By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — A new tour invites people to eat their way through the Financial District — all without setting foot indoors.
The six-stop food tour bypasses brick-and-mortar restaurants in favor of mobile food trucks, which the organizers say dish up some of the freshest, tastiest lunch cuisine in the neighborhood.
Food blogger Brian Hoffman, 32, an Astoria resident, spent the winter sampling all of the Wall Street area's street food, and he picked his favorite dishes to showcase on the two-hour tour. In between all the eating, Hoffman sprinkles in tales about the city's early food vendors and answers questions about permits (they're almost impossible to get) and Health Department inspections (they're frequent).
The focus, though, remains on the food, which is served in such generous portions that several of the participants on a recent Wednesday afternoon had trouble finishing everything.
On that afternoon, the tour's $40 ticket bought: tender jerk chicken with braised cabbage and rice from Veronica's Kitchen; fluffy falafel and red rice seasoned with paprika and turmeric from Adel's No. 1 Halal Cart; grandma pizza, which has a layer of mozzarella beneath the sweet, tangy sauce and a dusting of parmesan cheese, from Jianetto's Pizza; the tofu scramble, sweet potatoes, veggie burger and fake chicken from 99% Vegetarian; a Rib Eye of the Tiger Taco with a variety of kimchi from Korilla BBQ; and, finally, a fresh-off-the-griddle liege waffle with spekuloos spread from Wafels & Dinges.
All of the stops, which vary based on the day of the week, are within a few blocks of each other, so participants didn't have much time to regain their appetites in between dishes.
"I'm stuffed," Jeremy Kahan, 29, said after the fifth of six courses. "I shouldn't have eaten as much breakfast."
Kahan, who works for a hedge fund and lives near Union Square, enjoyed all of the dishes on the tour but he said he was particularly surprised to find that he liked 99% Vegetarian's offerings, since he usually prefers meat.
Chris Tyburski, 37, a New Jersey resident who used to work in the Financial District, said he was amazed by the number and quality of the food trucks.
"I had no idea that within such a short walking distance there were so many options," Tyburski said. "I'm going to show people — you wouldn't believe what you can get."
That's the reaction Hoffman and VandenBosch are hoping to elicit. They started the Financial District tour, modeled on a similar one they run in Midtown, in the hope of supporting food trucks, which are small businesses and are often run by immigrants.
Hoffman likens Urban Oyster's mission to its namesake, the bivalve that was once ubiquitous in New York Harbor.
"We had a natural resource we took for granted and it disappeared," Hoffman said, referring to oysters. "That's what we don't want to happen with small businesses in this neighborhood."
For more information about the tours, which require advance tickets and sometimes sell out, visit Urban Oyster's website.