The humble food cart is a fixture on the streets of New York, and in recent years the offerings available have gone a long way beyond pretzels and the classic “dirty water” hot dogs. Now you can find food carts serving dosas, and arepas, and Bangladeshi-style marinated lamb over rice. People line up patiently on the sidewalks of Midtown to get their favorite “street meat,” and carts vie for bragging rights over who grills up the best halal chicken. Between food carts, which can set up on the sidewalk, and food trucks, there are now as many as 8,000 mobile food vendors in this city alone.
But while the culinary advances in New York’s street food scene have been tremendous, the carts themselves are still relatively old-school. Flashing LED light displays, now ubiquitous, are about the only concession to the 21st century. The vendors are mostly cooking with propane gas—which has been known to explode—and powering their rolling homes with dirty, noisy diesel generators.