New “Rice the Great” Cart Brings Pilaf to Midtown
Earlier this week in the forums, one of our readers tipped us off on a new rice cart hoping to find a spot by the Time Life Building this week (50th + 6th). Rice pilaf you say? With chicken or beef? And whatever sauce you want? I was intrigued, so I headed to the miniature food-city-on-wheels to see what I could find. Dwarfed by its gigantic neighbor, the Nuchas empanadas truck, I found a flashy, unweathered food cart with a sign saying Rice The Great. This must be it. Mighty in name, small in size.
The cart has a very simple menu of a small pilaf platter for $3.00, a large rice pilaf platter for $6.00, or a pilaf burrito for $6.00. With any of these meals, you have a choice of either chicken or beef. Sodas and Dirty chips are $1.00 each. With the platters, you can get salad on the side with oil & vinegar or Italian dressing. As for sauce, you have a choice of house white sauce or house red sauce.
How did the owners arrive at this name, Rice the Great? Well, they’re happy to tell you how they got there, and quite a convoluted a journey it was! Alongside the menu is a sign with the story behind the name. The story makes use of both questionable claims and faulty logic, but let’s just go with it. Apparently, Alexander the Great loved this shit. He couldn’t get enough of that rice pilaf. He thought it was magical. So he had his chefs make it for all of his armies and they conquered the known world. Therefore, everyone should eat great rice pilaf and achieve greatness. Hmmm.
I was more interested in their mission, “To feed an entire battalion (this must mean us!) with a truly superior meal that is big on flavor and high on quality yet small on price and low on serving time.” Now this sounds like what the battalions are hungry for.
The cart looked like a regular street meet cart with a fancy exterior. It had the large, flat grill that you would see in any food cart. Perhaps they’re trying to fill a different niche — a slightly upscale version of a street meat cart, with prettier pictures on the outside and fancier rice. I ordered the large platter with beef. I got the Italian dressing on the salad and both white sauce and red sauce.
First impression? I was happy with my big ol’ helping for only $6.00. According to the menu, the ingredients in the pilaf are rice, garbanzo beans, carrots, onions, raisins, craisins, and secret spices. The pilaf was tasty — not salty or too greasy. There was a good amount of beef. It think it’s brisket reheated on the flat top grill, but I don’t know for sure. The beef was flavorful and succulent with some fat, but not too much. The sauces were very good. The red sauce had a nice tomato flavor. It was not hot at all (although you can get hot sauce upon request). The white sauce was runny but tasted creamy and had lots of dill. The salad was fresh and the Italian dressing was nice enough. I was incredibly full after eating. The container was larger than usual and the portions were healthy. In my opinion, the large beef platter for this price is an excellent value.
I entertained myself during the meal by trying to get the perfect bite on my spork. My perfect bite consisted of (obviously) beef, pilaf with some golden raisin and craisin for sweetness and garbanzo bean for texture, and both of the sauces mixed in. Very good.
Too often, I find myself eating lunches that are either too greasy or too dry. But I found that the moisture of this dish was perfect. It was fluffy and easy to chew and swallow without being greasy or heavy. Kudos to Rice the Great for getting that right, because it’s not easy. I’m wondering how the chicken is — I think it’s harder to find that kind of moisture balance with chicken dishes.
So, as usual, I’ll leave you with a few downsides. My major warning, as should be expected… although it’s part of their mission to provide a short wait time, they haven’t quite gotten it together yet. I waited in a relatively short line for nearly 20 minutes. It was a two-man show, and things seemed to bottleneck often. But, we should probably give them a break on this, as most places need a while to get their routine worked out. I will also mention that you might want to bring a fork. The sporks they provide aren’t useful for eating the salad.
Other than that, I’d say try it out before they raise the prices. This is a pretty good deal.
Rice the Great Food Cart, Currently at 50th and 6th