Friday, February 1, 2008

Be careful with those cats

Marketing isn’t exactly a core competency of the city’s halal grill carts. My current favorite is called 100% Halal Meat, which doesn’t have Madison Avenue slapping its collective forehead and bemoaning that it didn’t come up with that grabber first.

Clearly theirs is a distribution game: Put a cart between customer and street crossing, and they will come. The stretch of Park Avenue between 53rd and 57th boasts three halal options. Further west, you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting one, though that missile may not be a prudent choice, given the caliber of meat used by some. My luncheon co-adventurer Paul Frumkin and I were hardcore fans of a particular stand until we started puzzling objects in the chopped-up dark-meat chicken. I thought it might be either whiskers or a carapace of some sort, but Frumkin, being a Culinary Institute grad, assured me it was merely bone.

Now our loyalties have switched to 100% Halal, a place that distinguishes itself by giving you a choice of six different rices, from what looks like New Orleans dirty rice, to Mediterranean-style rice and spinach. It also leavens the chopped-up grilled chicken with onions and what looks like (and what we pray actually is) peppers. The gyro meat used in the Mixed Grill Platter is actually juice, unlike the jerky-like matter that’s dished out at our spurned one-time favorite. Yet it’s in the same price range--$5 for a polystyrene-boxed platter that should come with wheels.

We opted to try it after detecting the telltale signs of a winner cart choice: A longer line than anyplace else in the immediate locale, and, more important, a high percentage of construction workers on that line. If they did their own guide to local food sources, Zagat would be rethinking its business model.

So what happens if the place you tried because of its line suddenly loses its following? That very thing happened Thursday, but that’s fodder for another post.

1 comment:

sallyann said...

Peter, I would love to know more about your Halal adventures! Myself and a partner are doing a research project on street food carts, in particular Halal carts. We are design students at Pratt Institute and are doing a project on all that is street food. The customer experience, the vendor, the food,etc. I would love to pick your brain and share information. Check out our blog