Streetcart Confusion

According to Midtown Lunch, my favorite streetcart, the Famous 53rd St. Halal Guys, bought the Shendy’s cart that’s located on the NW corner of 52nd and 6th. That gave them their third location, in addition to their established spot on the SE corner of 53rd and 6th and their second location on the SE corner of 53rd and 7th. Great news not only because it’s a block closer to my office, but also because no one seems to know about this particular branch.

Josh wanted to pick up a quick lunch so I clued him in to the new location, and off we went. I was a bit thrown when I saw that the cart was still displaying the Shendy’s sign and menu, but a quick glance at the cart guy’s sweatshirt and the notorious yellow bags reassured me that we were at the right place. There was no line at all and we had our food in two minutes flat. We looked up the street at the regular 53rd and 6th spot and saw people lined up waiting for their food. We joked around with the cart guy about this “secret” location, and he promised that it was the same food.

The distinctive yellow bags

I took my bounty back to my desk and sure enough, it was the same tasty chicken and lamb over rice, covered in white sauce and a little bit of the super spicy hot sauce. There’s a little iceberg and tomato salad on the side, and a few wedges of fluffy pita bread on top. It’s a ton of food for just $5, and one order lasts me for three lunches. How can you beat that?

Chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce

When I left work late that evening at 7:30 pm, I walked down 6th Ave. and passed the former Shendy’s cart, which had moved further up 6th Ave., in between 52nd and 53rd St. Again, there was no line whatsoever, while half a block up the line for the same exact food was already 20 deep.

Now this is where it gets really confusing. Back when the Famous Halal Guys only had one cart, they parked it on the SE corner of 53rd and 6th during lunchtime, and at night they would move it across the street to the SW corner. Then some other streetcart that was parked on the SW corner during the day started wearing similar yellow sweatshirts but were unaffiliated and serving up different food. Finally Zach from Midtown Lunch set the record straight, and all was well.

A few weeks ago, however, we were at a birthday party for one of Josh’s cousins at Johnny Utahs. Having skipped dinner, we left a bit early (before everyone jumped on the bull, unfortunately), and went to pick up some food at the Famous Halal Guys cart. We got to the SE corner of 53rd and 6th and were about to cross the street when we realized that the same daytime cart was there that night. The line was about 15 deep but moving quickly, since there were actually two carts parked next to each other (one was only doing cooking while the cart next to it handled the orders). We got our food and crossed 6th Ave. and saw the same yellow sweatshirts and yellow bags catering to a line that was about 30 deep.

So my question is, why is there such disparity between the lines at the different carts? As far as I can tell, they’re serving the same exact food. Even if you’re not an avid Midtown Lunch reader like I am, it’s not hard to pick out the distinctive yellow sweatshirts that say Famous 53rd St. Halal Guys on the back, and the even more distinctive yellow bags that no other carts use. These carts are all a block apart, and within sight of each other. A lot of people must have passed the “new” cart on their way to the regular cart, why haven’t they noticed it yet?

And supposing that people simply just haven’t seen the new cart for whatever reason, why doesn’t anyone who works at the other cart let people know there’s the same food a block away, which would cut the line in half? Maybe there are some cart politics that I don’t know about. Whatever the case is, I’m kind of glad that the word hasn’t spread, and so I can pick up the tasty chicken and lamb over rice combo whenever I want without having to wait.

I know that people can be a bit queasy about buying food off a cart in NYC but I’ve eaten at plenty of carts and have never gotten sick. The food is fresh, tasty, and cheap, and if you don’t believe me, ask the other 20 people who are waiting in line for their food.

Famous Halal Cart (multiple locations)
NW Corner of 52nd St. and 6th Ave. (formerly the Shendy’s Cart)
New York, NY

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