In the last year, Wyckoff Avenue on the Bushwick and Ridgewood border was blocked off in front of the subway station at Myrtle Avenue to create a pedestrian plaza, complete with potted foliage and colorful tables and chairs. Inevitably, food carts appeared. These were not carts with clever names or publicists, in fact some had no names at all; they were all plebian carts with inexpensive pricing. They were aimed at the users of the station, who paused on the way home for carryout, or sat at one of the tables to consume their meals as the elevated M train clattered by overhead.
The number of carts varies by day and whim of the proprietors, but they average seven in number. Generally, there’s at least one cart as early as 5 a.m., and one or two at midnight or later. Go right at noon for the largest selection, when the breakfast carts and lunch carts overlap. Here are my notes on the carts and their offerings, running from east to west. The food is often brilliant. If the weather is inclement, there’s a ledge by the window inside the station where you can sit and eat.
Tamales Atlixco: Right on Myrtle Avenue just off the plaza, this trailer specializes in tamales ($2 each). It offers six varieties, including a sweet dessert tamale and a very spicy tamal de rajas. Most novel is a torta de tamal, which places a tamal of your choice on a roll to make a sandwich. The trailer also furnishes Mexican sweet breads and champurrado (a hot chocolate and corn beverage) — the perfect thing for a cold winter morning.
El Mananero del Sabor: Loosely translated as “the morning of flavor,” this cart is generally parked right next to the tamal cart and specializes in breakfast sandwiches on rolls and bagels, just like area bodegas — only better. The signature ($3) features eggs, thick slices of salami, and cheese, only the cheese is Cheez Whiz, making the sandwich doubly gloppy. And the thing comes dressed with both ketchup and mayo, adding further layers of sweetness and flavor.
Pastelitos Cart: The small gleaming cart provides freshly fried Dominican pastelitos — well-browned empanadas filled with beef, chicken, or cheese. These are bigger than usual and a real bargain at $2 apiece. Admire the large range of bottled condiments available.
Bklyn Cart: The menu of this Middle Eastern trailer, which says it’s been around since 1997, begins with the usual curry chicken over rice, which the cook chops the chicken extra fine, and fries it crisp. It extends to lamb, falafel, Italian sausage, hot dogs, pita sandwiches, and salads. Don’t miss the white garlic sauce. Best bargain is a $3.99 lunch special chicken over rice that comes with salad.
Himalayan Momo: This straightforward operation vends only momos, the Tibetan and Nepalese steamed dumplings. Theoretically, beef, chicken, and vegetable are available, but on my last visit only beef was available (eight dumplings for $5). They come with a yogurt white sauce and gritty red hot sauce, and you ought to use both.
Vegetable Cart: Directly across from the station are two conjoined vegetable carts with bargain avocados, apples, bananas, two kinds of grapes, mangoes, and, somewhat miraculously, small seedless watermelons. Always use the fruit or vegetables that day or the next because they’re often already at the peak of ripeness.
Mexican Food: Concentrating on the food of southern Mexico, this cart offers the usual tacos and tortas, but go instead for anything made to order with masa in the hand press, such as the sopes and quesadillas. These come with a full range of fillings, from pig ear and tongue, to the more common chicken, enchilada pork, and crumbly chorizo. The most transcendent filling is suadero, a cut of beef. Another great choice is the cemita ($7), a round Pueblan sandwich that comes slathered with refried beans, guacamole, and crema.
For a look into one of Robert’s visits to the carts, check out this episode of Eater Upsell; it starts around minute 26: