Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Food Carts


Kobi
 Share

Recommended Posts

Especially in University City, one of the things I always loved about Philly cuisine was the food cart culture which existed. I was never a big fan of cheesesteaks from most of these places (being a sliced steak fan myself, whereas most carts chop the meat) but loved many other carts- from Freta's on 33rd street (best meatball hero I've ever had) to the now sort-of defunt Crepe Cart (located on Penn's campus, now in the student union building) to the plethora of breakfast sandwiches and fruit carts which dot the city streets.

So, I will start off with my favorites:

1- Freta's. A huge contributor to my time at Penn, Freta's was rather nondescript, save for the line which always emanated from her cart. The meatball hero was sublime, and I always enjoyed her egg and cheese in the mornings.

2- Hot dogs at 24th and Passyunk. See Hollyeats for a better review than I could give.

3- The crepe cart. Wow, how good these were. Always worth the 20/25 minute wait, they lost some of their panache when the cart moved inside Houston Hall, but none of their flavor. An awesome, fresh, cheap meal.

- Kobi

Edited by Kobi (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gus' at Broad and Callowhill, right outside the Inquirer/Daily News building. HANDS DOWN the best food truck in the city. It's a tragedy that I work in the suburbs now so it's basically impossible for me to make it there anymore. Man I used to love that place.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when i was at temple, i imagined that penn was the promised land of food trucks, but now that i am at penn for law school i find them pretty dismal.

1. the korean/japanese truck outside the temple student center. honestly this is worth going up there for; i always try to coerce friends to bring me back my old favorite dishes. the bi bim bap is good; the soon doo boo is amazing - a pint of lethally red broth filled with soft tofu, a couple slices of zucchini, a couple tiny prawns and sesame seeds with a pint of white rice; they have perfect steamed vegetable dumplings, which you can also get in soup for only a dollar fifty. also this ginger tea that will set your mouth aflame.

2. the falafel place at 20th (?) and jfk. the one that takes forever but has incredible salads that are different every day and hanging pots of basil that they guy snips leaves off of to put in your sandwich.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...

2. the falafel place at 20th (?) and jfk.  the one that takes forever but has incredible salads that are different every day and hanging pots of basil that they guy snips leaves off of to put in your sandwich.

I believe he's closer to 20th & Market than JFK (unless he's moved in the last six months, it is a cart). Another way you can tell it's the right cart is the smoke that is coming out of his cart because he's grilling the whole time. I get the platters which are huge portions and mixed grill, which is some falafel and grilled chicken, as well as some grilled peppers and onions (umm.. getting hungry thinking about it). The platter has a nice spring salad mix and topped off with one of the largest pita bread you'll find around (barely fits in the large white container). Funny thing is you'll have to either ask the people in line (which is usually long, so not a problem) what to get since there's no menu. But, mainly you get a sandwich wrap or the platter I mentioned earlier.

I kinda hate to mention it since there's already a large line, but my favorite Chinese cart is on 17th & Cherry (in front of Friends School) near the Parkway. Helen's is the name and large portions of good Chinese food is the game. For $4, you can eat for two days. But, it's not just your normal 'Chinese cart' food, there's weekly specials that could be stuffed chicken or mongolian beef. And to top it off, she adds some kimchee (sp?) and pickled cucumbers at the end. Come with an appetite and early. With your 'entree' you get rice (or lo mein), entree, steamed vegetables (which are always fresh) and the before mentioned kimchee and cucumbers (if you request it).

Edited by robertruelan (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree the Falafel guy on 20th & Market is very good. Most of the time he just makes what he feels like or has on hand. For a sandwich to take to Rittenhouse Sq. there is Anna's on the NE corner of 18th and Chestnut. Anna and her husband Raphi are very friendly. She makes good pita sandwiches with quality meats and good tuna and chicken salad. Nothing fancy, but fresh and enjoyable.

Thanks for the advice about Helen's chinese. Had the boneless spareribs today for lunch. Very tasty, blows away the other chinese carts in town. Enough for 2 people for $3.50. Hope this doesn't make it too crowded over there.

Previn Inc.

Supplier to Fine Restaurants.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"I believe he's closer to 20th & Market than JFK (unless he's moved in the last six months, it is a cart)."

yeah, thankfully i haven't been stuck working as an office temp for a couple years so now i avoid anything just north of rittenhouse like the plague. those sandwiches were bright spots in long days helping international petro-chemical companies avoid paying taxes. not naming names.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, I will start off with my favorites:

1- Freta's.  A huge contributor to my time at Penn, Freta's was rather nondescript, save for the line which always emanated from her cart.  The meatball hero was sublime, and I always enjoyed her egg and cheese in the mornings.

Freta's is a family institution for us (we're a Penn family)! It's been a looong time since I've spent time in U. City; glad to know she's still around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when i was at temple, i imagined that penn was the promised land of food trucks, but now that i am at penn for law school i find them pretty dismal. 

This is so true; I'm incredibly impressed by the variety of the Temple food trucks. The Korean one you mention is rockin' good; there are also a couple of Vietnamese trucks I like a lot.

There's also a Korean truck at 12th and Berks Mall that, in addition to some forgettable Japanese-style dishes and so-so kalbi, has every day a Korean lunchbox special. It ranges from the sublime (a beautiful piece of fried fish, seaweed salad, miso soup, vegetables and kimchi) to downright weird (bizarre thick noodles with a sort of ground pork and chili sauce). What I like about it is that it's defiantly full-on Korean: if it's not up your alley (and it's often not up mine), tough.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've got two favorites up at Penn: the Mexi Cali truck at 37th and Sprice (excellent plantain burrito); and the Yue Kee truck on 38th, south of Walnut (very solid all around, but the Tomato Beef is downright good - and has no business being edible). And Magic Carpet is a standby, of course.

According to Thursday's Food Section, LaBan will be reviewing Yue Kee this Sunday, by the way. Has he ever reviewed a food cart before?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...

According to Thursday's Food Section, LaBan will be reviewing Yue Kee this Sunday, by the way. Has he ever reviewed a food cart before?

Here's the review:

http://ae.philly.com/entertainment/ui/phil...1&reviewId=null

If I'm in the area, sounds like something to try. I don't remember hiim reviewing a cart, but very funny coincidence with this thread.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And Magic Carpet is a standby, of course.

Y'know, I really think I'm the only person in the world who can't stand the Magic Carpet. I don't know why. Their soups, and an occasional special, are okay. But the various fake meat/TVP dishes are bland (and all taste exactly the same), and their Middle Eastern/Greek products are just awful. But obviously I'm in the minority, as the long lines outside the cart indicate. (I will, however, grant them massive credit for their soft drink selection. Lots of good stuff in there.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Y'know, I really think I'm the only person in the world who can't stand the Magic Carpet. 

nope.

well, 'can't stand' is too strong of a statement for my feelings about them. but i don't actively like them. when i was a vegetarian for a few years in college i did, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Y'know, I really think I'm the only person in the world who can't stand the Magic Carpet. 

nope.

Hooray!

well, 'can't stand' is too strong of a statement for my feelings about them.  but i don't actively like them.  when i was a vegetarian for a few years in college i did, though.

A vegetarian? For a few years? Dude, the very foundations of my world are being rocked here...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

hey everyone makes some decisions in their youth that they wouldn't make as an adult... and i learned a lot from that time. and really, thinking back on it, with all the other damage i was inflicting on my body in college, eating healthy (and i did generally eat pretty well; not just pizza and mac and cheese) was probably a good thing.

anyway, my favorite food truck back then was le anh, the big beige truck over by the franklin building. it wasn't that great, but they were nice and cheap and pretty OK. i also liked ali baba, specifically their lentil soup.

but my FAVORITE favorite food truck was a completely nondescript one. it was in front of HUP and had a champ cherry umbrella long after champ cherry ceased to exist. it was run by a very nice pakistani couple, and was open all hours. they had an egg & cheese sandwich for $1, and they gave you a free pretzel with every order. so when you're heading home at 7 a.m. after a loooooong night, for $1.75 you could get an egg & cheese, a pretzel, and a cup of coffee that was about half cream and sugar. what's better than that? i ask you. cheaper than a pack of smokes.

they're still there BTW, in the parking lot between HUP and the penn museum. but they have a different umbrella now.

(actually the only better deal than that was the 85 cent 'dinner' at wawa, where we'd get a chili cheese dog and then go over to the soup bar and take huge handfuls of saltines--eat the chili and cheese with the crackers, then eat the hot dog. ah, college.)

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

anyway, my favorite food truck back then was le anh, the big beige truck over by the franklin building.  it wasn't that great, but they were nice and cheap and pretty OK.

What's funny about Le Anh is that there are at least three Le Anhs. On opposite sides of Spruce St there are the "Real Le Anh" and the "Original Le Anh" (I'd always go to the one on the north side: "original"? can't remember) and yeah, they were always super-nice and super-cheap. Then there's also a third Le Anh at like 36th and Market. I never ate there, though, just glimpsed it, as if it were a rare bird, from afar...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right now, I have only three things to say on this topic.

One is an open comment, which maybe a certain high-up editor may want to consider: If Craig LaBan can review Yue Kee Mobile Kitchen and give it two bells, well, then...

Another is this: I really miss Jow's Lunch. It's sad what happened to those two--and to think that my former employer helped wreck their business. Where's (I can't remember his first name, only that it's long and tricky to spell) cooking these days?

And the third: Obviously, I wasn't in the know when I last ordered from Yue Kee, many, many, many moons ago. I'll have to phone ahead next time I'm in the area.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been digging La Comadre in the plaza next to Franklin Field (33rd and South). It's tasty Mexican food. I usually ask them to make me a custom "taco salad" dish. Say hi to 'Gale' if you visit.

I used to eat at Magic Carpet a lot, but then I finally came to my senses about 3 years ago. No meat? What's the point?! :biggrin:

Also, see these other threads:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=39889&hl=

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=55601&hl=

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still can't believe Laban reviewed Yucky food cart.

After reading the review, it seems to me that Yue Kee is one of those Chinese eateries where the proprietors have two menus: one for the clueless, full of Chinese-food cliches prepared effortlessly (and thoughtlessly), and one for those in the know, which is where the good stuff is hidden (and to find it, you need to know Mandarin or Cantonese or whatever dialect the owners speak and cook).

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading the review, it seems to me that Yue Kee is one of those Chinese eateries where the proprietors have two menus: one for the clueless, full of Chinese-food cliches prepared effortlessly (and thoughtlessly), and one for those in the know, which is where the good stuff is hidden (and to find it, you need to know Mandarin or Cantonese or whatever dialect the owners speak and cook).

Really? I didn't get that at all. Rather, quotes like the below make me think that the good stuff is hidden in plain sight...

I found myself compelled to order and reorder so many of my favorites here that it took an extra dose of hunger and reportorial zeal to explore the farther reaches of Yue Kee's extensive menu. But it did bring some rewards, chief among them the dish that is alternately spelled (depending upon which menu you read) "pork billy" or "pork belly."

... in English. Awkwardly spelled English, but English.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After reading the review, it seems to me that Yue Kee is one of those Chinese eateries where the proprietors have two menus: one for the clueless, full of Chinese-food cliches prepared effortlessly (and thoughtlessly), and one for those in the know, which is where the good stuff is hidden (and to find it, you need to know Mandarin or Cantonese or whatever dialect the owners speak and cook).

Really? I didn't get that at all. Rather, quotes like the below make me think that the good stuff is hidden in plain sight...

I found myself compelled to order and reorder so many of my favorites here that it took an extra dose of hunger and reportorial zeal to explore the farther reaches of Yue Kee's extensive menu. But it did bring some rewards, chief among them the dish that is alternately spelled (depending upon which menu you read) "pork billy" or "pork belly."

... in English. Awkwardly spelled English, but English.

Yup. Everything is on the menu. I must say I don't agree with LaBan on the Singapore Noodles: they may be a bit better than other carts', but not "good" in any absolute sense. On the other hand, the pan-fried pork dumplings can hold their head high anywhere. That chili dippin' sauce is a-f***in'-mazin'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

anyway, my favorite food truck back then was le anh, the big beige truck over by the franklin building.  it wasn't that great, but they were nice and cheap and pretty OK.

What's funny about Le Anh is that there are at least three Le Anhs. On opposite sides of Spruce St there are the "Real Le Anh" and the "Original Le Anh" (I'd always go to the one on the north side: "original"? can't remember) and yeah, they were always super-nice and super-cheap. Then there's also a third Le Anh at like 36th and Market. I never ate there, though, just glimpsed it, as if it were a rare bird, from afar...

Huh. I always pick the Le Anh on the south side. Those northies seem to glop thick brown goop over *everything*. When they did that to Singapore Noodles, I just closed the Iron Door upon them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Huh. I always pick the Le Anh on the south side. Those northies seem to glop thick brown goop over *everything*. When they did that to Singapore Noodles, I just closed the Iron Door upon them.

I had some bad experiences with the south Le Anh. Happened so long ago that I don't even remember what they were, just that I wasn't all that happy with the food, and after that, I went to the other one. Didn't hurt that I didn't have to cross the street that way.

"Closing the Iron Door" sounds like a kung-fu move.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...