It’s a fine sunny afternoon. I’m sitting on a warm brownstone stoop with Milton and Malaika; we are talking to a passing neighborhood boy about his busted American football. Milton is finishing a fine looking foil wrapped hamburger, so I ask if he has ever eaten at the food truck just down the street. He points to his burger and then to Mo’s Famous Burger food truck within sight near the corner of 117th Street on Malcolm X Boulevard. It’s another of this year’s growing number of street food vendors found in Harlem.
With his simple menu—hamburgers, French fries, and toppings—Mo has corralled a solid, loyal clientele made up mostly of neighbors, including a young Italian tourist I spoke to who relies on Mo for his ‘pain quotidien’. Diners spill onto stoops and the tables and chairs set out by adjacent restaurants without conflict. No fences building good neighbors. Some of these vendors have become a locus for customers seeking good, affordable food and who, by and large, are open to casual conversation and comradery.
Maybe Mo’s secret is the culinary simplicity he brings to his one-man production line. No over-the-top ingredients, no superfluous adjectives, and high-value food at rock-bottom prices.