Downtown Lunch: Korean BBQ Cart
Midtown workers shouldn’t have all the fun, so to even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the tasty stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (ensuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food.) The appearance of the Happy Well Being House Cart spawned a lot of “what’s with Korean carts and fried fish?” questions this week. Of course there is also Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart that is popular for their fried fish sandwiches, but also serves bulgogi. Well, it seems as if Downtown has got a Korean/Fried Fish cart of their own.
When Ruth Reichl twittered about the Korean BBQ cart on the corner of Charlton and Varick last week, Zach emailed me immediately with a call to action. You all know how I feel about street carts- but clearly I had to do it. For Zach. For my Midtown Lunch cred. But most of all… for Ruth!
The first thing I saw when I walked up to the truck was the “fried fish box w/ rice and salad” and ordered it immediately. I then stood to the side waiting, daydreaming of a crispy golden fried piece of fish swimming in hot sauce…. but right before the woman handed me my lunch, I came to and realized I was at a Korean BBQ truck, not the famed Sea World, and my mind raced into the not so distant future to anticipate this conversation:
Zach – Krieger, so how was the Korean BBQ?
Me – Really good, I got the fried fish.
Zach – You got the what?
Me – Fried Fish! it was flaky and golden and awesome!
Zach – Dude are you an idiot?
Me – Fried fish!
Zach – Is this conversation really happening?
So as I came back to reality I realized that I had to do something quick. The people working there were quite friendly but asking to change your order as it’s basically finished is a bit too much to ask, so I scanned the crowd, which was about 4 people deep, to see if anyone was going to order the same dish. My savior came in the form of Matt, a nice young man who was ordering the fish anyway. I asked if he would take it for me since I ordered the wrong thing.
He looked at me strange at first which is understandable, considering how strange I look, but then said sure. I gave him my card and asked for his feedback. He actually emailed me an hour later and said of the fish, “Pretty good if you are in the mood for fried. Def needs the hot sauce and tarter or it will get a bit dry. The ‘salad’ could use some dressing too.” Thanks Matt!
As far as the Korean BBQ I eventually got, well it was a decent meal and made to order so it’s literally steaming hot when you get it. But the spices were absent and the meat was just a bit bland and overcooked (for safety reasons maybe?) I splashed some hot sauce on there to bring it to life but that only did so much. I admit I’m a Korean BBQ novice, but the times I’ve had it in Koreatown I don’t remember needing hot sauce to liven up the action. And the ‘salad’ as my buddy Matt calls it, was just a bit of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The rice had peas in it too, which is not where peas should be in my opinion.
GOD what a spectacle it must have been if you saw me that day. I actually ended up eating the entire thing on the seat of my bicycle because it was starting to rain and I had nowhere to go and when I waved at an approaching Ruth Reichl she screamed and ran in the other direction (*cries a little*)
While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the new Korean BBQ cart on the corner of Charlton and Varick, I can say it’s a good spot to hit up if you want something different for lunch, and only want to spend 6 bucks.
I did end up asking for a sample of the fish, though, and it was tasty. Dammit Zach, next time lemme get the Fried Fish!
Korean BBQ Cart, Corner of Varick and Charlton
Photos and post by Daniel Krieger