Hundreds of mobile eateries hawking gourmet global cuisine occupy corners across the city, alongside traditional hotdog vendors and halal carts.
Here are some of the best when you travel here:
King of Falafel & Shawarma
Halal carts slinging styrofoam plates piled high with falafel, shawarma and rice are ubiquitous in New York, but you’ll recognize “the King” by the seemingly endless line crowding the sidewalk beside it.
Originally a Queens staple, the cart dominated the corner of 30th Street and Broadway in Astoria for almost a decade before it won the Vendy Award for New York’s Best Street Food in 2010.
Now, its second cart in Midtown Manhattan peddles its famous falafel and shawarma to the masses, in addition to meaty plates like the Freddy’s Junior: chicken, kefta and basmati rice topped with chopped onion and doused liberally in tahini and chile sauce.
King of Falafel & Shawarma; 53rd Street and Park Avenue; +1 718 838 8029
Bessie, Milk Truck’s sunshine-yellow food truck, is a welcome sight for hungry New Yorkers during lunch hour.
Every day, the truck’s perpetually cheerful staff hawk classic American comfort foods like mac and cheese and turkey chili.
The most popular item by far is the grilled cheese sandwich.
There are three variations: the classic, the classic with onion and mustard, and a hearty three-cheese version with apple.
Despite not having a regular location – Bessie’s daily whereabouts must be tracked online – Milk Truck has become a fixture in the New York street food scene thanks to its fiercely loyal following.
Milk Truck; locations vary; +1 646 233 3838
Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck
New Yorkers don’t need to go to New England for a good lobster roll.
Thanks to Big Red, Red Hook Lobster Pound’s lobster shack on wheels, they only need to walk to the curb.
Rolls come Maine-style, served cold with mayo, or Connecticut-style, served warm with butter and lemon, each stuffed with a quarter pound of fresh Maine lobster.
Despite a price tag high that’s high for the streets – $16 per roll at the time of writing – the truck still sells between 300-400 rolls every two hours.
Red Hook Lobster Pound Food Truck; locations vary; +1 718 858 7650
Though Lumpia Shack has recently upgraded to its own brick-and-mortar, its original location at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg street food market still remains.
Lines form before the tiny street stall as early as 11 a.m. each Saturday for lumpia, crispy, Filipino-inspired spring rolls. Each roll is made using locally sourced ground pork, roasted duck or truffled adobo mushrooms, hand-rolled and then deep-fried.
Unlike regular street food, Lumpia Shack’s plating is restaurant quality: the lumpia are arranged artfully on a tray, drizzled with homemade sauce and garnished with pea shoots and pickled vegetables.
Lumpia Shack; Smorgasburg at Kent Avenue and Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; +1 917 475 1621
Dirty water dogs
Sometimes it feels like almost every other Manhattan street corner is dressed with the ubiquitous blue and yellow striped Sabrett umbrella, under which you’ll find New York’s most iconic street food: the dirty water dog.
Named after the warm, salty water it’s soaked in, the hot frank is served in a soft bun (which sops up residual water) and then topped with ketchup, mustard, onions, relish and sauerkraut.
It’s neither sophisticated nor gourmet, but it’s the quintessential New York food experience.
Culinary heavyweights Anthony Bourdain, Marcus Samuelsson and Martha Stewart are all said to be fans of Vendy-winning Solber Pupusas, and it’s no wonder.
Husband and wife owners Rafael and Reina Soler-Bermudez (“Solber” is a portmanteau of their last names) have been making the stuffed Salvadoran corn tortillas in their tiny mobile pupuseria for more than 15 years, selling more than 600 on a regular day.
The signature platter comes loaded with two pupusas, tangy curtido, pickled jalapenos, tomato sauce and sour cream.
Served on banana leaves with a tangy slaw, the Salvadoran tamales are also crowd favorites.
Solber Pupusas; Brooklyn Flea Market at Lafayette Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; +1 516 965 0214
Unlike California, New York isn’t renowned for its Mexican food, but the city has stepped up its game in recent years, thanks in large part to Calexico.
What started out as a lone taco cart in SoHo in 2006 – one of New York’s first – has since grown into a fleet of carts across the city and a handful of brick-and-mortar locations.
Its original SoHo cart remains its most popular location, still slinging soft corn tacos cradling slow-cooked chipotle pork, hearty bowls of jalapeno cheddar grits and burritos packed with beer-battered fish, beans, rice and Monterey Jack cheese.
Calexico; Prince Street and Wooster Street; +1 646 590 4172
Bolivian Llama Party
Traditional Bolivian street food staples can now be enjoyed on the streets of Brooklyn thanks to this popular Smorgasburg stall.
Though saltenas – crusty, empanada-like pastries filled with meat and vegetables –are easily its best-selling item, the chola slider is the real star here.
The modern take on the humble sanduiche de chola comes stuffed with either pork or beef brisket and topped with hibiscus-pickled onions, carrots, kolla cheese and parsley.
Bolivian Llama Party; Smorgasburg at Kent Avenue and Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn; +1 347 395 5481
Breakfast cart bagels
New York boasts many terrific brick-and-mortar bagel shops, but you won’t get a cheaper or more authentic breakfast than a bagel and coffee from a street cart.
Every morning, locals file out of the subway and make a beeline for the nearest silver breakfast cart, whose narrow shelves are stocked high with bagels and pastries of every kind.
Many pre-prepare their bagels for convenience, but most carts will make your bagel to order.
Coffee, usually deli-quality, is served in small blue-and-white Anthora cups that have become as characteristic of New York as yellow cabs and dirty water dogs.