What Happened At the Schnitzel & Things Truck Yesterday?


By the time I walked up to the Schnitzel & Things Truck around 1:30pm yesterday, most of the action had already ended.  But  I was just in time to catch a Mister Softee truck driver berating the owners of the Schnitzel truck.  Explaining to them that his truck had been parked on this corner for years, and that they couldn’t park here, and that they were ruining it for everybody.  “”There are a million corners to park in New York City! This one is mine.” Both trucks had been kicked out of their spots by the cops, who claimed that they had been receiving “complaints.”   And even though the Schnitzel Truck had twittered earlier about trouble from a halal guy, it’s more likely the complaints came from the businesses in the area (possibly the Verizon store on that corner.)

Once the news broke, Schnitzel fans everywhere lashed out at the cops, the halal guy, and the Mister Softee truck vendor- who I watched threaten the owners of the Schnitzel Truck.  And while I don’t believe in vendors threatening other vendors, and I really want schnitzel to be available in Midtown as often as possible, I have to side with the Mister Softee truck on this one.  And it’s not too difficult to understand why.

One of the dirty little secrets about street vending in Midtown, especially for trucks that vend from the street (instead of carts that park on the sidewalks), is that most spots are illegal.  In other words, cops can pretty much force any truck to move, anytime they want.  The only reason they don’t is because they usually have better things to do, and will only enforce these random laws if they get complaints from businesses in the area.

The more of these new trucks that pop up in incredibly high traffic areas (like, anywhere on 6th Ave. in the 40s and 50s) the more chance there is of complaints.  So while I don’t condone threats or violence of any kind, I understand why the vendors who have been around forever go to such great lengths to maintain the status quo.  In this case, the Mister Softee truck, who has parked on that corner for years without any trouble, gets kicked out simply because the Schnitzel & Things Truck decided they wanted to park on 43rd and 6th yesterday.  How is that fair?

In this particular case, it’s not entirely clear what caused the complaints.  Maybe it was the arguing  itself that forced the cops into action, and if the two trucks and the halal cart had just decided to coexist peacefully the businesses in the area might not have noticed.  But regardless of the particular reason for yesterday’s issues, it doesn’t change the fact that the more carts that show up in these high traffic areas, the more trouble there is going to be with the cops.  And the more trouble there is with cops, the worse it is for *all* vendors.

It all leads back to this.  The guys who run the Schnitzel & Things truck aren’t scared of anybody (they’re actually pretty badass.)  And they have every right to try and park wherever they want, and clearly their fans will have their backs.  But in the long run this tactic will be bad for all vendors.  They might get away with parking in the spot once or twice.  But eventually, the more carts there are in these high traffic areas, the more chance there is the cops will kick everybody out.

I said this when the Street Sweets Truck had their trouble, and I’ll say it to these guys.  You have twitter.  You have the support of the blogs, and the media.  Your fans will follow you wherever you go. You don’t need the foot traffic  that these Mister Softee trucks depend on (from the spots they’ve spent years protecting.)  I know it’s hard, but don’t fight.  Just keep moving until you find a quiet place to vend in peace.  We will all follow…

The Schnitzel Truck has vowed to return to Midtown today. You can find out where by following their twitter or the ML Twitter Tracker.

Rule #1 of Vendor Fight Club is You Don’t Talk About Vendor Fight Club
Hot Dog Vendors Gang Up on the Street Sweets Truck


  • Zach, I think you should go down to Washington and tell the politicos this. A lot more would get accomplished.

  • Oh great, he’s using his serious “voice” again…. let’s all get along… save the world… blah, blah, blah. Where’s the fat guy?? ;> Kidding aside, nicely stated Zach: Peace brings good eats!

  • I’m a fighter.

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    LOL Looks like Schnitzel & Things aren’t to happy with you according to their Twitter.

  • I wonder if they will park there again, attract the police and ruin it for *all* vendors? Ugh. So aggressive this schnitzel truck be.

  • Ha ha…yeah I guess those “bad-ass” guys aren’t as big of fans of yours as you are of them. Maybe avoid the schnitzel for a while Zach…

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    I have no sympathy for arguments that reduce to “it’s the unwritten Law Of The Street, and the new vendors need to follow it.”

    An unlawful parking spot is unlawful whether or not the police choose to enforce it on a given day. No vendor has any more of an inherent right to a spot over another vendor, unless they’re paying rent for it. Black market trafficking of vending permits is an unconscionable practice regardless of whether it’s a routine cost of business for our favorite vendors.

    The only fair market is one where everybody has to abide by the written rules, and if the rules aren’t sufficient, they need to be changed.

    When street food is involved, I don’t want any “dirty little secrets” beyond halal white sauce just being mayonnaise.

  • While I’m probably risking the wrath of their flames, I have to say that the attitude of the Schnitzel guys is a major turn off.

    I was very excited about them before they opened up shop, but from the pretty nasty (and sometimes borderline violent) things i’ve read on their twitter feeds and their comments here and elsewhere, I’m finding it hard to be inclined to support them.

    Zach has some good arguments here (as well as some questionable ones). But in the end, i think good people providing good food is going to be good for everyone and is something most vendors should strive for.

  • I say they should park in Midtown East, there are rarely any food trucks parked around here.

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    Yea they need to get off their high horse… They’re twitter remarks make me not want to try it at all. Mind you I’ve never tried it simply because I think taking meat, tenderizing it, breading it, and frying it is about as simple as can be. I won’t pay for something I can whip up myself in no time… Especially with those attitudes. Assholes.

  • Eh, Rickshaw was parked here (Midtown East) but nothing I’m impressed by.

  • The Police are taking bribes…


  • I’m with @Rootbeer. Unwritten rules are stupid, at best. What we’re saying right now is that “Hey, some carts should get special treatment because they can’t adjust to the fast paced world of real life. So we’ll cut them some slack and not intrude on their turf.”

    This is not the road to deliciousness. If the rules are bad? Let’s change the rules. Let’s not just say, “The current rules are all unwritten, so deal with it.” Well, they’re unwritten so that’s where the problem is.

    The Schnitzel Truck is also fucking stupid. Why would you start a flame war against the best food blog NY has ever seen? Those guys need to check themselves.

  • I’m sure that Schnitzel Truck, as well as the other trucks, have to do a certain amount of business in order to stay profitable. And they could probably really use the extra foot traffic not only for sales, but to get people into their Twitter network. I’m sure to you it seems like it’s “not necessary” that they park where they did, but to them it probably is.

    Everybody would probably agree that there needs to be a lot of vending reform, but aside from that, trucks should be able to go wherever they want if they are willing to deal with the consequences.

    Power to the Schnitzel!

  • ST is showing their true colors, complaining about their Lebensraum.

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    So, lets keep the whole system quiet and status quo….the under issued permits, the abuse and resale of the permits, and the ‘quiet rules’ that let people claim public space?

    I dont think so. If anything, these conflicts will open up the system to scrutiny, and hopefully lead to some reform. The current system is broken and I’m disappointed that you’re advocating for its continuation.

  • The only question I have is this… if there isn’t a unwritten code among vendors about parking then how do you resolve these disputes? Let’s say the schnitzel truck parks wherever they want. And the next day, another truck shows up to the Schnitzel Truck’s spot earlier and parks there. That would ok too? There has to be some kind of unwritten code…

    The model of park wherever you want would be bad for all vendors, don’t you think?

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    Schnitzel Truck hasn’t been impressing me. I stopped by when they were parked in Union Square and found their demeanor to be lacking. They weren’t quite rude, but they didn’t seem happy to be there either, y’know?

    Plus their twitter feed is slightly ridiculous. First they post lots of extraneous tweets, and now they’re trying to bait Midtown Lunch into a flame war. Even if the truck ever came back down into my area (they seem enamored with midtown now), I think I’d pass them by.

  • Zach scored a dumbass trifecta on this one – a scolding post that advocates selective rule following (1) while advocating that the superior technology employed by the trucks should somehow handicap them when it comes to parking spots (2) all while appealing for some kind of lefty cart utopia on the streets on NYC (3). Sounds a whole lot like “spread the wealth around” … a.k.a. utter treason

    I am MORE of a fan of Schnitzel Truck now…

    …can the Kristalllastwagennacht (Night of Broken Truck Glass) be far behind?

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