Copyright © Tam N.

You’ve probably seen them around the city… Rafiqi’s carts (link is to, a great site to know about), they’re seemingly everywhere, I know of at least six locations (and I think I spotted one in an outer borough the other day). Big carts, usually with a raised stand for their crew (of 2 or even three people) to stand on, red & yellow signage. They sell the basic NYC street food: middle-eastern style lamb gyro & chicken, hot dogs, and Italian sausage. I’ve now eaten at three of the stands: Park Ave & 24th Street (in front of CSFB); Park Ave & 32nd Street (in front of Citibank); and 5th Ave & 14th Street (in front of the New School).

Now that I’m a Rafiqi’s expert (I even know that rafiqi means “friend” in Arabic) I’m ready to talk about them: they suck. There are so many awesome street vendors around NYC, do not go to Rafiqi’s! Except for today, when I went to the one at Park & 32nd, the others have given smaller portions than any other street vendor I’ve tried. At least they only charge slightly more than other street vendors…

However, their food is worse too. Their pita is thinner and not as tasty as other random vendor’s I’ve tried; I couldn’t spy what brand they use, but I didn’t like it– or maybe they just over cook it? Their chicken is cut into ragged, nasty chunks of uneven size with no flavor and a chewiness that compares directly to pure fat or perhaps soft rubber. I’ll give them that their gyro meat itself tastes fine, but they probably buy it pre-made and still mange to ruin it by cutting it poorly.

When I order a platter I’m hoping for salad and rice; I usually pay a bit extra for the pita to be thrown in. I love that most other vendors chop the pita into triangles, to fit nicely in the container, and be easier to eat with a plastic fork and knife. Rafiqi’s doesn’t do that and they only give a fork and three thin napkins. Further their rice is over-cooked and has no flavor, although today mine did contain exactly one pea and one dice of carrot (seriously)! The salad is actually just lettuce with one slice of tomato, I’m not sure if that counts as salad.

And lastly, their yogurt sauce has no flavor; I think it literally is just yogurt in a squeeze bottle. And their hot sauce is pathetic.

So far, my favorite two street vendors that offer competing food are first the guy at 14th street & Park Ave, on the NE corner, in front of the supermarket (the one that’s usually closer to Park; I think there’s a second a bit further East along 14th). And, second, “(The Famous 53rd and 6th) Halal Foods“, which seems to be busiest around Midnight.

p.s. “Poodoo” is an expletive on Tatooine (I’m a geek) that means what it sounds like.

posted by Lon at 12:30 PM Filed under Avoid Like the Plague, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.