Sandwiched between glass towers, a food cart serves the breakfast and lunch crowd: Corgi Jianbing opened in Long Island City in 2018, close to the Court Square station, specializing in the popular Chinese street food jianbing, savory rolled crepes of sorts, with fillings. The cart, only open during the daytime, announced last week that it was expanding again.
While a cart expansion in the same neighborhood might seem modest, it’s an underdog approach as rents continue to rise in the area, quickly becoming the next luxury apartment zone. The original location has been humming at 4405 Hunter Street, at Crescent Street over the past five years, increasing from just a weekend operation to daily service. Now, Corgji Jianbing is also setting up outside of 28-03 Jackson Avenue, next to the JACX&CO food hall. (This isn’t its first expansion; an outpost of the truck opened in the West Village, by Washington Square Park, in 2020, right before lockdown, but has since closed). Owner William Zhang plans to open there next month but is still working out the details.
Zhang moved to New York via Shanghai 20 years ago and worked at a hospital before starting his food business. Much like his aspirations to someday own a dog, “I want to have a corgi, I’m working on it,” he says of the business name with a laugh, he also dreams of staying put with a restaurant of his own. “Eventually, I want to own my own store, but in the meantime, I’m listening to customers' feedback. More and more New Yorkers know about jianbing and I want to be a part of that.”
Step up to the butter-yellow and egg yolk-orange cart and choose a bing style — crispy, or jing-style, which is softer. Both are made using multigrain flour, egg, scallion, cilantro, Chinese pickles, sesame, and peanuts. And then choose how many eggs you want in the batter. The jianbings here may not be the best iteration of the dish in New York, nor was it the first time jianbings arrived in the city as a mobile food cart. And yet they are their own thing.
The fillings to choose from — pork floss, Spam, sweet corn, youtiao, cabbage, and beef sausage, or decidedly New York-y, untraditional adaptations like avocado, mozzarella, and bacon — mean there’s lots of exploring to be done here. (At one point, the truck offered, for a limited time, a pink dragonfruit jianbing).
“I wanted to introduce jianbing to all the neighbors here,” Zhang, who lives in the area, says “so I wanted to have extra toppings that people here might know to help them want to try it.” Based on the season he might also make congee, or his own his soymilk. The tagline of the business is “delicious and auspicious.”
Over the years since the food cart was first launched, Long Island City has increasingly become the next Asian food corridor in the city.
In the decade between 2010 and 2020, the neighborhood’s population increased by 40 percent, “five times the city’s overall rate of growth,” according to Grub Street (if the constant soundtrack of construction here is any indication) — with a growing Asian population making up incoming residents and restaurants that have followed. The new construction may explain the price, at $10 for the more simple jianbings, it’s almost twice the cost of the dish at a spot like Eight Jane in Flushing but it's also trying to do its own thing.
In the last year alone, newcomers to Long Island City include the restaurant Knock Knock, noodle shop Sofun, instant noodle spot, Instant Noodle Factory, and French-leaning ramen restaurant, Vert Frais. Just steps from Corgi Jianbing are spots like Lately Cafe, a coffee shop serving Spam sandwiches, and Meet Fresh, the Taiwanese dessert chain known for its jellies. Corgi Jianbing is also located directly across from CUNY Law, and down the street from several other colleges, where students may be looking for affordable lunch options.
Blink and you’ll miss it: Corgi Jianbing is open Tuesday through Sunday daily on Hunter Street from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Mondays, find them at Jackson Avenue; hours are still being worked out. Payment can be made by cash, Venmo, or Zelle.