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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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The search for affordable food cart bites

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Sultan Mohiuddin, an employee of Big Guy Halal Food, cooks a lamb gyro hoagie. PHOTO: MAX KELLY ’24/THE HAWK

I love to try new foods but as a college student, I don’t have award-winning restaurant money. So, late last semester, I embarked on a mission to find some great meals for a reasonable price amidst the many overpriced and boujee restaurants in Center City.

I took multiple trips into the city asking security guards, SEPTA workers and people walking their dogs about the best food carts. From beef patties to lamb hoagies, I tried some of the most delicious food of my life on my food cart tour. And, not only that, my wallet felt just fine afterward. Here are four standouts.

Big Guy Halal Food

Located at South 43rd Street and Woodland Avenue, Big Guy Halal Food has some of the best and most affordable Middle Eastern food in University City.

Gyros, hoagies, cheesesteaks, falafel, chicken and lamb platters are just a few of the items available right outside of St. Joe’s UCity campus from Monday through Friday. Everything is ready in mere minutes, and nothing on the menu is over $13.

“We have so many students coming around, and faculty, teachers, construction workers, civil workers,” said Sultan Mohiuddin, an employee of Big Guy Halal Food. “It’s a big community here.”

One item on their menu stood out to me: the lamb gyro hoagie. I’ve had plenty of gyros in pita wrap but never on a hoagie roll. The lamb, lettuce, tomato, onion and the white and red sauces made for an outstanding hoagie, a great Philly spin on the Halal food carts popularized in New York City.

Mohiuddin said he enjoys serving the local community, and customers love the food.

“Pretty much every other day I eat here at this food cart,” said Alex Harris, a regular customer who lives in Philly. “It’s delicious. If there was another Halal cart here, I would still go to this Halal cart.”

Bill’s Hot Dog Stand

Bill’s Hot Dog Stand has been on the corner of Ninth and Market streets for over 28 years, serving food Monday through Friday, from dawn until dusk. Right outside of Burlington Coat Factory in the Fashion District, this cart offers tons of different grilled foods for the cheapest prices I’ve seen in Center City.

Bill’s Hot Dog Stand is most famous for its hot sausage, so I had to give it a try for just $4.

“It’s cheap, reasonable, and fast,” returning customer Kimberly Bird said. “When you come downtown, you’ve got to get a hot sausage. It’s just part of the program being down here.”

Caribbean Palm Food Cart

If you’re walking near John F. Kennedy Boulevard and North 18th Street, you can smell the aroma of Jamaican jerk chicken coming from Caribbean Palm’s food cart from down the block.

Chicken and beef patties are $3 each, a total bargain for such a substantial amount of food. You can also get small or medium-sized platters for $12 and $15, with an entree of brown stew chicken, jerk chicken, curry chicken, fried chicken or fried fish, and two sides of macaroni and cheese, candied yams, cabbage or rice and beans.

“The flavor, the price and the quantity of the food, I think that’s what attracts people,” employee Pert Allen said.

Allen is from Hanover, Jamaica, and said while candied yams and macaroni and cheese aren’t popular in Jamaica, the rest of the menu is traditional Jamaican cuisine.

I tried a beef patty for lunch, which was incredible. When I circled back to catch the train to campus, I couldn’t help also trying a small platter of brown stew chicken, jerk chicken and candied yams. The sweet candied yams were a great contrast to the fiery chicken, which was outstanding. It was all that I hoped for and then some in this ginormous portion, bursting with flavor.

Caribbean Palm’s main location is at 6114 Germantown Ave. and Walnut Lane, and they have another food cart located at 34th and Market streets.

New York Halal Cart

Right by St. Joseph’s Preparatory High School (St. Joe’s Prep), New York Halal Cart sits at 18th Street and West Girard Avenue. They offer all the classic menu items of falafel, gyros, salads and, most famously, lamb and chicken over rice.

Local workers and staff from St. Joe’s Prep all told me it’s the best New York Halal-style food in the neighborhood.

“At school, I’m busy all day and when the hunger hits me, I want something quick,” said Anthony Rodriguez, an athletic trainer at St. Joe’s Prep. “I know I can come here, and he puts it all in a bowl real quick, and then it’s done.”

Owner Amir Muhammad said there is often a rush when school gets out, but business is steady all day with customers who work in the area.

I decided to keep it classic and order the lamb and chicken combo platter with red sauce for only $8. I’ve had this dish countless places, but this chicken and lamb was particularly flavorful, and the red sauce was exceptionally spicy. My meal was outstanding, without a doubt one of the best New York Halal-style platters I’ve ever had.

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Max Kelly
Max Kelly, Website Manager/Multimedia Editor
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