Posted by: Orlick | June 3, 2010

The First Roosevelt Ave Street Food Crawl – 2009 Wrap-up Article

Here is an article of mine that was not published but suggested by 2 papers. That’s fine because I don’t measure my success by other people’s permissions.

The name is still variable. It’s technically a Street Food Crawl, but Taco Crawl sounds so natural. I have decided to do a 2nd one Sunday, June 27th as part of June in Jackson Heights. The information below is accurate as of this January, but I will be making a new map and a guide for the upcoming crawl.

roosevelt ave steet crawl (29)

We couldn’t have asked for a better day; November 30th was pushing it but I wanted to make it happen before winter settled in. The Roosevelt Avenue Taco Cart Crawl’s aim was to visit every street food vendor along Roosevelt Avenue from Jackson Heights to Corona. The walk is something I do regularly, but I wanted some company and it’s improper not to share; so over 30 of us took to the streets procured by various online sources and word-of-mouth. It’s only a mile and a half, but when we toured Roosevelt, it took us 3 hours to eat our way from 74th through 103rd street.

One of my continuing pursuits is to raise the consciousness of Roosevelt Avenue. There is so much to offer and an endless amount of food and culture to discover. Also, the effect on the local economy is a plus: it’s my own economic stimulus package put to action.

In order not to overload the vendors, we split into two groups. The first became more meticulous, hitting every cart, splitting shares of the bill between group members. The second was more rag-tag, heeding by whim and smell. We arranged to meet afterwards at the spacious, quiet and inexpensive Nueva Villla China (39-10 103rd St) to discuss our findings over drinks. Some were jealous of tales from the other group, and I liked that: it gave them a reason to return for more.

It’s impossible for anyone to be an all-knowing expert on Roosevelt Avenue street food. The carts are constantly changing and there are too many to try. Plus, there’s an existential dilemma whether to be loyal to a few carts or branch out to every tamale vendor under the train tracks. The best way to infiltrate a new culture’s food is to gain a good rapport with the staff, but here it’s too difficult: a quesadilla at Tia Julia on Benham Street is remarkably different from a quesadilla from the ladies on the southwest corner of 75th street, how can I choose just one to spend my time?

Warren Street was a highlight, where at least 4 trucks, 2 carts, and a couple of shopping cart vendors hawk their food. Come on a bright afternoon and the area is a frenzy of grins that just ate the best parts of the pig. National Street stood out too, where a brick and mortar has their own buffet outside selling grilled yams, arroz con leche, pan de dulce and other items not normally seen on the street. The Ecuadorian carts around Elmhurst Avenue are always memorable, commencing with one spread teeterring on a shopping cart which seemingly could fall with a mistaken wind. Her boiling, stewing cart perpetually balanced is proof that God watches over us. And of course tacos. I don’t have a favorite, but Tacos El Consentido on Gleane Street and the al pastor spit rotating, cut up and grilled in front of you at 96th street’s Tacontento should not be missed.

For me, it was an excuse to try the foods I haven’t had before. In the unlikely circumstance it didn’t suit my taste, the plate could be shared by the group, a mistake diluted by others’ curiosity. At the tour, I had sampled tamales, hornado, carne asada and more from other people’s orders. My plates had cesos (brain) quesadillas from the constantly packed cart on 99th Street and freshly made churros whose dough is spat out of a die into a foot-deep fryer at the roaming churro cart caught on 78th street. Also, Chorizo tacos on Gleane Street, a creamy, hot corn based drink, morocho, from one of the four El Guayaquileno trucks in existence, and sweet potatoes casually grilled on National Street.

roosevelt ave steet crawl (24)

Other than a surprisingly stale cemita from a highly-recognizable taco truck, my impression of the area only improved and I’m even more fearless to choose blindly from a street food menu along Roosevelt Avenue. My hope for the aftermath is that members of the group would talk about it, and more people would be willing to expand their boundaries to our glorious streets of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona.

What’s next? A midnight crawl. The night vendors are remarkably different from the day-side ones. More snack foods, police raids and transvestites. It should be fun. For more info, check out

My photo set
Queens Times Ledger Article and Pictures
“Crawling for Tacos” Audio slideshow by Kerri MacDonald

roosevelt ave steet crawl (7)


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