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Jan 10, 2008 08:43 AM

Boston street-food favorites?

I have a couple: Speed's Famous Hot Dog Wagon in Newmarket Square, the sausage cart on Van Ness Street during Sox games (the one with sriracha as a condiment option), Sami's, a great but now bygone (I think) Lebanese or Syrian truck near Beth Israel which was open 24 hours: you always saw cops in that line, generally a good sign in my book.

Boston isn't a great street-food town, I guess. The lunch trucks near M.I.T. are pretty uniformly gross, in my experience. Downtown Crossing has a few burrito, sausage and hot dog stands, most of which I've thought were just so-so.

There's plenty of stuff dished out indoors that is typically street food overseas (banh mi and pho joints, the Shanghainese snacks at New Shanghai). Some of our indoor food courts remind me of outdoor food stall clusters like you see in Singapore: most of the Allston Super 88 food court is excellent, as is some of the 48 Winter Street food alley (notably Falafel King). Likewise, the super-fab Chacarero moved from a cart to a window to a big indoor space with seating. Pita Kabob comes close, but it's in a bright, clean indoor space now with a counter you can stand at.

Those don't count: I want something along the lines of an East L.A. taco truck or a Hanoi banh mi stand, places that force you to eat outside standing up, or with a flimsy paper plate resting on a car hood or the nearest newspaper dispenser.


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  1. M&M Ribs for BBQ! I think 9lives had a great photoset about it a while ago:

    1. As you say, street food is very thin on the ground in Boston. The hot dog carts around Downtown Crossing are uniformly mediocre at best, and I've never tried any of the hot nut carts because for some reason the smell puts me straight off. (Also, every time I see the phrase "Hot Nuts," I start singing the dirty R&B song of the same name.) That said, there are some Asian trucks that show up at Asian festivals and fairs that I've had decent luck with. I once got an excellent dry-fried beef chow fun from one at the Dragon Boat races on the Charles, for example.

      5 Replies
      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

        The traveling street food at festivals is a good call (If Slim can widen his criteria to "occasional street food")

        At the JP Worlds Fair there is a truck with Caribean food (patties, goat curry, etc.) and several Indian trucks in addition to the usual sausage, fried dough options.

        Also in JP isn't there a guy with a cart that some of you guys stumbled upon during the JP crawl? I want to say papusas but he might be serving something different. I'm sorry I'm blanking on the guy and his goods.

        1. re: yumyum

          Oh, I've had the patties from that Caribbean truck, now that you mention it. Pretty good, but it's hard to go wrong with a patty, frankly. Even the frozen mass-produced ones can be tasty.

          1. re: yumyum

            They were pastellinos and they were marvelous! Centre Street at Mozart.

            1. re: gourmaniac

              Yes yes yes. Thanks for the reminder.

              1. re: gourmaniac

                the cart was Madego's right outside of Mozart Park in JP. oh, the memories...

          2. While not a cart, Chacarero in Downtown Crossing requires you to stand in two different lines outside, one to order, one to pick up, and eat outside - or carry it back to your office. Chacarero is sort of like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, not in that the staff are jerks, but you MUST know what you are ordering when you get to the front of the line. They won't tell you to leave if you don't but they will quickly get impatient!

            7 Replies
            1. re: onefoodguy

              As I noted above, Chacarero doesn't count: when Filene's closed, Chacarero moved to a bright, clean indoor space on Province Street, and now has an orderly single line and indoor seating. Can't say I'm sorry when it's 10 degrees out. I believe a second location is planned for over near Vinalia.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I obviously did not know that. Thanks for the update. It's been a little while since I've been over there, I'm going to have to venture over and check it out soon.

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  That second location opened a few weeks ago on Arch St..same building as Vinnalia. I think the big flat screen TV dtakes it out of the street food genre; though still great.

                  Herrera's Burritos started as a cart on the Common. They were quite good. I think they went downhill after they opened a real store on Temple St; but they still run a few carts in downtown x ing.

                  There's a guy in Downtown x ing who does a pretty good chicken kebab, in pita or a salad...bteweenMacy's and the old Filene's building.

                  Clam guy at Haymarket on Fri/Sat..non summer season...especially with the new Mexican salsa they've added as a garnish..1 of the shuckers ideas.ggod stuff and made with ingredients purchased within a 20 ft radius..:)

                  1. re: 9lives

                    Second that - my fav! And they will add extra anything - I usually ask for some extra feta - they happily oblige. I get the chicken kabob on greek salad in pita. SO GOOD!!!! Nice guys, too.

                    1. re: 9lives

                      Oh my, I miss the sea cocktails in Tijuana.

                    2. re: MC Slim JB

                      Chacarero actually started out as a cart well before it moved into Filene's.

                      1. re: JRL

                        Some other things have started as a cart and become a restaurant, including the Daily Catch. An old Kendall Square and MIT Pizza Truck (Joe's, and then Joe and Mike's) became a corporate catering business in Burlington (Corporate Kitchen??) and a BU-area restaurant. The Sausage Guy had a retail restaurant on Cambridge St. There was a Cambridge st falafel place which was related with one of the MIT trucks, but didn't last.

                  2. This is a huge gap in Boston street culture - there's not much here. I have still not had a chance to experience the glory of the Speed's dog, since it's nowhere near me and I have severely limited lunch-break time and am T-dependent. I used to be quite fond of the felafel truck at MIT, but that was well over 20 years ago.

                    Sami's is still there - they have a nice little permanent booth now, on the corner of Avenue Louis Pasteur and Longwood, across from the medical school. On the opposite corner of Ave. L. Pasteur I've seen one of the Chinese food trucks, but the one meal I got there was pretty poor.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Allstonian

                      Very happy to hear about Sami's: thanks!

                      1. re: Allstonian

                        Sami's is also now indoors at the Longwood Galleria - a little more convenient during wintertime!

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          I spent a few years during my postdoctoral training working right across from that Chinese truck. Truly a scary place! The line moves quickly and you'd better be ready when you get to the front. "Whatchuwant!!!!" is barked at place your order and, I'm not kidding, a plastic bag with your order is thrust out at you in less than 20 seconds. It's like some ready-made Soylent Green!!!! IIRC, their peking ravioli were passable but everything else I tried was abyssmal. Nice big portions, though ;)

                        2. We've split a thread about Rhode Island street food to the New England Board:


                          Here is a post from digga that was a reply to the split post but pertinent to Boston:

                          "There used to be a permanent cart/take-out shack on Comm Ave in BU's campus (Campus Trolley, I think?). I used to get a chicken kabob lavash wrap loaded up with tahini sauce that I thought was quite tasty. Is it still there?"

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: The Chowhound Team

                            Um, in the process, you also deleted my query about the kabob stand on Comm Ave.

                            1. re: digga

                              Yes, we couldn't split off the RI discussion and leave your post about the kabob stand on the Boston board, which is why we included it in the team post above. If you prefer to repost it yourself, you are welcome to and we will delete the quote in the team post.

                              Discussions about whether or not people eat street food or whether it is sanitary or not is off topic for the regional boards. We've split that discussion to this thread:


                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                My apologies - I didn't open the mod's post. Thanks for the clarification.