Sandra’s Puerto Rican Food Makes My Life a Lil’ Brighter

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Considering the sheer number of those who have immigrated from Puerto Rico to New York City, I’m really shocked at how difficult it can be to find Puerto Rican food. Sure, you could head to the outer boroughs for the good stuff or wait for the random street fair to come around, but it seems to me that pasteles should be to New York what tacos are to L.A. It should just be what the average New Yorker goes out and grabs for a quick bite. And yet, for some reason it’s hard as hell to find this kind of thing in the business centers of Manhattan. Lucky for all of us Downtown, there’s Sandra’s food cart.

Located on Nassau between Cedar and Liberty, very close to Ravioli Fair and Gloria’s burrito cart, Sandra’s happens to be one of my favorite food carts. The ladies working there are unbelievably nice, somehow the hot dogs are better than any other cart in the city, and every once in awhile they’ll bust out some seasonal specials. Over the winter they were serving a beef stew that my coworker told me was awesome, but the day I went to go check it out was apparently the first day they decided to stop serving it (As Zach would say, “Cue overhead shot with me yelling, ‘Nooooooooooooooo!’”). I wasn’t going to miss my opportunity this time. I noticed last week that they had started serving pasteles on Fridays with rice, pigeon peas, and salad for 8 bucks. You couldn’t stop me, no way, no how.

The cart is somewhat obstructed since they’ve started doing whatever the hell they’re doing to the Chase building, but if you look under the scaffolding along Nassau street, it’s not hard to pick out.

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When you’re trying to decide what to get, you can’t go wrong with getting a couple of hot dogs, but really, what you should be looking for is this sign.
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Order accordingly and this is what you’ll get.
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BAM! That’s two pasteles fresh from the steamer. You’ll get your choice of chicken or pork, but I’m all about the variety, so I nabbed myself one of each. It’s best to eat these while they’re fresh otherwise they get a little gummy pretty quick, so these probably wouldn’t fair well for a subway ride back to the office. Grab a seat in Liberty Park around the way and enjoy watching the line at Sam’s grow a mile long (whose price, by the way, have gone up a dollar for the falafel sandwich).

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Anyway, the pasteles were really tasty and very filling. It’s hard to say whether the chicken or pork was my favorite, but it was easy to distinguish which was which because each tasted exactly like it was supposed to. The pork was deliciously unctuous (I’ve been wanting to use that word for awhile now) and the chicken was cooked well. A splash of hot sauce on both adds to the flavor of both, particularly with those mouthfuls where you’re just getting the masa, although you’ll get a chunk of olive every once in awhile to really liven things up. The one thing that would make them a little more enjoyable is if there were more meat in them, or at least spread a little more evenly as both ends of the pasteles could’ve used a bit more. Apart from that though, these were just what the doctor ordered. If there’s one thing I know for certain right now it’s where I’m eating lunch next Friday. Right here at Sandra’s cart.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Puerto Rican food! Where have you been all my lunch breaks?
  • The pork pastele is marvelously fatty and delicious
  • I’ll buy anything from those ladies, they’re just so nice

THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I like my pasteles with a bit more meat
  • Puerto Rican food? Where’s the mofongo? Where are the cuchifritos?
  • I have an icy heart and those ladies make me feel uncomfortably pleasant

Sandra’s Cart, Nassau St. between Cedar and Liberty



  • so what other specialties are at this cart the rest of the week?

    • Sadly, not a lot in the way of Puerto Rican food. As you can see from the pictures, they’ve got burgers, cheesesteaks, hot dogs, street meat, and knishes. But the more business we give ‘em on Friday, the more likely they are to expand to serve the good stuff other days!

  • That’s not right! Why would you post about something Downtown Lunch’ers can’t get for another 4 days?

    What a tease.

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    Hi my name is Maynor and i am Sandra’s son. There are many request for my moms meals, and her history in this business did start off with hotdogs, and beef patties. She started creating these meals for no more than a year, if you have some request i can personally tell her what her customers want. She may consider the possibilities and sell more food but don’t forget for one person to make all these meals is hard enough, especially on lunch time. My moms been in this business since i was born and her real job is to make her customers happy.

    • Hi Maynor. This is great to hear. I really love your mom’s food. Please thank her for me for everything she does!

      Everyone, don’t forget! Today you can pick up pasteles at Sandra’s cart!

    • Maynor,
      i would make the trek over there for arroz con gandules y pollo al horno o pernil…
      But i understand its a lot of work. hell I’d even love some guisado (of any kind!)
      or bacalaitos? even rellenos de papa…
      when the craving for puerto rican food strikes, i am close enough to hop on the train to williamsburg to my favorite cuchifrito… but if i can walk to your moms cart i SO would!

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