Browsing articles in "food cart"
Feb 18, 2015
Jim Benson

Contrary to Post Report, Everything Is Kosher in the Food Cart Wars

Yisroel Mordowitz, the owner of Holy Rollers kosher food cart Yisroel Mordowitz, the owner of Holy Rollers kosher food cart

Yisroel Mordowitz, the owner of Holy Rollers kosher food cart (New York Observer).

In a bid to defend coveted Midtown food cart turf, an all-out religious war between a small group of halal vendors and a new kosher food cart is among us. Or so the New York Post reported in its front-page story on Sunday.

The Post reported The Holy Rollers kosher food cart was forced to move to a new location on West 35th Street and 9th Avenue just days after opening in the Midtown area. In a delicious microcosm of Middle East turmoil, the retreat by Holy Rollers was alleged to be caused by intimidation tactics by the halal vendors, including the vendors blocking the area and shouting religious insults.

On Monday, Yisroel Mordowitz, the owner of the targeted Holy Rollers kosher food cart, contacted the Observer to provide further color on the incident between his cart and the other vendors.

Mr. Mordowitz said the vendors who confronted him at Rockefeller Center area on 48th Street off Sixth Avenue have a history of turf wars for a myriad of reasons.

“The truth is that I’m not the first person they’ve done it to, and I’m not the last person they’ll do it to,” Mr. Mordowitz. “I was hoping that the article [in the Post] would be written in a light that would expose their tactics and I wouldn’t have to take that extra step. What occurred before had nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, or Jews and Muslims.”

Mr. Mordowitz said most vendors don’t behave like those he encountered on 48th Street.

“It’s unfair to maybe make an impression to the general public that anyone with the word halal on their cart would act in such a manner,” Mr. Mordowitz said. “I know so many of them myself, being in the business for a long time, and they would never go to such extents.”

Opening its roller door last week for the first time outside of their usual location in Queens, The Holy Rollers claim to be “the first Glatt kosher meat cart in Manhattan” and cater to a wide range of people, including those who are not restricted to eating kosher.

People lining up on the corner of West 35th Street and 9th Avenue for their kosher lunchPeople lining up on the corner of West 35th Street and 9th Avenue for their kosher lunch

People lining up on the corner of West 35th Street and 9th Avenue for their kosher lunch (New York Observer).

People were already lining up for the kosher cart long before it opened for the first time on West 35th and 9th today.

Nazir, a local midtown worker said he specifically sought out the Holy Rollers because he prefers to eat Kosher for its quality and not for religious purposes.

Chaim Feigen, a volunteer EMT in the West Manhattan area said he was happy there was another food cart option for people to choose from.

“Having this vendor here in this location really diversifies the culinary choices of the working people,” Mr. Feigen said. “The cuisine choices are more heavily biased towards the traditional halal and Chinese stands.”

Having another culinary option for people isn’t the main reason Mr. Mordowitz opened the kosher food cart. Finding a kosher food option in Midtown isn’t as easy as people would think.

“I found some people would resort in their hunger to eating a non-kosher slice of pizza,” Mr. Mordowitz said. “I wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to not resort to that option.”

Mr. Mordowitz said he tried to explain to the halal vendors who pushed him out of the Rockefeller area that his customers probably wouldn’t be able to eat at their carts even if they’d wanted to, due to their religious obligation.

“This is the first opportunity they can walk up to a cart and order a meat sandwich, and they’ve never been able to do that in their life,” Mr. Mordowitz said. “I’m sure many people just like myself who’ve walked past these carts wishing we can just go pick up a quick sandwich and yet we didn’t have the opportunity due to kosher restrictions.”

The support for more kosher options is certainly there, with many people lining up for some brisket or pastrami.

Jack Wasserman, Director of Kosher Catering for Fairway Market, was in line for his order and said the Jewish community would support the business.

Mr. Mordowitz said he hoped this support would extend to other street food vendors and the image of the street food carts wouldn’t be tainted by just a few purveyors.

“I believe that this is a society that we should all be able to chase the American dream and build businesses next to each other in love and respect and peace,” Mr. Mordowitz said. “There’s no room for hate or religious intolerance. None of us are better than any other person. It’s not fair to generalize on a whole group of people just on a few bad apples.”

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Feb 18, 2015
Jim Benson

Food cart confidential

Jeff Krupman
The Pizza Hacker

When his job as a project manager at a website became “a soul-crushing nightmare”, Krupman turned to one of his hobbies: pizza making.

“I broke the oven in my rental apartment trying to hack it to bake pizzas on the cleaning cycle,” said Krupman. The cleaning cycle would heat the oven to temperatures as high as 850°F (454°C). High temperatures mean the water inside the dough escapes quickly, which makes for “the characteristic pillowy crust,” according to Krupman.

