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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: http://flickr.com/photos/61246842@N00...

    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 you.....you 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.

                          2. There used to be a guy who sold pretty damn good BBQ from the porch of his house in JP (right around the corner from JJ Foley's Fireside Tavern, near the Forest Hills T station).

                            Haven't seen him in a while though.

                            I suppose Villa Mexico doesn't count, as it's in a gas station.

                            BTW, MC, I've been promoting Siriracha as a great Fenway sausage condiment for years now. More and more carts now have it on their table.

                            1. The Blue Room operates a summer-only take-out stand in the courtyard at 1 Cambridge. I think they also operate a small cart around Lansdowne Street (Kendall Sq, not in Boston), deep in the heart of biotech country.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: digga

                                And doesn't the Cambridge Formaggio have a grill or BBQ on the street in summertime?

                                1. re: Allstonian

                                  They have a grill on Saturdays, although its really heavy on the brioche, niman ranch, etc (they were out until Thanksgiving this year). As much as I love Formaggio's sandwiches, the only thing I liked about their "que" was a nice level of spicing.

                                  1. re: Allstonian

                                    Every Saturday from Spring until late fall.

                                    Although, they will be having a special BBQ on the Saturday of Superbowl weekend.

                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                      (Sorry to echo digga's post, but I missed it before I posted this. I can add some value: it's at One Kendall, not 1 Cambridge.)

                                      This reminds me of the sort-of-street food that is The Blue Room's warm-weather weekday lunches, which are cooked and served in their sunken patio outside. Delicious and a pretty good deal for a plate of grilled flank steak or fish or quesadillas for about $7 with two good sides (wilted greens, rice, beans), and $1 for real lemonade and iced tea.

                                  2. If I recall correctly, bahn mi really caught on in chinatown only after the truck that was at the bottom of the old chinatown eatery was a smashing success. Everyone else followed in their foot steps. If it weren't for the remodeling of that building, I guess they'd still be in business.

                                    I also like the Haymarket clam guy, though it's been ages since I've been. Kudos if he's still there. I do like those sausage guys around Fenway during ball season, and when they seem to come out of nowhere for the North End festivals.

                                    I actually don't even like outdoor seating at restaurants, let alone the cart with no napkins, water, etc. It makes for messy and dirty streets, and I really don't want to think about the whole questionable food preparation aspect.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: kobuta

                                      What makes you think that food preparation right out in the open where you can see it being grilled with your own eyes is any more questionable than what goes on in an out of sight kitchen at any restaurant?

                                    2. Unfortunately Boston is not a city that lends itself too well to truck food -- both weather and parking wise, which I think puts somewhat of a damper on it. There is a decent variety on the festival circuit, with some more local twists like fried calamari, which differentiate us slightly from the usual State Fair bloomin-onion tilted fare of these days.

                                      There are a number of catering trucks that service job sites, some with pretty lousy food, some with decent food. Its not overseas street food: pre-packaged stuff, italian meatballs/subs, etc. I did hear of one latino catering truck.

                                      In nice weather Dom's Sausage takes their grills outside (although they are gas fired, so its not any different from their indoor charbroiler) for lunch.

                                      There are some Brazilian home-based businesses which cook up large groups of lunchboxes to deliver to job sites. (These are obviously mostly underground and I know some salgadinho vendors which got in trouble based on a globe article where I offered some contacts so not posting any hints.) There are two Baianas that in addition to selling at festivals, sell acaraje from time to time in night clubs. In addition to anglo bars having a tradition of back porch BBQs, Sammy's in Revere does the american and occasionally a Brazilian themed BBQ on its porch. The festas juninas that I post each year are the most chowish of Brazilian festivals, although if you stay in the camping section of the Brazilian Rodeos you would be surprised at their tailgating type traditions (I once ran into some Brazilians from Bridgeport CT who towed up a 275 gallon oil tank, cut into a grill, and were cooking whole racks of beef ribs for 8 hrs over low heat!)

                                      If you go to soccer fields on Sundays where Salvadorans play, there are often women that sell pupusas (one place used to be above Danhey park in Cambridge). Outside the afternoon latino Mass at Saint Mary's in Cambridge, there also used to be a cart with pupusas, tacos. The Club Lido complex has the usual italian Sausage vendors, but often times dominican and central american fare outside at 2am. There is a taco stand in a glorified trailer near the Chelsea Produce market.

