December 6, 2010

New Haven’s Food Carts Make The Grade

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New Haven has become a Mecca of world cuisine that is provided street side from food carts. Hungry consumers have limitless options of entrees.

But how safe is the food you are eating? The city of New Haven conducts regular inspections of each cart to assure public safety. The state of Connecticut requires vendors to adhere to a code of food safety standards. The open air food carts are held to the same state regulated inspection standards as restaurants. Each vendor must apply for a permit to operate.

Vendors are rated on a point scale of up to 100, with points deducted for health code infractions. If a vendor scores below 80 points, the cart is immediately shut down. Upon reviewing the inspection reports of 20 of the most popular carts, the vendors scored favorably. Most scored in the high 90s, if not receiving a perfect score.

Burritos, pad thai, sushi, and falafels are a mere beginning to a long list of flavorful entrees to be found amongst the numerous vendors. Along with American staples such as burgers and hot dogs, culinary favorites from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America are readily available. There are food options to please even the most selective eaters.

“People buy here for convenience and variety,” said Michael Harden, operator of Sabretti’s Hot Dogs. “There are plenty of options.”

Samplings from the world’s culinary treasures are available for reasonable prices and generous portions. The average price for a meal ranges from $5-$6.

Vendors do not have the luxury of a full kitchen that a restaurant chef might utilize. Operators prepare all food on site using fully-equipped carts. The carts are outfitted with customized cooking equipment to make solely the cuisine that the vendor offers. The equipment is also designed to assure food is cooked and stored at proper temperatures.

“We have everything we need to make the food from our warehouse. We have coolers, they maintain the carts,” said Harden.

There are currently over 150 vendors registered with the city of New Haven. The food carts can be found throughout downtown New Haven, but the majority of vendors park their carts near the Yale University campus and the waterfront. The vendors operate their carts weekdays throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions.

Margaret Lohmiller is a Quinnipiac University graduate student.

One thought on “New Haven’s Food Carts Make The Grade

  1. Most scored favorably? But which ones didn’t? What are the inspectors actually looking for? How often are the carts inspected? What is this special equipment that keeps food properly hot/cold/clean yet fits in a cart?

    I’m not being a smartass—I genuinely want to know. Dig deeper, please.

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