck is always on 6th Avenue near Spring Street.
For Lobster Rolls: We are lucky to live in a day and age where buying a seafood roll from a truck is not a questionable thing to do. With that in mind, there are quite a few great lobster roll trucks roaming this city – enough that it's hard to settle on one. But for sheer variety of lobster roll options, Red Hook Lobster Pound wins out. It offers both Maine style (cold, with mayo) and Connecticut-style (warm, with butter), as well as "Tuscan style" rolls made with basil vinaigrette, plus an option with bacon. RHLP also offers a shrimp roll, lobster mac & cheese, and a couple soups. Follow the truck on Twitter for locations.
For Pupusas: To be honest, it's hard to go wrong with any of the vendors who spend their summer parked around the edges of the Red Hook Ball Fields, who serve food from Mexico, Colombia, and more. But one of the perennial favorites (and a former Vendy Award winner) is El Olomega, a Salvadorian truck that specializes in pupusas. The freshly griddled masa cakes come stuffed with anything from chicken to pork to cheese (or a combo of meat and cheese), with a spoonful of crema and a mound of quick pickled cabbage and onions (curtido). Order a platter to try a couple different fillings, and order a paper bag full of long, thin plantain chips, which make a great snack while waiting for your order. On the corner of Clinton Street and Bay Street in Red Hook, through the end of October.
For Hungarian Fried Bread: The Langos Truck specializes in its namesake: a fried Hungarian flatbread classically topped with garlic, sour cream, and grated cheese. It's a gut bomb, for sure, but it's not a common snack to find in NYC, and at the very least makes for great late night drunk food. The team also gets creative with its toppings, and offers other options like an herb dough with peppers and prosciutto, or, for something sweeter, options like nutella, banana, and sliced almond, or cheese, lemon zest, raisins, bourbon vanilla, and raspberries. But the foundation of all of them is fried dough, and that's a good thing. The team posts their daily location on Twitter.
For Simple Ice Cream: Mister Softee is an inescapable presence in the summer, and not many can resist its siren song, but there are better ice cream trucks out there if you know where to look. Van Leeuwen is at the top of that list, with ice creams that are simple but sophisticated, in flavors like pistachio, cinnamon, and Earl Grey tea, plus usually a vegan option that's as good as non-dairy ice cream gets. Van Leeuwen is now expanding to a huge empire, with shops all over the city (not to mention a couple in LA), and pints in grocery stores, but those pale yellow trucks are where it all started, and they're still a great place to get a cone. Trucks currently park in Williamsburg on Bedford Avenue and North 8th Street from noon until late, and in Soho on Prince and Green Street from noon to 6 p.m.
For Out-There Ice Cream: Ice cream champ Coolhaus fulfills the adult craving for an ice cream sandwich that goes beyond the standard chocolate and vanilla slab (not that there's anything wrong with those). Pick from cookies like double chocolate with sea salt, or maple flapjack and match them with one of the house ice cream flavors, which range from a tame mocha marcona almond to brown butter candied bacon, or avocado sriracha. There are suggested pairings for the indecisive, but feel free to get weird, or if need be, order in a cup. Be warned that these sandwiches go for $6. If you want cheaper, you'll have to settle for a Chipwich from the bodega. Daily locations can be found on Twitter and the week's lineup is on the website.