                                      For what I frequent: Its probably occasionally The Blue Room, Speed's, Haymarket shucker, the Italian Express outside Home Depot (convenience, although decent meatballs and piantedosi bread). Very rarely Jose's truck at MIT (its improved a lot, compared to before, although Taqueria La Mexicana is sooo close).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: itaunas

                                        Is this pupusa action around Danehy on Sundays still happening?

                                      2. MC, Sami's is now in the Longwood Avenue food court. My GF loved that place when it was outside (she used to work in one of the hospitals around there) but hasn't been since they moved inside. I've never been, so I'll have to take both of your words for it.

                                        P.S. Of course, I should have read all of these before posting. I noticed that Allstonian already mentioned this. Doh!

                                        P.P.S. I really want to try Fred's Franks in Wakefield. Has anyone tried his dogs? I'm assuming he's closed down for the winter(?).

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                          Actually, I posted about the mini-building over across from HMS - I didn't even know that they had a counter in the food court. (I work at the Brigham, at the old PBB end of the hospital, so I don't go down to that end of the campus often - the walk alone eats up too much of my short lunch break!) The Sami's stand that I've patronized defintiely serves its food outdoors!

                                          1. re: hiddenboston

                                            Tried Fred's Franks once. He's not Speed's (heck, nothing else is), but thought he was very good, well worth it if you're in the area. I'm pretty sure he has a web site where he says when he's around -- when I asked him how late into winter he stays open, he said pretty much until the snow gets too deep. He may well be open now.

                                            1. re: hiddenboston

                                              I had Fred's Franks this summer - the dogs are much smaller than Speed's, but the same brand, just a different way of cooking them. Anyway, they're quite good and the condiment bar means you can make anything you like of them. I think they're only $2.50 or so?

                                              1. re: gini

                                                Fred's has both a 1/8 and 1/4 lb dog, vs the 1/2 lb marinated dog from speeds. Some interesting spicy condiments, good snap on the small dog (I preferred to the 1/4), and sausage options, worthwhile but not the Speed's experience.

                                                1. re: itaunas

                                                  Fred says on his website he is shooting for a Patriot's day opening.
                                                  Also, he is looking into offering pulled pork on occaision.
                                                  Still using The Big Green Egg BBQ with hardwood charcoal.

                                            2. What ever happened to Chicken Lou's home of the Chicken Lou at Northeastern? His food was edible.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Guinness02122

                                                I wonder if that's the cart that was outside the building where they held most of the MBA classes. If so, I do remember it fondly. I used to often get some kind of chicken wrap for lunch there but ugh, that was over ten years ago!

                                                1. re: lissy

                                                  Back in the late 80s/early 90s, it was a cart/truck. But there was a fire and it was rebuilt in the early 90s. It's located between the law school building and the pool building. Across the street from the new gym.

                                                  Food was sort of edible but convenient.

                                                2. re: Guinness02122

                                                  Chicken Lou's actual building is still on Forsyth street on the NE campus. Not sure if they have a cart somewhere nearby.

                                                  There's a walk-up place that makes wraps on the Longwood Ave end of Louis Pasteur, but I haven't tried it yet.

                                                  1. re: steve999

                                                    That's Sami's, mentioned elsewhere in this thread. They're pretty good! I like their rice dishes as well - they have a couple different ones, Middle Eastern comfort food for us rice lovers.

                                                    1. re: steve999

                                                      There's a falafel truck on campus that's pretty good; tried the falafel at Sami's recently, not so good. I haven't seen a Chicken Lou truck.
                                                      Ruggles has a permanent Jamaican patty stand inside, near Dunkin's, it's good, and service is nice! He sells dogs, too.

                                                      1. re: beachmum

                                                        I had the worst lamb shawarma of my life at Sami's cart recently. Little gray strips of meat, with a boiled/steamed texture, shreds of flavorless lettuce, a couple of wedges of hard tomato, all wrapped in a cold flatbread. It was pretty much inedible. I took a couple of bites, then threw it away.

                                                        1. re: FoodDabbler

                                                          Yep, as I noted in my Phoenix review some time ago, Sami's (the truck) shawarma is bad: made up the street at the food court location, cut early in the morning, kept on a steam table all day. As a rule, I don't order shawarma unless they cut it to order off a rotisserie.


                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                            Thanks for the link. Next time I'll try some of the other things you mention.

                                                  2. Whatever happened to that hotdog stand that was to open at Harvard or Porter Square? I thought they'd gotten an ok from the city/transit people to do that.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: steinpilz

                                                      He was closed down by the MBTA because they don't allow vendors to use propane on their property (or something like that).

