Happy Well Being Cart is New Contender For Best Fried Fish in Midtown
I’m always hesitant to check out carts when they first open. So few know exactly what they are going to do from day one, and their list of offerings ends up morphing multiple times before they settle on a set menu. (Anybody remember those white bread bulgogi sandwiches?) So when the Happy Well Being House Cart popped up on 50th btw. 6+7th a few weeks ago, I decided to stand back and wait. Their unconventional fried fish or grilled chicken with rice or potatoes menu seemed destined to be a flash in the pan. When they added bulgogi a few weeks later, things started to seem a little more promising. Once I found out they were related to the Downtown bulgogi cart that has been operating for awhile, I felt these guys were probably here to say.
And now that I’ve tried the food… I *know* they are.
A simple menu is always best when running a street cart, and their menu is as simple as it gets. Choose between fried fish, grilled chicken or bulgogi, and you can have it served over white rice, fried rice, or potatoes. No matter what you order it’s $6, $6.50 if you want it with a soda. Naturally, I ordered one of everything.
The chicken, by far, is the least exciting option of the three. It’s not bad, by any means, but it’s definitely the least exciting. You get a ton of white meat chicken breast, grilled very well- although a tad bit dry (can’t be helped with fast food chicken breast), but you get your choice of sauces (BBQ, white sauce, hot sauce, or Korean bulgogi marinade). We went with the white sauce, and a bit of bbq sauce. Definitely a healthier chicken over rice option than most of the street carts in the area. (And the only option that comes close to living up to the “Happy Well Being House” name.) As for the potatoes, I will always take rice over potatoes, but if you love potatoes, this is huge deal for you. No other cart serves up potatoes… so if you’re a fan, you should be incredibly excited for this option. Not the best potatoes you will ever eat, but they are potatoes. From a cart. And they taste good. What more could you want?
On to the bulgogi, which is marinated korean BBQ beef. I don’t know if they listened to Daniel’s review of the Downtown Lunch cart, or what, but this bulgogi was much different than what Daniel got. The beef was left in much larger chunks (traditionally bulgogi is a much much thinner cut) and there was some considerable char on the meat. I got it over white rice (the only thing you should eat bulgogi over), and it was plenty sticky-despite some early adopters complaining that it wasn’t- so maybe they changed that as well? The flavoring was perfect, that slighly sweet subtle Korean BBQ flavor, and it was plenty of food. The only real complaint you could make is that they don’t have kimchee (or any sort of Korean banchan) to go with the meal. Oh well, you can’t have it all.
For comparison sake (I did promise a bulgogi smackdown) I got an order of bulgogi from the OG Korean cart on 49th btw. 6+7th and tried them side by side. The Bulgogi Cart definitely offers a more “traditional” version of the dish (meaning it is very thinly sliced, and not charred at all), complete with kimchee and an ok version of japchae (which is hidden under the salad). I also like their japchae (Korean noodles)/salad combo much better than the shredded cabbage you get from the Happy Well Being House cart, which was a bit too bitter for me. But as for the meat itself, in matters of taste, quality of meat, and amount they give you- the H.W.B.H. cart kind of kicks the Bulgogi Cart’s ass, especially when you consider that the Bulgogi cart version costs $1 more ($7). I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for… the kalbi at the Bulgogi cart is arguably better than both versions of bulgogi (although the Bulgogi Cart’s kalbi is more like flank steak than a traditional kalbi cut, which usually comes on the bone.)
Alright… now that that’s out of the way- we can get onto the star of the show. THE FISH! Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart (on 46th btw. 5+6th) has long been the fish frying master of Midtown carts, with nobody posing any sort of threat to their domination. But that reign may be coming to an end. In fairness, the HWBH cart is more an Asian style of fried fish (it seemed to be panko breaded), and they don’t do any sandwiches, or serve tartar sauce (a big Kim’s Aunt plus), but their fried fish is really freaking good. And they give you a ton of it for $6. We got it topped with hot sauce, and everybody agreed it was the best dish of the three. Did I mention they give you a ton of fish? Super crispy with a nice thick crust, and not an overwhelmingly fishy flavor (which is very important.) We got this one on the fried rice, which was exactly like Daniel described the version they serve at their downtown cart- a weird yellow concoction with peas and carrots. I would stick with the white rice or potatoes.
So all in all, I have to agree with all the Midtown Lunch early adopters who deemed this a worthy new addition to the neighborhood. Until they add kimchee or japchae, I’ll probably be torn between their bulgogi and a kalbi box at the Bulgogi Cart- but if I want to mix it up with some fried fish, or a fried fish/bulgogi split (I wonder if they’ll do that!) the Happy Well Being House Cart is probably going to win out.
I’m sorry for doubting you Happy Well Being House Cart! I think (and hope) you will be here for many years to come…
THE + (What somebody who likes this cart would say)
- They give you a ton of food
- You have many sauce options (white sauce, BBQ, hot sauce, Korean sauce)
- I like my bulgogi cut slightly thicker with a bit of char on it, so this is perfect!
- They give you a ton of food for $6
- I love potatoes, and want the opportunity to eat them from a cart
- The fish is super crispy, and excellent
- Did I mention you get a ton of food?
- They don’t make fried fish sandwiches, or have tartar sauce- so I’m going to stick with the Kim’s Aunt Kitchen cart
- Their “fried rice” is meh
- Their shredded cabbage/slaw thing is too bitter for my taste
- The bulgogi is not authentic
- They don’t give you any kimchee or japchae!
- If there is a line, it could take awhile…
Happy Well Being House Cart, 50th Street btw. 6+7th