Oxtail at Its Finest in the Financial District
One of the things I think we do right downtown is food from street carts. Legendary street meat? Check (check, check, and check). Barbecue? Check. Caribbean soul food? Check and check. And that’s all not even counting the trucks that bounce back and forth between here and Midtown! (I do really want a German sausage cart though.) Yesterday, Eater gave a brief lament about how bad the food situation is in the Financial District. I just don’t think they’ve taken the time to explore our riches, and the same goes for all those poor (generous, as it was a “$5 donation day”) saps standing in line at the Chipotle opening. Well, hopefully that’s what we’re doing with this website. We’re doing our best to find those lunches we think are worth knowing and bringing them to your computer screen. What you do with that information once it’s there is entirely up to you. But I hope you’re passing it on, telling people about the food you think is worth it, not for the benefit of this website, but for the benefit of the people serving the food. Over the course of my time writing for this site, my appreciation for those men and women has grown enormously. Their dedication to their livelihood really is inspiring. It puts the mailman to shame (no offense, mailpeople). My point is these folks are dependent on our support. Without us, they’d be gone and without them, we’d be standing in a 30 minute line for Chipotle. No matter how much you love Chipotle, I guarantee you that would suck. So please, spread the word about your favorite street vendors. You don’t even have to tell them about Midtown Lunch, take all the credit yourself for the ones you think are gems. All I ask is that you tell just one person about the food Downtown that’s worth eating before it’s all gone.
Anyway, I’m sad to say that this will be my last post as co-editor of Midtown Lunch: Downtown NYC. It’s been a blast, but life is calling beyond the boundaries of Downtown and Kevin and I are not quite in a position to give up our day jobs just yet to be full time bloggers. It has most certainly been a blast though. As a farewell post, I want to focus in on one of my all-time favorite fatty dishes around here, Oxtail. There’s something about those flavorful hunks of meat that drive me wild. They’ve got everything I could ask for in a dish: gravy, tender meat you can eat off of a bone, great flavor, and bone marrow. There’s really not a whole bunch out there that meets all of these qualifications, but when I found Oxtail, I knew it was true love. Down here in the Financial District, we’re lucky enough to have a few places to choose from when it comes to this dish of the pleasantly plump gods, and today I’d like a take a moment to compare a couple.Veronica’s Kitchen (Front St at Pine St.) and the Trinidad and Tobago cart (Whitehall St. between Bridge and Pearl) are two places that haven’t really treated me wrong. I’ve got to admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time at the T’n'T cart, but I’ve been going to Veronica’s Kitchen for a long ass time and it’s got to be one of my favorites. I swung by both spots in the last few weeks to get a dose of that beauty of a dish I know so well and see what makes them so damn good.
On one of those on-again-off-again spring days we’ve been having, I decided that the T’n'T cart would be my first stop on this little adventure. After a brief scan of the menu, found that oxtail could only be found here on Wednesdays and after a brief scan of my memory (it really takes longer than it should), I remember that “Hey! Today is Wednesday!” Having decided it was my lucky day, I forked over the $8.50 for my ticket to heaven and soon retired to Bowling Green to dine.
One of the first things I noticed was just how much meat Ms. Shirley dished out. If you look at the difference between this carton of food and the one further down the page, you’ll definitely notice a difference (though there was a “new” guy at Veronica’s which may have made the difference this day). The yams were considerably more chopped up than Veronica’s too and both the yams and the meat were propped up by the thick foundation of rice at the bottom.
When it came to the way things tasted, there was certainly nothing wrong here. The meat was really tender and had a lot of great flavor. They were definitely fatty chunks of meat (this is no filet mignon), but not too much so. It was just right. The yams were also spot on with just the right amount of spice and not too much sweetness. I managed to get a couple of extra scoops of the gravy over the whole thing to give the rice and peas a little more flavor though, since they tend to be a little more bland, especially when sitting next to those glistening hunks of oxtail. The one thing that was missing here was the ability to suck any of the marrow from the bones. If there was any, it must have come out into the gravy because I didn’t find a single lick.
Moving on to Veronica’s Kitchen a few days later was nice, a little like coming home. There was a time in the not so distant past I used to come down here once or twice a week just to make sure that I’d tried everything on her menu. I was pretty excited to get a taste of her oxtail again. It goes for $8.50 for a large here as well, so price is clearly not a factor when trying to make a decision between these two spots.
As you can see, a bit less meat than at T’n'T, but that might attributed to the “new” (I have no idea how long he’s been there) guy in the cart. Still, what it lacks in volume, it makes up for in flavor. Veronica’s oxtail really packs a punch. It makes me wish everything that had both beef and gravy tasted exactly like this. The pieces tend to be a little fattier, but maybe that’s what makes them taste so freakin’ good.
You also probably noticed that the yams are far more intact than at T’n'T. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to you, but I just think it’s a thing. They do tend to be a little sweeter here, which doesn’t quite float my boat, but it’s all well and good when I’ve got the peas and rice beside it. Add an extra scoop or two of gravy and it just makes my day. On top of all that, there is some good marrow to be sucked out of these bones. Trust me on that one.
So there you have it, a look at oxtail from two of the best places I know to get it Downtown. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with Veronica’s just because of our long, beautiful history together, but you really can’t go wrong with either one. If you go somewhere completely different for your oxtail, please let me know about it in the comments. Anyplace that serves oxtail is a place I want to be.
Trinidad & Tobago Cart, Whitehall Street between Bridge and Pearl Streets, 646-436-9974
Veronica’s Kitchen, Front Street at the corner of Pine Street