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


  • Going to have to try that. I really like pilaf.

  • Got this today. No line to order, a few people waiting, so it was maybe ten minutes before I had my food.

    There’s a healthy number of beef slices included; it looks like London Broil or something similar to pot roast, but drier. The lettuce may have been yesterday’s, for the browning edges on much of it. The rice is solid though, quite flavorful even without the sauces, chickpeas, craisins, etc. And the beef improves noticeably with the dill-ed up sauce. For $6, it’s a nice change, but I wouldn’t call it excellent.

    • Ah, now I can see the pictures — my beef slices didn’t look like the picture. They weren’t shredded, for starters.

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    It’s the worst chicken & rice platter I’ve had in a long time. The chicken didn’t seem to be marinated and the color was grey. The temperaure was lukewarm at best. There was barely any white sauce, but what little there was seemed close to watery thin. I think the “red sauce” was ketchup. Even that salad was poor, nothing more than lettuce with a couple slices of tomato topped with some nasty tasting discount balsamic vinegar. Horrible. This place is doomed, and I hate to say the ML site needs to start getting honest with its reviews again.

  • @jenfen, I hope you or someone else does a follow up on these guys after they’ve had time work out some of their issues, while the whole back story to their weirdly named cart sees like a fail to me, the whole rice pilaf theme is at least original

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    My impressions.

    Rice = Fantastic
    White Sauce = Good
    Meat = Average certain slices were juicy while some were dry. (also wish they had the double the meat on the menu for a fee).
    Red Sauce = Good ( I added extra sriacha sauce )
    Salad = Good

    Overall well worth the 6 bucks. Would’ve paid extra for more beef slices.

  • Why do I want my dreams conquered?

  • went today, pretty empty. but did wait about 10 min to get my food.

    The rice is good, but must admit it was a touch bland, but not to the point where i didnt like it. Normally not a fan of sweet things in my savory foods, but the raisins/craisins worked.

    I got beef, and agree its like a brisket. had some fat on it too. good flavor, but was a little tough and stringy.

    I liked the red sauce, agree it tastes like ketchup, or maybe marinara, perhaps somewhere in between. i really couldnt taste much out of the white sauce. I do feel they should give you more. a LOT more. and some heat would be nice.

    salad is salad.

    Overall, i would go back. $6 and its vicinity to my office make it that much more attractive. Hope they stay!

  • Does anyone know what time this place opens? I was there at 11:30 and waited until 11:40 and it was still closed. So I just went to the nuchas truck next to it (I know I am impatient)

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    value, its a pretty hefty portion
    beef was surprisingly tender, not many dry pieces at all
    rice cooked perfectly
    sauces are good, but a bit timid in flavor

    kinda slow at cooking or assembling
    rice is kinda bland
    salad was just…crap; as it normally is; seemed old

    would I go again. yes, but maybe not for another month. Overall grade: C++, great value, just kinda bland

  • Bland, but the rice is more interesting than most. The salad is larger and way above average. I got chicken and it was virtually unspiced. They would do better to spice up the chicken – maybe braise it with spices. The white sauce is great, full of fresh dill. But the red sauce tastes like BBQ sauce mixed with ketchup. They need better spicy sauce. Quantity is great. A few tweaks and this cart goes into rotation.

  • Two other observations:

    1. This is the only food cart I’ve seen that gives you a spork.

    2. The counter guy says his previous experience was running the cheese steak concession at a Home Depot on Staten Island. Welcome to the big time, bub.

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