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Food Carts Offer a Dominican Flavor for Uptown Locals

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 18, 2013 9:16am

NORTHERN MANHATTAN — Forget about the hot dogs and hold the relish — it's all about the yanikeke for food vendors on the streets of Washington Heights and Inwood.

If a neighborhood's food carts are a reflection of the area's culture, then it's no surprise that uptown's food carts — located in heavily Dominican enclaves east of Broadway on West 182nd Street, Dyckman and West 207th Streets — offer a distinctly Dominican feel.

"Up here we have empanadas, yanikeke, chicken, beef," said food cart operator Jose Lopez in Spanish.

Lopez, who has operated a food cart on the corner of West 207th Street and Sherman Avenue in Inwood for three years, said that yanikeke — a traditional cornmeal flatbread that is served with ketchup and sold for $1 — is particularly popular with customers.

A few blocks down, on the corner of Dyckman Street and Sherman Avenue, Jose Perez runs a stand that serves up barbecue chicken and beef skewers with toasted bread and sweet potatoes. Perez, who has been running his stand in Inwood for 11 years, said customers flock to him for the sweet potatoes, which are sold for $2 per pound.

"They love the sweet potatoes and the chicken,"  Perez said in Spanish. "They'll eat it morning or the evening because that's what they eat back home."

It's not all Dominican, however, as West 168th Street and Broadway is home to one of New York's ubiquitous halal food carts, which serve up chicken or lamb in gyros or with rice. Despite the cart's proximity to several other Coogan's restaurant, McDonald's and several pizzerias, the cart operator, who declined to give his name, said that he still does good business in the area.

"I'm out here 16 hours a day," said the operator. "People come at all times, afternoon, night, whenever."

"And it's not just students," he added. "Doctors, people coming from the hospital, they come."