Perry, the man behind New York Street Food, brings you his latest review on New York City food trucks.
The grilled chicken over rice dish from Carnegie John’s is our pick for the best street vendor chicken dish in Midtown.
Carnegie John’s cart on West 56th St just east of 7th Ave has been around for more than 10 years. It sits by the backstage entrance to Carnegie Hall, which is where his name comes from.
There are a few things that set Carnegie John apart from the chicken over rice at most other street vendors.
First, it costs $6.50, which is not unusual, but John uses only whole white-meat chicken breasts, which are rubbed with his own blend of spices. Most vendors use a mix of white and dark meat, and sometimes you get funky stuff like fat or gristle in the meat. Not here with chicken breasts.
Second, there is a charcoal grill at the cart, in addition to the standard flat top grill. This gives John’s chicken that extra edge of charcoal grilled flavor.
Third, John’s white sauce is real tzaziki sauce made with yogurt and cucumber. It’s much thicker and tastes much better than the mayo-based white sauces served at most of the halal carts. It’s healthier too.
Even the rice and salad is good. John’s yellow rice has a soft, buttery taste, although it could have been cooked a little less.
The salad was lettuce, tomato and radicchio with a light Italian-type dressing that was nice and refreshing at the end of the meal. The salads at most street vendors are pretty lame, but John puts effort into that too.
The only downside is John’s hot sauce isn’t that hot.
Carnegie John’s is always busy at lunch, even on rainy days, and he has a remarkable ability for keeping at least half a dozen orders going at once, and everyone’s order straight. I don’t know how he does it.
In my opinion, Carnegie John serves the best grilled chicken over rice in midtown, but he also serves a great burger, steak sandwiches and Italian sausage & peppers.
Carnegie John is an “old school” street vendor in the best sense of the term. He doesn’t tweet or have a website, but if you go to West 56th St right behind Carnegie Hall, you will be treated well and walk away with a delicious, inexpensive lunch.