Queens’ Street Food Comes to Midtown: A Second Look at the El Guayaquileño Cart
When the Mini Picanteria: El Guayaquileño truck showed up in midtown I was incredulous. The Guayaquileño trucks mainly stick to the outer borough of Queens with its mother restaurant located at 94-54 Corona Ave, Elmhurst. The term Picanteria is commonly used to describe family-owned eateries that serve inexpensive home-style meals and Guayaquileño is the term for the people of that region of Ecuador. The Guayaquileño truck follows that tradition and now offers midtown something rare and completely lacking in our street food scene: Ecuadorian food from the city of Guayaquil. Ultraclay checked out their tripe soup and I went back this week to test the boundaries of safe eating by trying the ceviche and my favorite: goat stew.
My experience with Ecuadorian food is mainly based on neighbors I had back home that were straight off the boat and would bring over pots of food for my grandma during the holidays. They made amazing stews, tended more towards rice as a side instead of beans and excelled at seafood dishes. Unlike some other Latin cooking, their spices were more mild and subtle. El Guayaquileño has many traditional meals from Encebollado de Pescado (fish & onion stew) to Bollos de Pescado (like a fish tamale wrapped in a plantain leaf). Don’t even ask for a taco here or you’ll look like a dumb gabacho. For tacos or burritos just stick to El Rey del Sabor, what we have here is big plates of meat and rice that would satisfy any normal human.
The goat stew was a stellar choice. There were plenty of big chunks of chivo in a mild broth with a perfect amount of gaminess. Each bit succumbed to the pull of the fork easily. As a bonus I scooped up a piece of bone that had a lovely pocket of marrow. The soup had a thin delicious sheen of seasoning and fat on top that would be a complete sin to skim off.
Included with the meal were two browned maduros and a small container of hot sauce, which despite its meager size had twice the intensity of regular salsa. If you like to feel the burn ask for extra with your meal.
Next up was the ceviche de camarones. The shrimp ceviche wasn’t what I expected, this was more like a shrimp cocktail. The medium sized shrimp are bathed in a very light tomato soup, with no distinctive salty/lime pucker, and a heavy dose of shaved red onion plus a peppering of cilantro. It also came with a container of rice that was a bit on the dry side.
I suspect the crustaceans were pre-cooked from the texture and shape, which makes sense for safety reasons but totally wrecked my sense of being a badass for eating raw food from a truck. I have my street cred to keep up man! All in all, I prefer the version you find from Carmen and Victor Rojas Ecuadorian cart at the Red Hook Ballfields.
On the side were two containers of their homemade corn nuts that I really wish they would sell as a big snack bag. Each salty nut was so mouth watering and crunchy, perfect for a midday snack. This is a big moment in midtown history… we now have our own Queen’s based Ecuadorian truck. So get out there and eat!
El Guayaquileño Cart, 37th Street (just west of 7th Avenue), 917-578-7980