                                                      1. re: DavisSquare

                                                        I was by Porter Square on Thursday and saw the hotdog guy there, between Mass Ave and the T entrance (around 5pm), so things must have gotten worked out.

                                                        1. re: steinpilz

                                                          Ultimately Dave was not able to stay open. The good news is that Dave and Wendy sell a version of that dog at Scup's.

                                                    2. The halal stands all over New York City are great for a quick bite. Can't we get a couple of those downtown somewhere?

                                                      Boston has zero street food presence: something about a lot of rich people being terrified of foreigners and blue collar joes, I think.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                        I wonder if City of Boston licensing for food carts is difficult/expensive.

                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                          Boston is run by the NIMBY crowd. People who will fight like hell against anything new/different/unusual if there is the slightest possibility it will change one iota of their daily lives.

                                                          1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                            That might be generalizing a bit much. The South End neighborhood associations are generally very supportive of local restaurants that want liquor licenses, patio seating, or extended hours, even though it can mean additional traffic, parking hassles, and loud drunks walking by at 1am or 2am. Some Bostonians are willing to make tradeoffs.

                                                      2. Some folks do a decent business on Columbia Road in the summers, selling plates from a few card tables and cars. I haven't stopped yet -- will next summer -- but a friend told me it was good 'island barbecue'. Whatever that means. It's about 3/4's of the way down towards Franklin Park, in front of Ceylon park -- some baseball diamonds, just after Ceylon Street. I can't tell if they're cooking on-site, but there are definitely some 50 gallon drums in evidence. Or, there were. This is very vague -- I'll re-post next summer after I've actually tried it. Or, beat me there and let us all know!

                                                        1. 3 Things:

                                                          1. Herrera's also has a place inside the MA transportations building now, so you can sit down, their tomatillo hot sauce is the best.

                                                          2. That huge street fesitval in the North End (feast of St. Frances or something in August) has amazing seafood. Clams and oysters on the half shell especially, wicked cheap and fresh.

                                                          3. A thought to ponder: an attorney I once worked for who was a huge foodie told me he thought food was a pyramid and the reason why NY had such a strong food culture was that it demanded high quality from the bottom to the top. That having amazing vendors and delicatessans set a higher bar for each layer of dining above it, and that had lead to having so many really good really high end places to dine there. I think it may be indicative of the food culture in Boston that with weak links at the bottom of our restaurant pyramid it's no wonder we struggle on the top end as well. I'm definitely NOT NOT NOT saying there aren't amazing places in Boston, I just think it speaks to the more limited number than you would find in other cities our size.

                                                          1. New cart open across State Street from the Old State House offering grilled chicken kabobs. I had a $5.50 pita wrap which was filled with a chicken skewer and lots of fresh veggies, some garlic/yogurt sauce and hot sauce. It sort of fell apart at my desk, chicken was a bit dried out, but still yummy.

                                                            1. I was walking downtown last week between the boylston street stop and Downtown Crossing and I walked right past a NYC style genuine HALAL CART! I did a double take. Unfortunately I had just eaten. Has anyone tried it yet? Was it a mirage?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                                Hey, tamerlanenj - Could you give more specific street directions? Was it on Essex (corner where Boylston T is down to Washington), Temple, West, or another side street, or on Washington or Trmont? Here's a link to a map, to help! http://www.mapquest.com/maps?city=Bos... (increase the size one notch, for street names...)

                                                                1. re: fredid

                                                                  it's called black seed express and it's on the corner of washington street and boylston street. small menu offering falafel, kebabs, and wraps. i assume they're affiliated with black seed cafe on tremont street

                                                                  1. re: galangatron

                                                                    If it's the same operation, nothing to get too excited about, unfortunately.

                                                              2. At Kendall Square, there is an amazing food truck called Clover with vegetarian food. There are fresh made teas and lemonades, fries with rosemary, fresh side salads and about 4-5 sandwiches. My personal favorite is the chickpea fritter. In the colder months, they serve soups and hot cider. They also serve breakfast including fresh baked muffins, popovers and yogurt parfaits (more at: www.cloverfoodlab.com).

                                                                1. Courthouse Fish Market on Cambridge Street in East Cambridge for their lobster rolls and whol belly fried clams! Delicious!

                                                                  Courthouse Fish Market
                                                                  484 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02141

                                                                  1. Anyone ever tried Renaldos Pizza truck on Harvard street in Medford?