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Food Truck Heaven in New York City: Taste of the Caribbean

Photograph: Clint McMahon

New York: America’s melting pot. With a name like that, it’s only fair to expect the city to offer a plethora of cuisine and experiences to its massive number of inhabitants, and New York delivers, spilling foreign and exotic tastings from traditional table settings to the streets of the bustling, well-lit city.

New York may well have been the origin of the American food truck, and it certainly ranks among the highest in current cities catering to the trend. This means that no matter what you’ve got a hankering for, chances are high you can find it on these city streets, even the wide variety of Caribbean food usually tucked in secret cafes in the likes of Crown Heights and Harlem.

New York is a big city, so we’ve done our research to make finding these delectable trucks and carts a bit easier on your poor feet. Take a peek below at what the streets of the Empire State’s main city have to offer those with taste buds for the Caribbean flavor.

New York City is home to about a dozen food trucks and carts with a flare for Puerto Rican, Dominican, Haitian food and the like, but among these “establishments,” including TMT Caribbean Delights, Trinidad and Tobago Cart, and Jamaican Dutchy, five vendors stand out above the rest, whether for their achievements in the yearly Vendy Awards competition or simply raving reviews no one can resist. In no particular order, jot down these names for Caribbean fare in the big city.

Yvonnes’s Jamaican Food Truck

Food Truck Heaven in New York City: Taste of the CaribbeanPhotograph: Phude-NYC

First up, Yvonne’s Jamaican Food Truck. Authentic Jamaican food isn’t terribly hard to find in New York, most especially Brooklyn, due to a large West Indian neighborhood well-versed in cooking up genuine roti, jerk chicken, curried goat and the like. Manhattan’s not so lucky, though, which may be one reason 61-year-old Yvonne has established quite a name for her fare on New York’s Upper East Side, where she can be found regularly at 71st and York.

Yvonne’s super hot sauce, plentiful portions and excellent prices have landed her a solid 4 star rating on Yelp.com, and a place on both CBS Local’s Top Street Meat list and NY Mag’s Cheap Eats: 25 Best Food Trucks. In other words, wherever you are, get to the Upper East Side between 11 and 2 and snag some of this famous Caribbean cuisine.

Trini-Paki Boys Cart

The quest for excellent West Indian fare continues further down the island, with the highly successful Trini-Paki Boys Cart, a creative fusion of Trinidadian fare with Pakistani cuisine, thanks to a literal marriage of the two cultures. Another of CBS Local’s Best NYC Food Trucks, Trini-Paki Boys is the brainchild of a multi-cultural husband and wife team, and boasts a Bake N Shark that features real shark. Trini-Paki Boys are usually situated in prime Midtown food truck feasting area, around 43rd Street and 6th Avenue, and the duo features three different sizes of their various Caribbean dishes, including notably juicy chicken and goat curry. With a raving, 4 star Yelp.com profile, it’s no surprise that Trini-Paki Boys landed the winning spot at the 2013 Street Meat Palooza.

Veronica’s Kitchen

Rest assured the bottom of Manhattan gets its fair share of West Indian grub too, thanks to Veronica Julien and her mobile kitchen. Veronica founded and still operates Veronica’s Kitchen, a Vendy Award Finalist whose authentic jerk chicken and oxtail provides weekday lunches to New York’s Financial District workforce. Another food cart Yelpers are fond of, Veronica’s Kitchen is known for huge portions of genuinely delicious Caribbean chow at low prices of $6-$8 and has been featured in TimeOut New York. Needless to say, if work finds you frequenting, or even visiting the lively FiDi neighborhood, it’s worth a few extra calories to stop in and see Veronica.

Lechonera La Piraña

Food Truck Heaven in New York City: Taste of the CaribbeanPhotograph: James Boo

The Caribbean as we know it isn’t limited to West Indian culture, though, and New York understands that. Enter the next two renowned food trucks with a talent for Caribbean taste. Lechonera La Piraña may well be one of the most popular Latin-based food trucks in the city, and is one of the few that operates solely in the Bronx, an admittedly neglected borough in the rolling food industry. Angel, also known as Piraña, the cart’s owner and chef, livens up an ordinary South Bronx corner with his ode to Puerto Rico and famously satisfying roasted pork. Though he only serves lunch and a late afternoon meal, Piraña is never short on customers, who cover the sidewalks to taste his locally sourced pork and handmade, authentic Puerto Rican empanadas. He’s somewhat of a neighborhood institution, and qualified as a finalist in two Vendy Awards categories this year, including People’s Choice. Need we say more?

Latin Kitchen NYC

Finally, for no reason other than chance, add New York’s newest Latin food truck, Latin Kitchen NYC to your list of Caribbean options in the city. Spawned from a son’s deep appreciation for his Puerto Rican mother’s down-home cooking, Latin Kitchen is the street extension of a 10-year old Bronx restaurant, featured on The Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout. Not only is Latin Kitchen known for yummy Jibaritos, they bring a heartwarming story to the streets with their goods. Founding mother of Latin Kitchen, Mami, was in a terrible accident and pronounced dead; then she came out of her coma and immediately asked who was cooking in her kitchen. With dedication like that and the word of a huge city on their side, Latin Kitchen NYC is a necessary stop for Caribbean fare in New York City.

New York, no matter how glistening, tempting and shrouded in culture, will never be the real Caribbean. Only a fool would make the mistake of assuming it can even get close, but in a city home to numerous transplants from around the world, the food trucks of New York City are doing their best to get close.

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