Street Food: NYC

In New York City, street vendors are a distinct part of the local cuisine, sometimes taken for granted because of their convenience and affordability. But inside each food truck or behind each cart is a person who is making a living with long hours and an eagerness to serve. On an unseasonably warm February day, we strolled through Manhattan to meet some of the folks who feed on-the-go New Yorkers and were given a brief glimpse of the city from their perspective.

Name: Ahmed
Age: 20
Originally from: Egypt
Location: Union Square, University Place and 14th Street
Sells: Kebabs, Hot Dogs, and Pretzels

DJ: How long have you been working here?
A: One year.

DJ: How did you get this job?
A: From my brother.

DJ: How long has your brother had this job?
A: Seven years.

DJ: Do you like working here?
A: Yeah, sure, it’s good. Good business.

DJ: Are you always at this location?
A: Yes, for seven years it’s been here.

DJ: When are you the busiest?
A: 3:00 pm on weekdays and then the weekends. On weekends double the business.

DJ: What do you with the truck at night?
A: I have a garage.

photo 5 (1).JPG

Name: Kenya
Age: 28
Originally from: Morello, Mexico
Location: Upper West Side, 70th Street and Broadway
Sells: Mexican Fare

DJ: How long have you worked here?
K: Two years.

DJ: What do you the sell the most of?
K: Tacos and quesadillas.

DJ: Do you like working here?
K: Yes! I love it!

DJ: What do you like?
K: Selling tacos, the money, everything.

DJ: Is there anything you don’t like about your job?
K: No. Everything is good!

DJ: Do you have the same customers?
K: Yes, some come everyday.

DJ: On a good day how much do you sell?
K: 500 items.

DJ: When are you the busiest?
K: Monday through Friday.

DJ: Have you ever had anything strange or unusual happen while working here?
K: Just when they leave without paying. 

photo 3 (1).JPG

Name: Zahangir
Age: 36
Originally from: Bangladesh
Location: Upper West Side, 73rd Street and Broadway
Sells: Fruit

DJ: How many years have you worked here?
Z: Four years

DJ: How many hours are you here?
Z: 8am to7pm

DJ: Which fruit sells the most?
Z: Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

DJ: On a good day, how much do you sell?
Z: $1,200-$1,500.

DJ: When are you the busiest?
Z: Friday and Monday afternoons, 3pm to 7pm

DJ: Do you have regular customers?
Z: Yes. 90% are regular.

DJ: Where do you get your fruit from?
Z: Hunts Point Market [in the Bronx]. Nighttime delivery. Every night Monday through Friday a delivery.

DJ: Do you like working here?
Z: Yes.

DJ: What do you like about working here?
Z: This is my own business. Very good business. No problems. Very good people come.

DJ: What do you not like about this job?
Z: Standing for 10 to 11 hours.  Selling good but hard work. No sitting down. But everybody works hard in America. In my country, every man sits down. Very good job but no money. This is more money.

DJ: What was your job before you worked here?
Z: Dunkin Donuts. No money. This is more money here. And the work here not hard. Only problem is the rain and the heat. 

Name: Perek
Age: 35
Originally from: Egypt
Location: Upper East Side, 60th Street and Lexington
Sells: Traditional Halal Food

DJ: How long have you had this job?
P: Ten years.

DJ: Have you always been at this location?
P: No, here for 5 years.

DJ: Where were you before?
P: 6th Avenue.

DJ: Are you here every day?
P: Just Monday-Friday. Ten hours a day.

DJ: What do you sell the most of?
P: Chicken and lamb on rice or a gyro.

DJ: Do you like your job?
P: Yeah, I like because it’s halal job.

DJ: What do you mean?
P: I like because I’m Muslim. And this is God’s work.

DJ: Is there anything about this job you don’t like?
P: No, I started this job so this is good because I work for myself. No boss.

DJ: Do you have regular customers?
P: Yeah, I have steady customers. A lot of them come from Bloomingdales. My costumers are good customers because they know me. Everybody knows me and everybody knows my food. They eat from my hand. They trust me. The are not scared of me or my food because every day they eat my food.

DJ: How much do you sell on a good day?
P: I have a good day when the weather is good.

DJ: You get many tips?
P: Sometimes. But I don’t put a thing out but sometimes my customers give me something. But today I didn’t get any. I don’t know why. Maybe people are broke.

DJ: Do you live nearby?
P: I live in New Jersey.

DJ: Do you take the truck back to New Jersey with you?
P: No, I take it to Queens to the garage. I have somebody come pick it up.

DJ: Did you have another job before your started working with halal trucks?
P: I worked for fried chicken, for deli, but this is my favorite.