UPDATE: I AM NOT DOING TOURS INSPIRED BY THIS SCOUTING TOUR. SEE IT ON VAYABLE.
At request from the Vendy’s crew, I took around 30 people down a scouting tour of Roosevelt Avenue. I jumped at the opportunity because having so many people ordering at the same time would allow me to sample a ton of food and gain lots of knowledge about the area. It’s basically my crowd-sourcing method of tasting the avenue. Also, I always want Corona to get more attention for their street food, and not just hearsay. I want people to have real experiences here! By having the Vendy’s people and other writers walking the streets with me, hopefully these talented food-makers will start getting appreciation from outside their immediate neighborhood.
I decided to start the tour at 90th street and walk eastward to 111th street. This was because, frankly, I’m tired of everybody talking about the halal carts (do these all taste the same or what?) and the Arepa Lady (I still love her actually). I wanted some discussion happening about Roosevelt Avenue east of 82nd street.
The first thing I told the tourmembers was that there are A LOT of trucks and carts on the avenue, and I only know a fraction of what’s out there. While I do spend many days and late nights cruising the street food here, I told them that I needed them to help discover what else is out there. I told them there were around 10 stops, mostly corresponding to subway stations, and it was important not to get too excited at the first few taco carts and fill up on lengua.
Here were our highlights:
Coyote Dormilon (@92nd St) – The two ladies run the most likable taco cart in Queens. When they aren’t stepping on a block of wood to reach the griddle, they are flattening masa to make fresh tlacoyos, flautas, or quesadillas. Many in our crowd LOVED the tlacoyos, but by the time I finished sampling papalo leaves from the truck on 91st Street, the tlacs were all gone. I can attest to the quesadillas being creamier than your average version (and way better) and the fresh herbs seen below as something I haven’t seen at any other taco location. Next time I will ask one of these sweet ladies to write down what these leaves are.
Guayaquileno (on Warren St, south of Roosevelt) This is one of the most successful street businesses in the area. With it’s mothership on Corona Ave, I believe they operate 4 trucks. On the night of our tour, this traveling Ecuadoran restaurant was definitely on their game. We ran the menu with guatita, seco de chivo, carne asada, fish soup, and other items. Thumbs up on all ends. Someone handed me a bowl of rice with tripe gravy leftovers – I’d have been happy to eat that all night — great rice.
102nd street and just south of 43rd ave is a Dominican truck that operates only at night. I’d seen it before during the daytime, always closed, and only weeks before the tour was the first time I’d been witness to it in operation – and the regular small crowds hanging out there. This was the stop I was most looking forward to exploring.
Other than chinolas (maracuya aka passion fruit drink) and a very interesting oatmeal with lemon drink, a couple of patacons were ordered. I heard praises from the crowd about how nice a plantain was as a substitute for bread, but the most jaw-dropping order of the night was the Yaroa.
This could get legendary. Inside a styrofoam boat, the yaroa is a filling of an underlayer of mashed maduros, topped with a mesh of chicken and pork, then squirted with extra heavy mayo, ketchup, pink sauce, and other juicy projectiles. The thing weighs like 2 pounds. It would be hard to imagine just one person eating it, or even being appetizing after a night of drinking, but it definitely is something mysterious, dangerous, and rare – you’ll probably want to experience one in person They also make a french fry version, I’d like to see what that’s about.
There are 3 tamale vendors on the north side of Roosevelt between 102 and 103, and while the majority of our crew took to the initial pretty graphicked dude, I held off. See, I have this aversion to the cool kids table – I’m attracted to the underappreciated and downtrodden. About 30 feet after the first vendor, I saw this native looking lady, no sign and operating out of a shopping cart – my foodie senses started tingling…
Best tamale I’ve ever had.
Our street vendor dot org people talked to her for a while to find out what her life was like. She said she is out there from midnight til 8am. She is Ecaudoran with 3 children. I asked her why is her tamales are so much better than the others, and she said it must be the seasoning. Then with further prodding, she said it probably is the lard. That makes sense, they were extremely creamy and delicious. Members of our crew ordered bunches to bring home. You gotta check her out. She needs a name though. How about Mi Tia Tamal?? (Stella’s suggestion)
The last great find for the night was the Amigos truck west of 111th street on Roosevelt. This was a truck I’ve been going to for about a year, and was what I most wanted to show the crowd and perhaps get a spot at the Vendy awards. By this time, though, we were mostly full and knew we had to keep the ordering concise.
I always get the carne frita with moro (fried meat with rice & beans), but as recommended by a friendly, yet tough exteriored, fellow customer, we got the combo which is shrimp & meat sauteed with white wine sauce. It’s creamier and was favorited by most of the group, although the savory and simple carne was more of my preferred taste.
We found out that this truck has been there for 20 years. It’s a chimi truck, but the owners are Colombian, as evidenced by the Colombian flag lining the skirt-area of the truck. One thing I always notice here is that the customers are frequently big dudes. I’m usually one of the taller people on Roosevelt Avenue, standing at a towering 5 foot 10 inches on a good day, but here I’m quite dwarfed. I believe a large portion of the crowds on the avenue are people getting off work from the service industry. Here, it might be those in security. I wonder if the dishwashers are being priced out.
The scouting tour made major headway in our knowledge of Roosevelt Ave. We still have a lot more to do, though, because these vendors are ever-changing. My hopes are to give these great trucks the attention they deserve and to learn more about the street life myself. Thanks for coming along, I am not done.
Christopher Colombus discovered America.