“The super high temperature also chars the crust similar to a marshmallow that you allow to catch on fire and then blow out,” said Krupman, who quickly realised he needed to build an outdoor, wood-burning oven. Since his home had a shared yard, he also needed something portable.

So he built his oven using a 22-inch charcoal Weber grill. He lined it with custom stones moulded from refractory concrete and used chunks of hardwood (pieces of old wine barrels or castoffs from a nearby furniture maker) as fuel. Reaching temperatures of 1,100°F (538°C), the oven could bake a Neapolitan-style pizza in as little as a minute. He rolled out his oven for the first time in the summer of 2009.

What he sold: Signature artisan pizzas

Lessons learned: The oven-cart business was cheap to get off the ground and the cart could be set up anywhere, including sidewalks and backyards. “I could move around to different hoods, scenes and events and figure out who I appealed to,” said Krupman. Plus, the grill-turned-pizza oven brought him a lot of attention. “It was a marketing goldmine,” he said. “People loved to see it in action.”

It wasn’t all rosy. “Bad weather was a drag,” said Krupman. In San Francisco, that meant wind, cold and rain. Krupman didn’t have a vehicle at the time, so he had to borrow friends’ trucks or rent one since the oven and all of his needed supplies (wood, dough, cheese, sauce, implements, table) were too heavy to tow on a bike or cart. Storing the oven, breaking it down, setting it up and moving it was difficult.

Oh, and, the whole operation wasn’t legal. Krupman said he was “constantly afraid of getting busted”. One time, he did. At one of his regular weekly gigs outside a bar, a neighbouring business called the health department, which came and shut him down. But the experience ended up working in his favour. Press from the summer, 2011, incident led to a regular pop-up inside another bar (Krupman still does it twice a week, using the bar’s oven.) and a consulting gig for a pizza restaurant. He still brings a portable oven out for catering about twice a month.

What he’s doing now? In December, 2013, with financial backing from friends and catering clients, he opened a restaurant called PizzaHacker in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighbourhood. The restaurant has been profitable from the start, according to Krupman. “We had great early press, and there was a lot of pent-up demand in the neighbourhood.”

In time, Krupman would like to get his signature fast-cook pizza oven into production (he’s done the research, and believes there are a lot of “pizza obsessives” out there who would be interested) — and perhaps open another restaurant. Eventually, Krupman plans to get back to his first love, software, possibly with a pizza-related Web app. (Eric Wolfinger)

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Feb 17, 2015
Jim Benson

Food cart battle intensifies

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Feb 17, 2015
Jim Benson

Food cart battle intensifies

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Feb 15, 2015
Jim Benson

Kosher food-cart vendor says he’s blocked by ‘halal mafia’ in NYC

There is no peace in the Mideast — or Midtown.

A Jewish kosher-food purveyor says he’s being prevented from settling in the heart of Manhattan by the “halal mafia.”

Yisroel Mordowitz insists he just wants to peacefully peddle sandwiches piled high with brisket or pastrami from his Holy Rollers cart in the lucrative Rockefeller Center area, 48th Street off Sixth Avenue.

But a group of irate Egyptian competitors block the kosher vendor from setting up on the sidewalk, literally squatting on the curb or placing umbrellas and beverage cartons to cordon off the space.

“This guy is hungry — hungry for money,” bellowed 48th Street Sabrett-slinger Mohamed Mossad, who along with nearly a dozen others successfully kept Mordowitz off the block. “I have a family, too!”

“Why doesn’t he go to 47th Street?” Mossad shouted, referring to the Hasidim-heavy Diamond District. “He’s just coming to this particular spot, and he wants to grab it from me — and kill me, actually. Kill my business.”

The Holy Rollers adhere to strict kosher guidelines, and their Muslim rivals sell halal food prepared in accordance with Islamic law. For both, pork is a no-no, but there are differences in how meat must be slaughtered and prepped.

Escalating tensions so concerned Avram Wolpin, the mash­giach — or on-site supervisor who certifies food as kosher — that he feared a veritable falafel fatwa. He told Mordowitz he was worried he would “disappear.”

After two unsuccessful attempts to work on Sixth, Mordowitz made his exodus southwestward to 35th Street and Ninth Avenue, near BH Photo, the Hasidic-run electronics megastore.

“I thought I could bring peace to Midtown,” lamented Mordowitz, 30, of Queens. “I’m not an enemy — I’m a friend.”

The Holy Rollers opened without incident on 48th Street on Monday, raked in about $2,000 on Tuesday from tourists and Midtown office workers, but were under blockade by Wednesday.

