16 June 2008

Hallo Beijing?

The best food cart in the City, bar none, is also the only one to boast a Luftansa umbrella. It's the Hallo Berlin vendor at 54th and Fifth Avenue, the outdoor outpost of the German food Manhattan mini-chain run by Rolf Babiel and his brother Wolfgang. From this cart, which always inspires a long line of patient New Yorkers and tourists around lunch time, a wide variety of beef, veal and pork wurst can be had (knock-, brat-, alpen-, etc.), as well as superb sauerkraut, goulash, and fried potatoes. Two vendors, who—if they aren't the Babiels themselves, must be from central casting over at Actors' Equity, so utterly German are they—cheerfully serve up the grub, chirping "10 dollar!" and "8 dollar!" and "No ketchup here. Mustard." and "Only for you. For nobody else." The cart is the most orderly and pristine I have ever spied in New York City.

As I was waiting for my Fifth Avenue Special recently (two wursts, chopped up, mixed with potatoes, cabbage and onions), I heard the head vendor talk about how all the world wanted him and his food and he wouldn't be at the corner forever. I didn't completely get the gist of his meaning, but the general idea is that the cart was wanted elsewhere across the globe and he was going on a world tour. He would sell sausage in Beijing for the coming Olympics. From there he would go to Rio de Janiero for a spell. The upshot was we would be without the cart for a number of months, but he would eventually return. From the unsmiling look on the face of Hallo Berlin's neighboring hot dog vendor (not much business there), he would be perhaps the only New Yorker who would be glad to see the Babiels take a vacation.

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