Street Food: 99% Vegetarian Food Cart
I stopped by Vendy award rookie finalist 99% Vegetarian exactly a week before Thanksgiving. The truck currently parks right across the street from Liberty Plaza, where customers looking for a quick meal are a dime a dozen. I was therefore surprised to find no one—literally, no one—in line at the still-very-lunchy hour of 1:30.
Maybe I just don't get the Financial District crowd. Or maybe it's a matter of advertising: Miguel, the owner, has neither a website nor a Twitter account, and relies only, it seems, on reviews and his fixed location to spread the word. (Another possibility is the branding. I used to be a vegetarian myself, and I definitely remember having to convince my friends of the merits of soy.)
Regardless, I was a little befuddled. Especially since 99% Vegetarian has a pretty solid lunch deal, as far as I'm concerned. $6.00 gets you a heaping plate of four choices, with any of the sauces you want (I would suggest the ginger carrot, which was delicious and went with a great deal more than you might expect). Take a gander above if you're curious about the options.
That said, the items on my own lunch plate were a little hit-or-miss. I decided to try out the baked ziti, the fresh mashed sweet yams, the veggie "chicken," and the vegetarian chili.
The baked ziti was my least favorite. The pasta itself was quite overcooked; the cheese was all but non-existent; and the tomato sauce, while satisfactory, did not salvage the rest.
The sweet yams, on the other hand, were quite delicious. Their consistency was wonderful--just a little lumpy, which I like--and the yams were sweet but not cloying. Throw a little salt and pepper on them and you have a wonderful dish.
The veggie chicken was, I'm afraid, another miss. It was nice and moist but a step too pliable to be convincing, and the gravy was tongue-numbingly bland. I decided to try mixing my ziti and the veggie chicken together, and the results were better. The tomato sauce gave the chicken a little kick, and the mixture of textures drew attention away from the overcooked pasta—each bite a little better than the sum of its parts.
Last but not least, I had the sweet and mild vegetarian chili, the most delicious of the bunch. The fake meat was hearty and convincing and the beans were wonderfully flavorful. It also made just about everything it touched better. The yam and chili combo was wonderful, and the chicken and chili combo brought the chicken to a much happier place.
All in all, I think 99% Vegetarian deserves another try. What it does well, it does very well, and there are so many options that it seems it would be relatively easy to avoid the less tasty offerings.
99% Vegetarian Food Cart
Broadway and Liberty St (map).
Open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.