Halal food cart vendor Mohamed Mossad shouts to kosher food cart owner Yisroel Mordowitz.Photo: Helayne Seidman

“This is not Palestine!” one vendor shouted, according to Mordowitz.

The kosher vender said, “They’re trying to say that the Jews in Israel are pushing people out, so don’t do it here.”

Mordowitz said one rival even followed managing partner Yosef Salzbank around in a Jeep Cherokee, making sure he parked the cart far enough away.

“I said, ‘Why are you terrorizing me?’ ” Mordowitz recalled.

The fighting continues…Photo: Helayne Seidman

But the halal hawkers say they’re not the haters.

“He said I am a terrorist. He says I bombed the Twin Towers. That’s racist,” recalled Mossad, who insisted his objections have nothing to do with religion.

“To me, it’s not about him being a Jew.”

Licenses granted by the city do not specify where vendors must locate, but the city can force vendors to move for a variety of reasons, including being parked too close to a subway entrance.

Intense competition prompts vendors to arrive with their carts by 3 a.m. to claim a spot, with some camping out overnight.

Even though customers who eat strictly kosher food can’t eat halal — let alone a boiled wiener — a peace agreement, for now, seems remote, leaving the cart to wander the Midtown desert.

“Running corner to corner like this,” Salzbank said. “It’s crazy.”

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Feb 13, 2015
Jim Benson

Portland food cart owners arrested for meat scheme

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – The owners of two Southwest Portland food carts were arrested for allegedly trying to buy meat stolen from a nearby Safeway.

Renuka Devi Prasad, who runs Ren’s Bubble Tea, is charged with attempted theft by receiving. Wing Fai Lee, who runs Chop Chop, is facing the same charge, police say.

The investigation started last fall when Safeway started conducting an internal investigation surrounding shoplifters who were stealing meat and selling the items to food cart owners.

Ren's Bubble Tea at SW 10th and Washington in Portland, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Ren’s Bubble Tea at SW 10th and Washington in Portland, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

Portland police said the meat thieves stuffed the packages into their pants to smuggle it out of the store, and then sold it to cart owners at SW 10th and Washington, where both food carts in this case are located.

According to court records, Prasad is accused of attempting to buy the stolen meat on three dates in September, three times in October and twice in November. Records show Lee is accused of attempting to buy stolen meat on seven dates in September, four dates in October and two dates in November.

When reached by phone Monday, Prasad said she could not talk specifics about the case. She described the allegations as “not right.” She said that she did not know the meat was stolen.

Prasad said that the people who sold her the meat came to the food cart and presented it to her. “Everything was done out in the public,” she said.

She declined to go on-camera with KOIN 6 News.

Chop Chop at SW 10th and Washington in Portland, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Chop Chop at SW 10th and Washington in Portland, Feb. 2, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

Around the corner at Chop Chop, the woks were in motion but Lee was not at the site Monday afternoon.

According to investigators, the sale of meat on the black market is an increasing problem.

The county license requires food cart operators to buy from approved sources, such as an approved food wholesaler or produce supplier.

Brett Burmeister of FoodCartsPortland.com said he would guess only a small handful of cart owners use the black market as a source to supply their food carts.

“I never thought about it for the street food scene,” Burmeister said. “But, yeah, I think there are people who buy stuff off the back of trucks just to save a few pennies while the guy next to you is paying full price.”

The county has received no food or health complaints from either cart. In November, an inspector found a violation related to cross-contamination of meat and vegetabled at Chop Chop, a violation that was quickly corrected.

County health inspectors will follow up with both food carts in the wake of these allegations.

Customers at each food cart were surprised. One person said, “It’s a little shocking, but I’m sure they didn’t do it on purpose.”

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Detective Brent Christensen at 503.823-0450 or email him

KOIN 6 News reporter Kohr Harlan contributed to this report.

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Feb 12, 2015
Jim Benson

Glen Ellyn considers food cart rules that limit number, set fees


District 41 superintendent seeks board go ahead for kindergarten plan

The village began exploring food cart policies last summer, shortly after trustees allowed the owners of Sunset Slush to operate a cart between May and September. When the village approved that license, several trustees shared concerns that food carts were not being regulated by local ordinances.

“Last year, there were some questions about where it should be located, would it be safe, how many carts should we have, what should the rules be,” said planning and development director Staci Hulseberg. “But we didn’t really have any.”

As part of the research, Glen Ellyn officials examined food carts in other suburbs where the rules vary widely. Wheaton charges a $25 permit fee, while a cart in Naperville will cost $275 and in Elmhurst it’s $700 — all per year. All of the towns require food cart owners to hold an insurance policy between $1 million and $2 million.

