Posted by: Orlick | December 8, 2009

Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights Subway Station Carts Guide

This starts my menu translation guide for Roosevelt Ave. A barrier to eating at carts is not knowing exactly what is on the menu. While ordering Cesos(to be explained later) is fun, if you don’t know what it is, then who cares? I will try to translate every unique menu along the Roosevelt Ave street food scene along with any unwritten, but visible, offerings.

Your help is greatly appreciated. If I am mistaken or you would like to add something, please send me over a comment and I will make a correction. Also, please comment any recommendations or experiences with these carts. We need a group effort to get the best food from these stands.


There are usually 2 or 3 taco carts at the 74th street station on Roosevelt Ave. The traffic is tremendous and the taco stands are always busy. I’m not sure which is my favorite, but each one offers something unique.

2 of these carts have translations, making them easy to order from. The third is simple and you can probably figure out what they are selling by cross referencing. But I will lay it all out here.


This eastern-most cart stands on the corner of 75th and Roosevelt. Usually operated by two lovely women. There are two boards of menus:

Tacos de:
Hal Pastor (al Pastor) – Roasted Pork (shepherd style)
Bistec – Beef
Asada – Grilled Beef
Carnitas – Fried Pork
Pollo – Chicken
Cesina – Salted Beef (translates to “jerky”)
Enchilada – Spicy Pork
Lengua – Beef tongue
Tripe – Beef Tripe
Oreja – Pig Ear
Chorizo – Mexican Sausage
Suadero – Boiled Beef (brisket cut)

Quesadillas de: (Quesadillas are 2x as big as a taco. Their focus is on the cheese)
Hongos – Mushroom
Calabacita – Pumpkin
Chicharron – Pork Skin
Tinga – Spicy Chicken
Huitlacoche – Corn Mushrooms
Quesillo – Shredded Cheese
Bistec – Beef
Pollo – Chicken
Enchilada – Spicy Pork
Cesina – Salted Beef
Chorizo – Mexican Sausage

There is also a handwritten board of tamales.

Thanks to the Roving Gastronome for help on the tamales
Tamales – steamed corn dough cooked in a corn husk filled with…
Mole de pollo – chicken in a mole (mOH-Lay) sauce. Mole is a complex, thick sauce. Mexico’s national sauce. There are many varieties. Not sure how they are prepared here, but they are great.
Rajas de pollo y queso – Poblano chiles with chicken & cheese
Salsa verde de puerco – Pork marinated in green sauce. Tomatillos are used in salsa verde – which makes it tangy, as opposed to herby or spicy.
Guajillo Rojo de pollo – Guajillo chile (spicy and a bit tangy) with chicken.
Dulce de pina – sweet pineapple (tamale?)
arroz con leche – rice in milk drink. (rice pudding)
champurrado – thick, hot chocolate-like drink
Burritos – Large tortilla shell, with beans, rice, meat and more wrapped inside.

They also have Sopes, huaraches and more – which the shells are handmade sometimes as you order them.

75th St SW Huarache - shell made in front of you

Sabor Mexicana: This has at least one more location, another under the bridge in Woodside. This location is almost always here. I believe they are man and wife.

In addition to many of the tacos and quesadillas listed above, here are more translations:
Flor de Calabaza – Pumpkin Flower
Champinones – Mushroom
Calabacitas – Zucchini
y todos las carnes – and all the meats

Torta – Sandwich
Cemita – Mega sandwich with cheese
Barbacoa – BBQ – probably goat, could be head of a cow
Tripa – Tripe (probably pig)
Buche – Pig esophogus
Milanesa de Pollo – fried chicken cutlet
Milanesa de Res – fried beef cutlet

El Gallo Giro – Translation: Cock Spin
This cart is usually manned by a younger dude and a middle-aged lady. They are usually there at night and on weekends. There’s a relatively short menu and are sometimes out of ingredients. At first, this frustrated me, but now it makes me think their food is fresher.

The menu is the same but smaller than the other carts.

The only new word is:
Hay – “There is”

Below is a carnitas taco and a bistec taco.

Parts of the cow map – Use to translate
All about Oaxaca’s Mole
Village Voice’s top ten tacos of the summer 2009
Rajas Tamale recipe from Tortilleria Nixtamal, courtesy Edible Queens



  1. Excellent service, Jeff! I never knew what ‘buche’ was. (Nor have I seen it–I guess we get wimpier taco trucks in Astoria!)

    A couple of tiny notes on the tamales:

    Rajas de pollo y queso — ‘rajas’ are strips of roasted poblano chile, usually not a sauce

    Salsa verde de puerco – might be worth noting that what characterizes ‘salsa verde’ is tomatillos, so it’s a tangy green sauce, not an herby one (and not a spicy one)

    Guajillo Rojo de pollo – guajillo chiles are spicy-hot (thought not crazy-hot) and a little bit tangy

    Dulce de pina – this may be a sweet tamale, filled with pineapple. Or it could be a pineapple candy. I doubt it’s a drink.

    arroz con leche – this may be rice pudding, and not a drink, but you’d know better than me!

  2. Each taco truck has slight variations as to how they prepare their tacos and specialize in different areas. El Gallo Giro cooks huge pieces of meat and then chops it as needed which is why you may here that chopping sound emanating from there. Try the cecina or lengua (stewed beef toungue). But be warned that they add salsa verde as part of their standard taco assembly so if you don’t like spice (although it’s not really spicy at all), ask for “no picante”. Sabor Mexicano is good overall (and has the most sympathetic cooks in my view) but I would stay away from the carnitas and bistec (you could find tough, unchewable bits). Their quesadillas really stand out there. Try the chorizo quesadilla with the marriage of 3 different types of Mexican cheeses playing off the sweet and spiciness of the sausage with ever the slightest hint of cinnamon. Also the gordita is wonderful but rarely available made with fresh griddled masa. The eastern most truck with the tamales offers the most variety. From there I like the huarache de carnitas. Huaraches are a big open faced sandwich piled high with all the fixin’s. It could easily provide enough for two. Their carnitas is especially good there with them frying their succulent shredded pork making for a crispy exterior. That’s it for my taco manifesto. We could probably devote an entire message board to debating the nuances of each truck. Jeff…?

  3. Frank -I’m eating a carnitas taco right now – it is Really good. I should probably expand this to include sopes, gorditas, huaraches explanations, etc

  4. jeff, I put a link to this page on the following thread:

    check those two threads about mexican butcher names on the replies, should be helpful for your menu translation guide.


  5. […] you’ve been to the Jackson Heights train station after dark, you’ve probably heard the Gallo Giro taco cart chopping their meat in the window. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: