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


  • @inane – Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for the system’s continuation. There is a lot wrong with the way things work… but if we allow for new carts and trucks to park wherever they want, there is going to be big reform. And the results are going to bad for vendors and those of us who love them. That’s all I’m saying…

  • This clearly isn’t going to be an easy fix. You do need to at least somehow figure out how to not totally screw over the masses of chicken/rice/hotdog/kebab guys who aren’t on the internet and only do business by foot traffic or from people that know “so and so is always on my corner”.

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    the snitzel truck doesnt seem like they want to be peaceful… by the sound of their last tweet at least

  • I think it wise of S&T to not attack Zach since so many people care about what he has to say.

    S&T: pickin on Zach might result in a drop in sales.

  • Ah, I see they have changed their twitter status to a more friendly tone…

  • Monique… first anschluss… then blitzkreig…

  • They’re trying to take on Steak Truck, XPL, and Jerk Pan today? I don’t think I would choose schnitzel from lunch over them. Have fun with that area!

  • @wayne: “…can the Kristalllastwagennacht (Night of Broken Truck Glass) be far behind?”

    My god that was epic.

  • They’re doing a pincer movement with Hallo Berlin….

    You watch….next years Oscar for best movie…..Speilsberg’ dipictation of the Ghettoization of Moshes Falafel.

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    I don’t see a problem with Schnitzel Truck’s tweet. So, they disagree with Zach. Big deal.

    I don’t buy this unwritten code either. Unwritten codes are pretty easily changed, usually rewritten by whoever has the power at the moment.

    LIke Zach, I think it comes down to community. The real question for me is whether the community is being served well by these vendors. IMO, having dozens of mediocre halal trucks, subpar and overpriced hot dog stands and ice cream trucks isn’t really serving the people who work and live in midtown.

    Why should we have to hike 10 blocks for lunch just because some hot dog vendor or mister softee guy is crying? I work on 53rd and 6th, and I can count at least 8 hot dog stands with in a square block distance.

    That being said, I think the solution is probably not so simple. Either you open it completely up and make it first come, first serve. In this case, if your food sucks, people won’t show up and you’ll move elsewhere. Or, you regulate it and schedule spots, which seems like it might be a bureaucratic nightmare.

  • I couldn’t agree more with spenczar. It’s natural selection baby. Street food is evolving — largely in thanks to Zach’s work at ML. The only options these days are thankfully not just dirty water dogs and pretzels. I agree that maybe new street vendors shouldn’t invade the exact spots that have been inhabited by vendors for years and years — that being said it is COMPLETE BULLSHIT when these old-time vendors resort to intimidation of new vendors that are merely operating in the same vicinity. Zach– you can’t possibly be saying that you agree that such behavior is OK. There’s a big difference between a new vendor usurping someone’s exact spot and a new vendor finding a spot on the same block as an old-time vendor and having to deal with threats.

  • Spenczar says it perfectly. I am supporting schnitzel on this all the way.

    And I think was brilliant to bite back at a food blogger (whom I love) for unfairly saying they were in the wrong. Warranted and great PR by the way.

    I am a bit surprised to see Zach jumping in with support for the status quo crappy vendors that trying to intimidate with made up rules…

  • I’m a vendor and I’ll tell you why my spots are important to me — i spend months in a little truck serving small treats to my big kids. and, at some point, you’re right, foot traffic
    is not enough. i rely on customer service and the relationships I’ve built with my regular customers to sustain business. even with the Twitter, half my regulars would probably be lost if my spot were taken. so, is there an unspoken code of vendor ethics? you betcha. it makes each of us, however portable, into a real business operating on the streets of NYC.

    I wasn’t working yesterday, so honestly not sure what happned on the streets between these two trucks, but cooperation and communication is key to sucess! a little respect from all parties goes a long way. and if all else fails, a game of rock, paper, scissors could resolve the dispute!

    <3 miss softee

  • miss softee, what is this “respect” thing which you speak of. “ethics”? all these big ideas!

    I cant believe there’s 35 comments on common sense in this thread. Not so common after all I guess…

  • I would love to play rock, paper, scissors with Miss Softee. I think it would look cute and draw some foot traffic.

  • I reckon a Schnitzel is better than a softie any day of the week.
    Down under this would never Happen!
    Long live the Schnitzel served with a Smile!!!

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