Rafiqi’s Tries To Intimidate New Mexican Cart From 49th Street


I stopped by the new, second location, of the El Rey del Sabor cart yesterday (on 49th btw. Lex+3rd) and discovered a few little tidbits.  First, for those of you wondering what happened to the teriyaki/udon cart that popped up in that same spot a month ago… the new Mexican cart is the ramen cart.  The El Rey del Sabor people bought the udon cart (and the spot, in theory) and converted it into a second branch of their popular Mexican food cart (the first one is on 60th and 3rd).  The teriyaki guys gave no reason for wanting to sell their cart after only a month and a half, but the El Rey del Sabor people suspect it might be because they were intimidated by the street meat vendors in the area.

The same intimidation El Rey del Sabor has been feeling since setting up shop two days ago on that corner.

The lady who used to assist at the cart on 60th and 3rd is running the show on 49th & 3rd right now, touting her 25 years of experience working in a Bronx shish kebab cart as necessary to successfully navigate through the murky waters of Midtown.  She says the threats have already started from the neighboring street meat vendors, most notably from the Rafiqi’s cart on 50th and 3rd.  But unlike the two Chinese guys who ran the udon cart, she’s not afraid- and plans to soldier on.  Having two big Mexican dudes in your cart who “aren’t afraid of nobody” probably helps.  She said there was no violence yet, but according to a Midtown Lunch commenter, the cook at the original El Rey del Sabor cart on 60th and 3rd was telling a much different story yesterday:

I went to the 60th street cart today. The reason they weren’t there yesterday is that they got in a big rumble with the halal guy near the new cart they are opening (49th and 3rd). The guy threw their food around and generally tried to intimidate them so they wouldn’t open near him. Luckily our friends stood their ground and threatened to kick the guy’s ass.

These cart fights are nothing new, but usually involve a new vendor trying to sell the same food as a nearby stand. For example, The Treats Truck was threatened by a Mister Softee truck when she first opened. (Both desserts I guess?) Usually they’ll let it slide if the food is completely different (as was the case with the Carribean Spice cart on 46th btw. 5+6th) but I guess that isn’t the case here. What bothers them the most is that the Rafiqi’s cart isn’t even on the same block!

According to the El Rey del Sabor lady, the Rafiqi’s crew threatened to set up a cart right next to her if she decides to stay. Her response: “Go ahead and do it. And then we’ll see who has the best food. I am not afraid.”


  • The Rafiqi’s on 31st and Broadway is outstanding and the guys are real nice. I tried the 2nd place winner of the street meat challenge and felt that my local Rafiqi’s was much better.

  • *lower lip wibbles* Ditto to Mark and Stevenp: do we have to boycott all Rafiqi’s? When i’m down to $4 and skipped lunch, my guys on Broadway and 8th take care of me (extra white sauce, no tomato, kthx). I guess the street meat guys are a bit mellower below 23rd St.

  • i’ve been to the cart on 60th street many times. i highly recommend the enchiladas — three (i always get chicken) tacos with rice and beans on the side — with green salsa and mole on top (they’ll do half and half if you ask). the food is always fresh — he wakes up at 5am every day to start cooking for the day.

    i believe that the woman who used to be at the 60th street cart is the sister of the guy who runs the cart. they love hearing about this site so tell them that you read about them here.

  • @ Mamacita: I would also like to add a Liz Lemon-style ‘”ah-DOOY” to your response to Kyster.

  • I went to this corner today and couldn’t find the new El Rey cart. Saw Rafiqi’s but no El Rey. Which side is it on?

  • Back when I walked that way, I used to see the guys from the Rafiqi cart on Park and 52nd every morning muscling out the people running their breakfast cart on the corner.

    While the breakfast cart was helping customers, the Rafiqi guys would be turning the screw on the breakfast cart to lower the wheel for rolling it away. This was around 8am – long before they needed to be set up for lunch. Rafiqi might have been using the spot before this cart, but we’re talking two different timeslots.

    Also, I’ve said before that something isn’t right with their food. The two times that I ate there, my wife told me that I stunk for 3 days. I’ll never try it a 3rd time. Much better carts all around that area…

    Hope El Rey stands their ground.

  • I just went earlier on the line to get my beef (can’t really think of it as steak) quesadilla ($6) and munched down a fresh chicken empanada while I waited. They forgot my chicken taco though (ended up giving it to the guy in front of me who only wanted a bean burrito. LOL). I think the highlight was the hand-made empanada. The quesadilla was soggy when I brought it back to my desk (I’m like 2 1/2 blocks away). It was average overall and nice of them to include salsa and guacamole on it.

    I’ll definitely go back to try the tacos and possibly more empanadas. I think the quesadilla might have been better with chicken…or dare I say it, Chorizo! I should ask them to make that next time. :-P

  • Anonymous has got it right, and stevenp doesn’t get it at all. stevenp, get a life.

  • As a Chinese dude, I didn’t see anything racial about it. Those Rafiqi guys should just be glad that the Chinese guys they slighted weren’t of the crazy variety that we been seeing a lot lately in the news.

  • I’m in on the boycott.

    This act of aggression will not stand.

  • @Sarah & @Mamacita: Help me find the best soft-shelled tacos in NYC! with some mexican slaw and lime juice drizzle on top!

    @Brian: gettin’ me some enchilada lotsa!!

  • Rafiqi’s is on my shit list. I will not patronize thugs. Zach, be sure let us know if there is more intimidation by the Rafiqi gangsters who seem to be all over Manhattan these days

  • @factsarelate: C’mon give me a break… he reported the FACTS… two chinese men running a udon cart… and the woman stating she was staying… and him pointing out they had TWO BIG MEXICAN DUDES… which they do from what I noticed… If anyone wants to be offended by that at all, then perhaps at the implication that two men were scared of the rafiqi guys… its you and anonymous who are stirring the pot by implying that zach thinks chinese people are afraid of halal guys… Way to try turning nothing into something…

  • Dasnny has a clue; “factsarelate” (whatever *that* is supposed to mean) is a brainwashed PC lemming. Get a clue, FAL.

    ZACH: any chsnce of putting up a mobile-friendly wersion of ML? This site layout sucks on mobile devices.

  • Sorry for the typos, and thx Lou for being a voice of reason!

  • Steven quit hitting the sauce with out me!!! Happy Thirsty Thursday! ;-)

  • The U.N. is only a few short blocks away, maybe we can call them in to mediate a lasting peace


  • the ‘mexican dudes’ didn’t really seem that big

    but I would have probably gotten my food sooner if I spoke spanish!!

    ps midtownlunch doesn’t work too well on mobile devices, agreed

  • Kyster, Redhook, and sometimes at events at The Yard in Gowanus. This awesome family will make you tasty tacos there.

  • Mama: sorry. The mango margaritas are history now. I have a serious idea for a ML HH report (no, really): Dallas bbq. They have huge goblet drinks, a massive order of wings (hot or honey) for $12 that feeds 3-4, onion loaves, etc. When shall we go?

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