There’s no shame in a quick, fork-less bite on the go from a food truck. In fact, historians claim that satisfying and affordable handheld street food has been a thing since civilization’s earliest days. It’s believed vendors in ancient Greece sold small servings of fried fish to the hungry masses, and early Romans who were too poor to own an oven actually depended on street food for sustenance. Even the Aztecs were in on the game, hawking maize-dough gruel and tamales in their marketplaces.
Today, street food and food trucks are more popular than ever, in every corner of the globe, and much of their crowd-pleasing output has found a permanent home on the menus of fast-casual eateries and sit-down restaurants, where utensils are offered but not always necessary.
Most common on the streets of Northern India, this hearty offering consists of spiced, pan-fried potato patties smothered with savory chickpea curry, sweet chutney, and yogurt. At Masala Kraft Café, in Hartsdale, patties are also topped with crunchy noodles, diced onions and tomatoes, and two chutneys: sweet tamarind and fresh cilantro with mint. “Chaat means tangy, sweet, and sour all at once,” says owner Jasumati Vaghji, “and our combination of chutneys provide a different flavor in every bite.”
A sandwich is typically not the first thing that one craves when dreaming about Asian delicacies, but due to the French occupation of Vietnam from the late 1800s to 1954, this hero-style handheld can be found in practically every Vietnamese city and village today. Thin, airy baguettes are traditionally layered with pork belly, grilled chicken, or sausage, plus veggies and mayo-like condiments, but at the The Banh Mi Shop, in White Plains, sammies are also stuffed with fried shrimp, catfish, or chicken; grilled tofu or short ribs; or roast ham, along with veggies and a spicy schmear.
Born in the French region of Brittany and popular across France and Belgium, these paper-thin, pancake-like pastries are piled with sweet or savory ingredients and rolled into a tantalizing cone d’heaven. At Stevie’s Crepes and Waffles, in Yonkers, close to 20 sugary crêpes grace the menu, and owner Stevie Hasou plans to double that number with “crazy creations by customers,” like the Flintstone, consisting of marshmallows, Fruity Pebbles, and vanilla syrup.
A regular on appetizer menus across cultural cuisines, the early incarnation of this Latin American street nibble was sweet, but today, savory fillings are much more common and in demand. At Port Chester’s Panka Peruvian Bistro, empanadas are made fresh daily, fashioned from either beef or chicken, depending on the whim of the kitchen.
A ubiquitous edible in the UK, the fried-fish concept was actually introduced to the Brits by Portugal and Spain, and cod remains the marine delight of choice. However, at The Tap House, in Tuckahoe, fresh fluke is the main catch, moderately coated with Captain Lawrence pale-ale beer batter and served with malt-vinegar mayo and fries. “It’s light and flaky, and it’s been the same for 13 years,” says managing partner Chris O’Brien. At Brother’s Fish & Chips, in Ossining, customers have a choice of fried cod, bass, or flounder.
Diners seeking a truly immersive street-food experience tend to patronize restaurants on wheels, like the Gyro Uno Food Truck, where authentic, fire-roasted, seasoned beef gyros “start out in the traditional Greek way, reminiscent of what they should be, but we take them to the next level, with potent and bold flavors,” say owners Mishel and Matt Spiri. Formerly a familiar sight at office parks across Westchester, COVID-19 caused the Spiris to pivot to mostly catering orders, but they hope to roll again soon.
Let’s be frank: It doesn’t get more “street” than your all-American hot dog, and at White Plains’ The Dog Den, the draw is the staggering array of toppings “from classic to fantastic, [for] some fun on a bun,” according to owner Dennis Rubich. Think: typical chili, cheese, bacon, and onions, plus out-there options, like guacamole, fried pickles, crushed corn chips, and Dalmatia fig jam.
The national dish of Georgia, this cheese-filled, boat-shaped bread is also popular on the pavement of Russia and Armenia. At Mount Kisco’s Badageoni Georgian Kitchen, it’s made in the traditional manner, with an assortment of Georgian cheeses and a yolky egg atop light and airy dough. “It’s filling but not heavy,” says owner Inga Duignan, who also serves it with beans or seasoned minced beef.
France and Belgium have long been at war over who invented fries, and there’s no shortage of them in either country, where the crispy strips are twice sizzled, then served in a paper cone. Jason Steinberg, owner of Saint George, in Hastings-on-Hudson, offers a menu of reworked French classics and says his outshine others on this side of the pond because of his tabletop electric fryers: “They’re for potatoes only, so the [canola] oil is very clean, and the batches are small.” A dusting of simple kosher salt is the finishing touch.
They’re not giving away any culinary secrets at Valhalla’s Mughal Palace, but suffice it to say, the popular triangle-shaped pastry is derived from what owner Mohammad Alam calls “a special homemade recipe from India.” The vegetarian varietal of this satisfying finger food is filled with potatoes, green peas, and spices, while the meatier option is with ground lamb and fresh house seasoning.
Sharing menu space at pubs, diners, even seafood restaurants that don’t normally cook with Mexican flavors, this omnipresent street staple is in abundance at Tuckahoe’s Rio Bravo, where owner Eliseo Martinez is “just happy that so many people like them.” Sellouts include shells stuffed with imaginative and seldom-seen ingredients, like Korean short ribs, bacon-wrapped shrimp, crispy calamari, or shredded turkey carnitas. There’s even one called, simply, “street taco.”