More than just street meat, a cart that offers a close-to-campus alternative to the cafeteria. by Frank Miller
Just a day before the Fall 2012 semester, the CCNY cafeteria closed—for a reason that, let’s say, upsets the stomach. Our “adulterated, contaminated, and cross contaminated” dining hall violated 62 health regulations—10 more than a year ago.
The cafeteria mess leaves one question: where can CCNY students find a decent meal? The answer: Middle Eastern Halal on 137th Street & Amsterdam. Senior and International Studies major Tahsin Chowdhury, 21, says the food cart’s chicken and lamb with “white sauce and extra hot sauce” always gets the job done. “If you’re not a vegetarian—yeah—definitely,” recommends Chowdhury of sampling the Amsterdam Avenue truck.
AD/PR major and junior, Ashraf Ali, 20, calls Middle Eastern Halal “the best halal near CCNY.”
However, good food only doesn’t just earn such high praise. The cart’s owner, Mohammed Jasafsas, credits customer service as one of his business’ strong points. “We treat our customers like family—that’s number one,” he says.
With classes to attend and assignments to complete, students don’t have time to waste on lunch breaks. Middle Eastern Halal’s workers treat CCNY as “family” by catering to this need.
“They’re very fast which you’ve got to appreciate,” Chowdury says of the workers’ speed. “I go to the deli and they take their time and even the other carts in the general vicinity, they take their time. These guys are pretty fast.”
Yet, this isn’t Middle Eastern Halal’s only perk. In addition to family treatment, Jasafsas says he aims to provide students with “family” prices. “My cart is good because [students] can get a whole plate for five dollars or less and they can eat and be happy,” he explains. “If people go anywhere else the cheapest meal is nine dollars and ten dollars. Students can’t afford that every day.”
Something else students can’t afford: “food/refuse/sewage-associated flies” in their food. Students say they trust the cart. “It’s definitely fresh when I eat it,” says Ali of Middle Eastern Halal’s chicken over yellow and spicy rice with falafels. “It’s definitely fresher than our cafeteria. The food in the cafeteria is a joke.”