Glen Ellyn’s proposed ordinance limits the number of annual food cart permits to three, which would need to be renewed each year. Applicants still would be required to present a detailed site plan for their carts, get a village license agreement allowing them to use the public sidewalk, and get a separate health permit from DuPage County. They also would have to submit to a fingerprint-based background check through Glen Ellyn Police, a new provision added to the code, and neither the cart owner nor employees can be registered sex offenders. License holders must be at least 18 years old.

Carts can only be for selling food and drink, only can be operated on downtown sidewalks, and cannot include any music, balloons, flags or similar advertising gimmicks. Some carts may need to include garbage storage, if a public trash can is not near the cart.

Glen Ellyn also would require $2 million in insurance as part of the application process, according to village documents.

Heavenly Hot Dogs and Sunset Slush operated carts in 2014, Hulseberg said, and the village has not had any safety or regulation issues relating to those businesses.

Joe Snellgrove, owner of the hot dog cart, called the regulations very fair and said he did not mind the application fee increasing from $50 to $250 a year.

“I think three carts is plenty because there’s not all that much business in town as it is,” Snellgrove said.

The village board would review new applications, weighing factors like how a food cart might affect surrounding businesses and what public safety risks it poses. Trustees are scheduled to review the revised policy at their Feb. 23 meeting.

“You have to (have) the health certificate, you can’t block the sidewalk,” Snellgrove said. “These are all things that are important because it’s a majority of children with their parents who come by the cart.”

cdrhodes@tribpub.com

@rhodes_dawn

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

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Feb 11, 2015
Jim Benson

In the Know: Little red food cart serves Big Dawgs

EAST NAPLES, Fla. – Big Dawgs serves big dogs at its little red food cart in East Naples.

Not only does Bryan Ullom feature nearly a quarter-pound Chicago-style Vienna beef hot dogs, kraut dogs, slaw dogs and chili cheese dogs, but his new business is named after his childhood nickname and features the mug of his English bulldog, Caitlin.

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Feb 11, 2015
Jim Benson

Taste of Poland: Food Cart Review

If it’s been a while since you stopped in, you might be
surprised to discover just how much Cartlandia has become a weird little
world. While most Portland pods remain confined to ever-narrowing lots
and still enforce old-fashioned ideas about stylistic exclusivity, the
self-described superpod is becoming a semi-autonomous village, complete
with a parking shortage, dueling kebab shops and a remarkably diverse
crowd.

Add one of Portland’s
oldest food carts, Taste of Poland, to the mix. Founded in 1995, this
Saturday Market fixture recently opened a new cart back by the electric
boxes.

Taste
of Poland would make any pod better. The couple that owns this place
make their kielbasa and pierogi from scratch every week. It’s classic
Eastern European comfort food—rich, paprika-spicy and coated in dairy.

The kielbasa ($6) is
reason enough to go: half beef, half pork, smoked over alder and cherry,
with lots of pepper and no nitrates. The meat plays nicely with a whole
drawer of assorted spicy mustards even if the buns could stand to be a
little fresher and crisper and the onions could use a little more
caramelization. The pork keeps coming, with tiny crumbles of pink bacon
on top and a warm stew of cabbage with roast pork on the side.

Pierogi ($4 for four,
$9 for 10) are homespun, with mealy mashed potatoes hanging loose
inside the chewy noodle. They’re covered in grilled onions and served
with a quarter-pint of thick sour cream and a little salad of tomatoes
and cucumbers in dill to balance out the richness.

Potato pancakes are
pan-fried until they have a light brown crust and served with more sour
cream and a little applesauce for dipping. With the closure of
Stan’wiches, and Grandpa’s Cafe closed to those who are not members of
the Polish Library Building Association, it’s hard to get housemade
kielbasa and pierogi in this town. Well, now there’s a place, out in the
city’s most dynamic pod.

  • Order this: Kielbasa ($6) and pierogi ($4).

EAT: Taste of Poland, at Cartlandia, 8145 SE 82nd Ave., 863-6924, cartlandia.com.

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Feb 10, 2015
Jim Benson

Food cart overturns on Gowanus Expressway causing rush-hour delays

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A food cart tumbled onto the Gowanus Expressway in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, backing up traffic heading toward Staten Island during the morning rush hour on Tuesday.

The accident at about 9 a.m. prompted responses by members of the NYPD and FDNY who assisted in righting the cart and returning traffic to its normal rush-hour flow after about 40 minutes.

Slick road conditions from freezing drizzle, ice and snow flurries contributed to accidents and delays on the Gowanus in both directions on Tuesday morning.

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