Kurt's Flatiron Faves - Calexico Taco Cart

Coming back down Broadway from last week’s favorite spot, No. 7 Sub, we come to the small General Worth Park at West 25th Street. Right there on the street you’ll see the next place I want to show you, the Calexico Taco Cart.  I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for street food, not just because of our own Seattle-based food truck, Maximus/Minimus, but also because it makes great food even more accessible to the public at large. Calexico, the winner of the 2008 Vendy awards (the Oscars of the street food world), has since expanded from one cart in SoHo to three carts AND two brick-and-mortar locations, one in Greenpoint and one in Redhook. They brought their second cart to this Flatiron location just after this year’s Madison Square Eats food festival back in June.

For me, Calexico is more than just a taco cart. It’s a symbol of the strides that the Big Apple has made in building a greater sense of community in their outdoor spaces. Years ago, I remember being more nervous than excited to go out on the street in New York. Now, the public spaces seem so much more welcoming, thanks to more food trucks on the streets and sidewalks, and a vibrant, urban park culture.

That’s not an accident, of course. The city of New York has made an amazing effort to cultivate these outdoor spaces. The drive behind this is to strengthen the quality of life within the city by developing a greater sense of community. Instead of a marketing campaign with posters and billboards, they invested in providing and improving spaces where this type of growth happens: public works, outdoor friendly restaurants and retailers, bike transit accommodations, and more.  The city invested in changes people could see every day. The idea was that the more people that come outside to enjoy themselves, the more meaningful the outdoor spaces would become. It’s a “build it and they will come” scenario that has worked really well. I no longer feel like some pachinko ball ricocheting its way through crowds of people; I feel like part of a collective stream of people that might, at any time, literally stop and smell the roses.

Specifically in the Flatiron neighborhood, they’ve made bold moves like closing parts of Broadway itself to car traffic and filling it with public seating. If New York can do it with one of the most famous streets in the world, I can’t help but think, “What’s stopping Seattle?” Imagine, for example, if Seattle were to turn Pike Place or the Westlake Center-Park corridor into a full-on pedestrian-only zone, maybe with more vendors, tables, or even art installations.

Standing on the street by General Worth Park, waiting for some Calexico tacos, I like to admire the bustle of Madison Square Park across the street. It gives me exciting hopes for what the urban outdoor spaces could mean in countering that sense of isolation and lack of community that is often associated with urban living.

Next week, we’ll eat at another example social public space, just across the street in the heart of Madison Square Park: Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack. See you then and bring your appetite!

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My Flatiron Faves

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Lover of big ideas and bold flavors. Food should be like family and friends: honest, fun, and fulfilling.

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