In this Frugal Friday installment, I check out some vegetarian options at a New York street fair. Street fairs are, depending on your perspective, either a great way for people in a given neighborhood to congregate and socialize, or an unnecessary intrusion on your regular schedule. Either way, two things are clear: (1) lots of vendors are professionals on the “street fair circuit”, going from neighborhood to neighborhood, so you can expect consistency in food choices across events, and (2) there is a good opportunity to get some cheap food. How does it stack up for vegetarians? I tried out the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival to see for myself.
I don’t now remember the price of everything I got, but I got everything discussed in this review for about ten dollars, so keep that in mind as a benchmark.
I started with a slice of square pizza from Valducci’s. This used to be a brick-and-mortar pizza place on Staten Island, but it has since converted into a “food truck only” operation. Apparently it is one of the best square slices around. I’ve had the square slice at Lazzara’s, which is probably my favorite to date. (Hell’s Kitchen Pizza has a good slice, but it’s way too greasy and it made my sister sick.) Valducci’s brough a good effort. I liked that it was not overly cheesy, and the crust had a satisfying crunch.
Corn on the cob is a good standby at any street fair. I got mine just grilled, although you can get them with other toppings (butter, cotija cheese, etc.). Not satisfying as an entire meal, but as a snack the corn on the cob can’t be beat.
My main course, such that it can be called that, was from an Indian restaurant called Basera, on 9th AVe., so this probably can’t be found at other street fairs. The entree was a spinach curry with chick peas. It was pretty good, but I thought the serving size was stingy. I suppose you get what you pay for. The naan bread was just okay, and the samosas were way too greasy.
What you see on the left is an apple tart from Mitchell London Foods. If you’re looking for a gourmet-quality dessert in a street food atmosphere, look for these guys. Frequent readers of the blog know that I am a sucker for an apple dessert, so obviously I got the apple tart. It was probably the best $3 (ish) dessert I’ve had.
In addition to these spots, there was the “mozzarepa” cart. I’ve had these in the past but have not been impressed, although you can certainly find vegetarian variations on the basic corn cake with cheese. The empanada carts are also pretty good for vegetarians; you can usually find at least a couple of options. My wife had an amazing “Romeo and Juliet” empanada with mozzarella cheese and guava. I would have never thought of putting those two ingredients together, but they were great. (I don’t think Empanada Mama gets out to different street fairs, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen empanada carts elsewhere.) So the short answer is, street fairs are a great opportunity to snag some good, cheap vegetarian food — but not all vegetarian street food is created equal, so try to be a little discerning.
Have you had any other interesting vegetarian food at street fairs? What’s your favorite?