This is turning out to be a good one. The process for Viva La Comida is much more than necessary. I spend a lot of time traveling to vendors, many times with ambassadors, to find the perfect fits for the festival. The finish line is getting a line-up of 10 or so street vendors in a variety of styles, whose fans have an utmost loyalty to them. Most are family run, many are from the area. Here at this event, you are getting a true feeling of the people of NYC. It’s not refined, it’s real.
Viva La Comida
Saturday, Sept 20th, 2014
82nd Street/Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY
7-train to 82nd Street or EFMR to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave
Tell your friends or else they will be mad at you for keeping this a secret:
Here’s a rundown of the food carts and why they were chosen. All locations are Queens unless otherwise noted. Queens is the best.
The Arepa Lady (Fri-Sat, 79th St/Roosevelt) – Legendary street food vendor of Jackson Heights, probably the most famous vendor of NYC. They live in the neighborhood, and just opened their own restaurant at 77-02AA Roosevelt ave (enter on 77th St). Anyone from the area knows they do the best arepas, and if you are visiting, you can read about it in the newspaper . This cart has been so popular the last two years that the majority of complaints were because of it – the lines were too long.
D’Angelo’s Italian Sausage Truck (Woodhaven Blvd at 67th Drive) – This is a true festival of the people, giving a nod to NY’s classic street food – the hot dog. I’m happy to have these guys here because A) They make an awesome product of hot dogs, sausages, knishes, and hot dogs in knishes, and B) This type of street vendor has been overlooked in most curated situations because of it’s ubiquity in NYC. You always see ones like this at mozzarepa festivals and as vendors on Manhattan street corners, but what these guys are special. They are carrying the torch of sausages and hot dogs for all of New York. The smell will be intoxicating. The Peter Luger’s of Sausage Wagons (Queens Courier)
Ricas Botanas (Roosevelt/Junction) – Among vendors in Jackson Heights, Claudia Lopez is the queen. She and her husband have been vending here for 20 years, respected and jovial at all times. Her churros recently caught the masses attention, being a finalist for best dessert at the Vendy’s 2014. Freshly fried churros, at a ridiculous price – you’ll love it. Here is fellow food dude Brian Hoffman’s call: Dish of the Week: Churros at Ricas Botanas and his video here El Coyote Dormilon (Roosevelt/92nd St) – This crew has only been at it for less than three years, but they are already one of the best, if not the best, Mexican cart on Roosevelt. If you’ve been on my Midnight Crawl, you’ve almost definitely been here, and the quesadilla has probably been one of your favorites. Freshly packed masa, newly strung quesillo cheese, their quesadillas are a must-get. In the WSJ
Mysttik Masaala (54/Park in Manhattan) – Returning for a 2nd year, this cart is the labor of love from Yuvaraaj Thakkar in remembrance of his son’s wish to open a true Indian food cart. For the festival, this is a great vegetarian food stop, but also a great place for the flavor of India. You will love Yuvaraaj when you meet him, everyone does. Early look from We Heart Astoria
Potala Momo Cart (Broadway/37th Rd, Jackson Heights) – You know momos have a special place in my heart. These dumplings are extremely popular here in Jackson Heights – starting out as a celebratory dish in the far east, but here in Queens it’s an everyday thing – but they are only beginning to be seen elsewhere in the city. Potala is a successful business, making some of the best momos in the area. 8 come in an order, so split an order with friends. Eat them fresh out of the steamer so they are at their juiciest, and be careful not to puncture with your fork (eat with your hands if you can). I am very happy to have them back for a 2nd straight year. Great rundown by Untapped Cities
Mama Food of Flushing (39th Ave/Main) – Looking for a Chinese-style skewer vendor was getting difficult. I wanted those wafts of coal and skewers at the festival, but most of the vendors are quite honestly hard to break – most also do festival-like business every single day in their usual locations. The first year, we were lucky to have Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs attend, but this year, to be honest, I was intent on getting a Queens-based skewer vendor. Just as I had lost all hope, scouring Elmhurst and Flushing and coming up with a full-happy belly and no signatures for the event, I happened upon Mama’s Food cart. The fare seemed very interesting, cooking squids in very real shapes on the grill (tentacles hanging out), along with Korean and Chinese kebabs. The woman cooking was wearing this cute outfit and spoke English pretty well (possibly a NY native!). Then I looked over and saw an older woman who looked very familiar - It was Sunny from Xin Jiang Prosperity Kebabs! A bright ray of light in the smoke filled foodie tornado that is Flushing. It barely took any thought, she loved the prospect of returning to Viva and is going to put on a show for us. So, we have a skewer cart, from Queens, and it’s a returning vendor – triple score! This will definitely be picture worthy cart for you.
Manos Peruanos (47th St/6th Ave in Manhattan) – Peruvians are one of the fastest growing populations in this area, and we in Queens are lucky because of it – all of the new, casual Peruvian restaurants is a wonderful thing. Another 2nd year player for the festival, this cart actually operates out of Manhattan in the Rockefeller Center area, but the owners are affiliated with Lima Limon and are from the area. Being one of only two Peruvian carts in the city, I am happy to have them representing at the festival. I will eat anything they serve on a bed of cilantro rice.
Espumilla, Espumilla! (Junction/Roosevelt) – Espumilla is a dessert that is rarely found outside of Corona (or Ridgewood) in NYC. The Ecuadorian dessert is a meringue typically made with guava, here’s a recipe. Formerly a cart with no name, look out for Maria and her Espumilla pushcart and enjoy a scoop.
Picaditas Ecuatoriano – All I wanted at Viva La Comida was a pig on a cart. These carts are iconic to Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, but the past two years they have eluded the fest. Owe it mainly to the desire to be loyal to their customers, it was up until the last minute of cementing the lineup that the lovely Claudia from Ricas Botanas (see above) used her charm and influence to convince Picaditas Ecuatoriano to come. This should be a good show. For a primer on what to get at these carts, see my page here: Ecuadorian Food Cart Defined
This is a true trip around the world, all on 82nd Street. All carts, so the food is going to be right there in front of you. The festival is free to attend, just pay as you would normally at a street fair. There’s going to be music, magic, games, lots of picnic tables, and all the smells, sounds, and flavors of NYC here on 82nd Street.
This event is put on with the 82nd Street Partnership, funds coming from the businesses of their district and sponsors such as USTA, NYCFC, New York Language Center, Dr. Ismail Bastida La Clinica Dental, Councilpersons Danny Dromm and Julissa Ferreras, and Department of Small Business Services.
Last year was a lot of fun and craziness. This year should be even bigger and better. Bring an appetite.
Here’s a video from last year courtesy of Rodrigo Salizar: