Ever wonder what Philadelphia’s Jamaican D‘s jerk chicken tastes like, or how New York’s legendary Halal Guys combat rivalries with other halal vendors in midtown? Better yet, did you know that ex-Shins drummer Jesse Sandoval runs a Mexican food cart in Portland? All this and more are revealed on VendrTV as host Daniel Delaney captures the best in street food in 7 to 10-minute webisodes. Heeb caught up with Delaney in between shooting for an exclusive interview.
Let’s cut to the chase – why don’t you see any Jewish street cart vendors?
Ah! Tough question. I think I have to answer it in two parts, one factually and one culturally. Factually, that’s not true. There are a number of Jewish carts in places such as New York City, Philadelphia and Portland. I would agree that Jewish street food isn’t as big as it could be and feel it might be partly a result of the culture that was brought over when immigrants settled here. I feel that there was, in New York at least, a large push toward mechanical industries, such as textiles. Other less technically skilled immigrant groups brought over a good amount of food, which has most certainly influenced the landscape.
Do you get paid to do this? (If so you might have the best job in the world).
VendrTV is a bootstrapped startup. We’re self funded and are just starting to break even. So while I’m getting paid, it’s not so much. Profits will come, but they’ll be very modest given the space we’re working in. Naturally though, getting rich was never a goal.
What’s the strangest food cart you’ve come across?
Strange is most certainly in the eye of the beholder. To some, I’m sure that eating cheek and tongue tacos would sound unappetizing and strange, though to others it’s the best comfort food around. I think that one of my roughest eating experiences was from a very dirty Chinese cart in New York’s Chinatown. The language barrier was huge and the food looked days old. I remember her slopping really stringy tripe out of a rancid chafing dish and then cutting the stomach lining apart with a pair of craft scissors. As you might imagine, it wasn’t the tastiest meal I’ve ever had.
In your video from The Magic Carpet vegetarian stand, one of their customers claimed that people who eat vegetarian food are loving and wonderful. Where does that leave us meat eaters? Do you agree with her claim?
First, let me go on the record stating that I am a huge foodie and a voracious meat eater. What I am a big advocate for is buying fresh food in small quantities that are locally produced as frequently as possible.
You went to college in Philadelphia, home of the cheesesteak. There’s the ongoing debate as to whether Geno’s or Pat’s makes a better cheesesteak, are you willing to take a position on the matter?
Hah! My favorite cheesesteak is actually Jim’s on South Street. It was the first one I ever had and still my favorite. I enjoy them most because they chop up their meat, as opposed to leaving it in large, bun length strands that you have to fight with your teeth. Also, they don’t have the same arrogance that surrounds Geno’s and Pat’s…they’re a bit friendlier if you don’t know how to order, though of course I do: "Wiz and American wit." Which, for the rest of the world means: "Hello sir, may I please have a Philadelphia style cheesesteak sandwich. I’d like you to put both American and Cheese Wiz on the bun and then cover the sandwich in grilled onions. Thanks."
When I moved to New York my brother warned me not to buy anything from the "hot nuts" street carts, because they were essentially "roach coaches." What doesn’t the public know about street carts that you think we should?
There are tons of carts that are just disgusting! I could make a whole show out of what NOT to eat on the street. I think that street vending is cleanest and healthiest in cities that embrace vending, such as Portland. Competition makes for better products. Cities that give away vending permits tied to street corners are doing a huge injustice because they’re not enabling a free market society.
How does the quality of street meat differ in America than say, Europe?
Street meat is different from block to block. This is really well illustrated in MidtownLunch.com‘s yearly “Street Meat Palooza." Germany’s DÃ¶ner Kebab sandwiches are definitely what’s missing on the American street food scene. I miss the bread, sauces and spice they use. So much. (I’m getting sad just writing this.)
Catch up with Dan this Saturday at The 2009 Vendy Awards – An intense cook-off between the best sidewalks chefs in New York City for the Vendy Award trophy and the title of Vendy Award winner.
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