Crisp on Wheels Truck Exceeds My Expectations

When I first heard that the mini-chain restaurant Crisp was launching a falafel truck, I was dismayed and thoroughly unexcited. First off, I think of food trucks and carts as a great way to start a business when you don’t have the funds and capital to open a restaurant. When chain restaurants get in on the action, this completely defeats the purpose. God help us if we see a Chipotle or McDonald’s truck roaming the streets soon. And secondly, why would I want to eat this generic falafel when I have options like Taim and Kwik Meal on the streets?

In all fairness, I’ve only walked by Crisp and have never actually been inside, partly because I assumed it wasn’t much more innovative or delicious as the likes of Europa Cafe or PAX. Then I discovered Zach’s review from a while back and I truly learned what happens when you assume. It’s not the first time I’ve made an ass of myself.

Turns out the food at the Crisp Truck is just as exciting as the four locations around the city (the newest just opened in the FiDi). I found them on their second day out on 46th Street between Fifth and Second Avenue, controversially a few steps away from Moshe’s Falafel. The modest line moved rather quickly and the crew had a system down pat. Most trucks take a few days (especially in Midtown) to figure out how to get through the lunch shift smoothly. While they did run out of sandwiches just after I ordered at 1:15, Crisp Truck made the process of ordering and picking up your food quick and painless.

It did take me a while to decide which of the unusual falafel sandwiches to choose. Would it be the Crisp Mexican (with cilantro pesto, nachos, corn, and salsa) or the Crisp Parisian (with sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers)? I tend to pick the most unusual flavor combinations possible, so I ultimately settled with the Crisp Africa (peanut sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, and habanero harissa). And I bucked it up with some fries for $1 extra.

It’s served in what the company calls a “handbag” – a weird cone-like package. It made getting the sandwich out of the packaging awkward and eating it on the go almost impossible. There may have been directions somewhere on the box, but I don’t have time to read how to eat a sandwich. Especially when I’m hungry.

However the sandwich looked beautiful, with an array of colors that hinted at freshness and texture. The corn, scallions, tomatoes, and garnish of black sesame seeds introduced the sandwich as fresh and light. And if these were the only additions to the crispy, tender falafel I might have been alright – if I wasn’t expecting African flavors. It took a while for all the flavors to open up, as I think many of the integral ingredients were far down in the bottom of the pita. Halfway through the meal I got some rich spice from the peanut sauce and a bit of earthy sweetness from the sweet potatoes, which I wished were crispier. At first, the falafel had that wonderful crunchy bite giving way to a tender soft interior, but the last few packed down into the sandwich were less perfect and a little soggy.

The fries were awesome. They were piping hot and it was clear they just came out of the fryer. Seasoned well, light and crispy they didn’t really need anything else. Yet they were served with a light red sauce that had been doused with sesame seeds. I thought maybe this was for dipping, which was tough because of the thin consistency of the spicy sauce. I finally realized this was the habanero harissa for the sandwich and I was supposed to add it to the falafel. I guess they do this for people adverse to heat, but I didn’t find it that spicy at all and I feel I missed out on some of the experience because of my ignorance. Maybe they said that somewhere on the menu, but I told you I don’t like to read during lunch.

Even though there were some minor flaws, which amazingly had nothing to do with operating the truck, this was a pretty good falafel sandwich. Crisp Truck continues to take falafel to a whole new level giving us flavor combinations that are completely unexpected. While their falafel might not be the perfect fried orbs of Taim or Kwik Meal, these succeed at being something different and delicious.

Last week they were on 46th and 6th on Friday, but this is their first full week out (and yesterday they were having some technical difficulties) so follow them on Twitter or check the ML Twitter Tracker to see when they will hit Midtown next.


  • So they were on 46th between Fifth and Second Ave? Thats quite a large distance to be looking for them.

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    It’s quite a long cart…. I meant Fifth and Sixth. Sorry for the mistake.

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    I felt similarly for the most part. I think it was a little unnecessary to have a commercial truck like this, but I can’t really argue with the food. I got the same sandwich that you did, and had the same problem with most of the interesting flavors falling to the bottom. Especially the peanut sauce.

    I haven’t been to Taim or Kwik yet, but I was very impressed with their falafel. Very tasty.

    And I knew what the sauce was for, but I didn’t get fries. Which was apparently a slight mistake if they were particularly good as you said.

    I didn’t really love the handbag design either. It’s not too hard to eat, you just unzip along the middle and the top separates. But the bottom is still hard to get to, and, frankly, as a male, I don’t really want to be carrying around a handbag sandwich.

  • I posted this the first day crisp on wheels was out:

    I tried the mobile Crisp unit today. It’s actually the first time I had Crisp. SO overpriced. I had the regular falafal with hummus. Not great, but not bad, but SOOOO damn overpriced… After reeling from getting bent over for a $7.35 falafal (-they also charge tax at the mobile unit–FU CRISP!), I hit up the Argentinian truck (26th + 6th) for 3 empanadas for 5 bucks…so I could feel better about myself. The Argentinian truck is seriously the most UNDERRATED truck in the City, bar none. Those people kick ass!

    Apr 28th, 2011 at 2:08 pm Reply »

    • I have to agree– I think Crisp is tasty, but over my price point. The 6th ave and 40th st one is closest to me, but if I walk just a bit further I can go to pick a pita, save $$ and still have a tasty lunch

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    Seems like this is part of a master plan for Crisp to become the Middle Eastern (falafel division) Chipotle.

  • right on Sarah! Same with me! With a myriad of falafal options, none of which approach the 7 dollar price range, I’m going to any one of 10 places with equal quality…

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    Don’t know whether the cart’s selling their falafel burgers–a much better deal, at $5.25 (and no metrosexual food handbag to deal with). My vote is doubles at Trini-Paki Boys.

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      I didn’t see their falafel burger on the menu. Sounds good though. They told me they may be alternating in menu items, so hopefully we’ll see it soon.

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    this place is awful! just paid a $1.50 surcharge on top of their ridiculous $8+ sandwich price to make it a salad. then they forgot the pita. and they charge tax!

    so over $10 for 4 falafel balls and some iceberg lettuce. truly terrible.

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