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Andrew Zimmern on NYC Gourmet Food Trucks

Schnitzel & Things NYC

Aimee Herring

The traditional Wiener Schnitzel, made with veal, sells like hotcakes every time it’s on the menu at Schnitzel & Things.

Schnitzel & Things
The Locale:
On the move! Find its location at schnitzelandthings.com or follow it on Twitter @schnitzeltruck.

The Vendors: Brothers Oleg and Gene Voss

The Story: A first-generation Ukrainian immigrant, Oleg Voss grew up in New York City and studied in Paris when he was 16. It was there that he began appreciating food, and in 2002, he enrolled in NYC’s French Culinary Institute and later pursued a business degree at NYU. After graduating, he took a three-month internship in Vienna that later turned into a full-time investment banking gig. However, with the global economic crisis, he was laid off a year later.

Problem Solving: Voss looked to his culinary background, but this time though a business-minded lens. He researched the food scene in the United States and saw an opportunity to enter the market: “I saw the buzz around food trucks. The New York scene wasn’t really saturated with savory trucks . . . competition was nonexistent.”

The Product: Schnitzel isn’t the food you’d expect from a French-trained Ukrainian chef, but Voss thought it was the perfect choice. “Schnitzel is a familiar food to the American palate,” he says. “Who doesn’t like a deep-friend cutlet of meat?” Oleg and his brother Gene began working on the Schnitzel & Things concept in January 2009. The truck hit the streets six months later.

What to Order: The traditional Wiener Schnitzel, made with veal, sells like hotcakes every time it’s on the menu (due to costs, it’s only offered as a special). Regulars rave about the pork schnitzel—an eight-ounce, center-cut pork loin breaded in panko (Japanese bread crumbs). “I don’t think the Viennese would approve of the panko, but I don’t care—we’re putting a new twist on schnitzel,” says Voss. “The panko gives it a crispier, fluffier and lighter texture.” When it comes to sides, go with the potato or cucumber salad. Both are light and vinegar-based, and though the schnitzel isn’t greasy, the acidity cuts the fried goodness perfectly.

Hours: The truck only slings food from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., but the schnitzel team puts in long hours. Their daily prep work begins in an off-site kitchen at 5 a.m.

“We’ve made it” Moment: After only two months on the streets, Schnitzel & Things took home the 2009 Vendy Award (aka the New York food truck equivalent of an Oscar) for Rookie of the Year.

Jamaican Dutchy
The Locale:
Monday through Friday: West 51st Street and Seventh Avenue, Manhattan; Saturday: Parsons Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, Queens; thejamaicandutchy.net, Twitter @Jamaicandutchy

The Vendor: Oneil Reid

The Story: Ten years ago, Oneil Reid moved from Jamaica’s Montego Bay to the Big Apple. He spent his first few years working various jobs downtown and was rarely satisfied with lunch from the city’s street vendors. “I knew I could do better,” Reid says. Three and a half years ago, he maxed out all his credit cards to get the Jamaican Dutchy up and running.

The Recipes: Reid has no formal culinary training; he learned everything he knows in the kitchen from his mother. When he decided to start serving food, his mother’s authentic Jamaican recipes were the natural place to start.

The Menu: The cart begins serving Jamaican breakfast at 6 a.m. If the crack of dawn is too early for liver and onions or akee and salt fish (Jamaica’s national dish, made of salted cod and boiled akee fruit), opt for the daily porridge special. The rest of the day is about jerk and curried meats, all done on the bone. Patrons go nuts over the jerk chicken, but try the curried goat accompanied by rice and peas, plantains and steamed vegetables—it’s spicy and much less gamy than you’d expect.

Biryani Cart
The Locale: Midtown Manhattan, at the corner of 46th Street and Sixth Avenue

The Vendor: Meru Sikder

The Story: Originally from Bangladesh, Sikder came to the United States 17 years ago to study hotel management. He supplemented his day job at a New Jersey Hilton with a part-time gig in a Japanese restaurant. In 2004, he took a baby step toward his goal of opening a restaurant by launching a food truck.

The Concept: At first, Sikder wasn’t sure what to serve. He tried the ubiquitous hot dogs and kebab route, which did a decent business. One year into the gig, he began offering an authentic Indian dish every day. People went nuts over it; he now serves exclusively Indian cuisine, specializing in biryani—rice-based dishes typically topped with savory, spiced meat.

What to Order: Chicken tikka masala was born in London’s Indian restaurants a generation ago, but it is one of the most popular syncretic foods on the planet. Sikder makes it his own with a lighter, yogurt-based sauce. Sikder’s kati rolls may be one of the city’s best examples of grab-and-go. Order the buradi (chicken with habanero-mint sauce) for serious heat or the channai for a Thai-influenced sweet-and-spicy version. The aloo gobi, stuffed with potatoes, is a killer vegetarian option. 

This article has been adapted from the original, which appeared in the September 2010 issue of Sky.

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