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Taiwanese Food Truck Puts Down Roots in New Koreatown Food Court

By DNAinfo Staff on January 5, 2011 7:47am  | Updated on January 5, 2011 9:03am

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — The team behind the Taiwanese food truck sensation NYC Cravings is temporarily ditching the truck and moving into a permanent new home inside a giant new food court in Koreatown.

NYC Cravings, which drew long lines and rave reviews on local food blogs and review sites during its nomadic food truck phase, has re-branded itself as one of seven eateries inside Food Gallery 32, located at West 32nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

The new Koreatown food court, which opened without fanfare during last month's snowstorm, offers a collection of eateries serving Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and East-Asian fusion fare.

NYC Cravings' menu appears under a new name, Bian Dang, which means "lunch box" in English.

Despite the new name and less mobile pad, Bian Dang serves the same authentic Taiwanese food, said co-proprietor Diana Yang. The eatery still serve up their signature Taiwanese-style fried chicken and fried pork over rice — the top sellers, both on wheels and off.

Yang, 25, said she and her brother decided to find a new home indoors after enduring a "brutal" winter on the truck last year. The pair plans to get the truck back up and running under the new name in March, when the weather starts to warm up.

So far, the indoors location is plenty warm, but there is one major drawback: business is very slow, Yang said.

Food Gallery 32's manager said they attracted about 10 customers the first day and reached an estimated 500 a day by the end of last week.

Yang said that's still too quiet for her taste.

"Honestly, it’s really slow and I’m bored out of my mind," Yang said. "Hopefully we’ll pick up,” she said.

Food Gallery 32's three-level eatery also includes non-Asian food, with a crepe counter, a café set to open on Thursday and a Red Mango frozen yogurt shop, which is set to open in a week and a half.

Instead of the typical food-court experience, where diners pay at individual counters, customers at Food Gallery 32 place their orders at registers at the main entrance and then receive restaurant-coded pagers that flash red when their order is complete.

The food court also has 2,000 chairs, which are open to non-customers, and a green, lighted stage for potential future performances, organizers said.

Customers stopping by for dinner Tuesday evening gave the eatery mixed reviews.

"I guess for the price it’s good," said Koreatown resident Insuk Jung, 24, who said there are better restaurants for each of the cuisines in the area, but not all under one roof.

Max Oliva, 18, who works in Midtown and described himself as a "big Korean food fan," said he was excited to test out the new place.

After taking a bite of his noodle dish, he gave it a foodie's grudging praise.

"I’ve tasted better, but it’s decent," he said before digging in.

Most of the 2,000 chairs in the food court remained empty Tuesday, but organizers hope that will change as people start to learn about the new location.

"I think once the word gets out it’s going to get a bit more crowded," Lee said.

Food Gallery 32 is now open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, with most dishes in the $6 to $9 range.