6 Ave & W 53rd St
Manhattan, New York, NY 10019
Lineups are strange things. I’ve seen people get in line for something they had no idea they were lining up for. Lineups make the destination seem more desirable – a general herd mentality really, that if all these other people like it, then it must be worth lining up for. Or, lineups are really an indication that a place is worth eating at.
Out of all the street cart vendors that exist in New York City, my favorite are the Halal carts. They typically serve a couple types of meat – gyro, lamb, beef, or chicken, and make sandwiches or platters. So when i passed by an insane lineup at 9:30pm at a Halal cart at 53rd and 6th, I had to know what was going on. I swore that by the time i came back, if there was still a lineup, I would try what was there. At 11:30pm, the lineup had actually gotten longer.
From first apperances, this cart was nothing special. They served chicken, and gyro, and offered platters and sandwiches. Platters were $6. I didnt really understand why I was willing to brave the lineup. A patron filled me in on what i was missing out on.
“This is the best stuff man – you don’t know what you’re missing. Totally worth the wait. It’s like a mix of everything, with sauce that’s super good. And hot sauce…whoa man. I love spicy food, and even I can’t handle it. It’s that hot. Don’t get too much of it.. or it’ll kill you. Really.”
Presenting the Ultimate. Basmati rice, pita, chicken, gyro, salad, white sauce, hot sauce, bbq sauce. It seems like an odd combination, all jumbled together. And we had just come from eating burgers at Burger Joint, after eating sushi for dinner, so we really weren’t hungry. We didnt expect to eat much – just give it a shot.
Well, I was wrong. We finished it all. The rice was a bit dry. The meat was reasonably flavourful, but the gyro was a touch too crumbly for me – a bit too long on the hot plate. Lettuce – well, there is never a good reason for lettuce. And three sauces. Yet, sometimes a team is greater than the sum of its parts. That applies to the Ultimate. This was undeniably, bafflingly, addictive.
Mixed together was a mixture of crisp, creamy, soft, meaty textures. Loaded with meat flavour balanced off by rich creaminess, and an insane hot sauce. The guy wasnt lying – it is crazy hot. I loved it though. Put a serious sweat on. And the creamy white sauce, pita, and lettuce really helped tame the hot sauce. Together, it was like a heroin platter experience. Endorphin rush with a taste high. This was truly enjoyable.
I can’t tell you if it’s worth the wait, as i’ve been told it’s up to an hour on weekends. And the copycat carts have sprung up all around the area, trying to capitalize on the success of the cart. But the cart is open between 7:30pm and 4:00am, and I would be willing to line up again. Maybe because it’s really good, or just because everyone else is willing to lineup for it as well. Only you can decide that for yourself.