Rafiqi’s Tries To Intimidate New Mexican Cart From 49th Street


I stopped by the new, second location, of the El Rey del Sabor cart yesterday (on 49th btw. Lex+3rd) and discovered a few little tidbits.  First, for those of you wondering what happened to the teriyaki/udon cart that popped up in that same spot a month ago… the new Mexican cart is the ramen cart.  The El Rey del Sabor people bought the udon cart (and the spot, in theory) and converted it into a second branch of their popular Mexican food cart (the first one is on 60th and 3rd).  The teriyaki guys gave no reason for wanting to sell their cart after only a month and a half, but the El Rey del Sabor people suspect it might be because they were intimidated by the street meat vendors in the area.

The same intimidation El Rey del Sabor has been feeling since setting up shop two days ago on that corner.

The lady who used to assist at the cart on 60th and 3rd is running the show on 49th & 3rd right now, touting her 25 years of experience working in a Bronx shish kebab cart as necessary to successfully navigate through the murky waters of Midtown.  She says the threats have already started from the neighboring street meat vendors, most notably from the Rafiqi’s cart on 50th and 3rd.  But unlike the two Chinese guys who ran the udon cart, she’s not afraid- and plans to soldier on.  Having two big Mexican dudes in your cart who “aren’t afraid of nobody” probably helps.  She said there was no violence yet, but according to a Midtown Lunch commenter, the cook at the original El Rey del Sabor cart on 60th and 3rd was telling a much different story yesterday:

I went to the 60th street cart today. The reason they weren’t there yesterday is that they got in a big rumble with the halal guy near the new cart they are opening (49th and 3rd). The guy threw their food around and generally tried to intimidate them so they wouldn’t open near him. Luckily our friends stood their ground and threatened to kick the guy’s ass.

These cart fights are nothing new, but usually involve a new vendor trying to sell the same food as a nearby stand. For example, The Treats Truck was threatened by a Mister Softee truck when she first opened. (Both desserts I guess?) Usually they’ll let it slide if the food is completely different (as was the case with the Carribean Spice cart on 46th btw. 5+6th) but I guess that isn’t the case here. What bothers them the most is that the Rafiqi’s cart isn’t even on the same block!

According to the El Rey del Sabor lady, the Rafiqi’s crew threatened to set up a cart right next to her if she decides to stay. Her response: “Go ahead and do it. And then we’ll see who has the best food. I am not afraid.”


  • I’m normally a fan of street meat, but that is just ridiculous. Like Zach mentioned, it is a) not the same food, and b) not even on the same block. El Rey should file suit or call the cops or something.

    More reason to choose the new Kwik cart (on 45th/3rd) or XPL (48th/3rd) for your chicken/lamb over rice needs! Heck, walk over to 50th and Park instead for the tastier (but no-name) cart.

    There should be a ML-led boycott of Rafiqi’s (lead the charge, Zach!).

  • Zach! I love japanese teriyaki. When I lived in Jersey City I literally ate Sarku everyday! When you wrote that entry about the japanese cart I was excited but in the entry you said it was between 5th and 6th ave. Now you say it was on 3rd!?!? You fool! Oh well, I love the new mexican cart. I’m gonna head over to Rafiquis and give them a piece of my mouth for threatening an old mexican lady. Midtown lunch boycott on Rafiquis effective immediately!

  • Man why must the two chinese guys be so easily intimidated…

  • This is some bullshit they need to head over to modells and get a few baseball bats.

  • Rafiqi’s is garbage anyway! I haven’t had El Rey yet (will try to go today) but I’m almost positive they won’t lose to Raf’s. They’re a waste of money. XPL is much better in flavor and if I really craved a good chicken/lamb platter, I’d head off to 53rd and 6th’s daytime cart.

  • Yea, I had Rafiqi once and it was terrible… EPIC FAIL

  • Boycott Rafikis

  • Lets have a meet-up at Rafiqi’s and threaten to f them up…i can’t think of anything scarier than 50+ midtown lunch’ers surrounding a food cart. regardless, it would make for some great pics.

  • Rafiqi’s is dead to me

    Not that they were ever alive

  • @ wined & dined

    We should all wear Mexican Wrestler masks

  • I hope they set up next to the cart. If that happens, send out the call – I’ll happily wait on line at El Rey del Sabor and taunt the assholes at Rafiqui’s. The boycott is on!!!

  • The assertion that “two Chinese guys” were intimidated is speculation.

  • Midtown Luncher, I think you are obsessed with El Rey. Every article on your front page blog is about El Rey! I finally ate there the other day, 2 soft shell steak tacos, and was not impressed. But I don’t judge on first impressions so I will try something else there. i find that soft shell tacos are just not as good as they are in Mexico. The fish tacos at Bar Americain rocks though.

  • Actually stopped by the rafiki cart, the other day and they were taking too long so I walked away. Once I started walking away, the operators then noticed me, and started yelling at me to come back. don’t think Ill be visiting them anytime soon and will stick with the Halal and healthy cart. On a side not off to visit JD from the pizza truck, and get me their new midtown lunch special sandwich.

  • Boycott ALL Rafiqi’s? The one on 6th Ave @19th St is my local go-to cart. Maybe they’re only guilty by association? Interestingly, they are located right outside of Sports Authority, which does have baseball bats a-plenty.

  • “Kyster: “soft shell tacos are just not as good as they are in Mexico.”

    Uh Yeeeeaaah (said in that Valley Girl voice).

    Dude, you’re in Midtown!?! This aint no Cabo Wabo.

  • I dunno, the Rafiqi’s guys at the 5th ave cart near 14th street are always super nice to me and other customers.

  • I had a similar experience when my law firm moved into a new building in midtown that already housed a number of law firms. I ditto the sentiment here, nobody wins when dealing with a bully. I suggest a viewing of 3 o’clock for the teriyaki guys.

  • “But unlike the two Chinese guys who ran the udon cart, she’s not afraid- and plans to soldier on.

    Yeah Zach you should really reconsider rewriting this part as it’s based entirely off of speculation and makes it sound like you’re turning it into a racial thing. Especially when the next line is this.

    “Having two big Mexican dudes in your cart who “aren’t afraid of nobody” probably helps.”

    Stereotype much?

  • @12:07–’racial’? Untwist your panties and get a friggin’ life. The first cart served Udon and had CHINESE guys running it. The new cart serves Mexican food and has MEXICAN guys helping out. That’s simple factual reporting, not ‘racial baiting.’ Get a life. And please go back to being a lurker.

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