Along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, underneath the elevated 7 train tracks, you'll find some of the city's most diverse street food, and one of the best and oldest operations is conveniently located just steps from the 82nd Street-Jackson Heights entrance. Here you will find elote and kebabs being grilled by sisters-in-law Celeste and Lucy (who asked to only use their first names), who operate their business from a bright orange shopping cart.
There are three things on the menu here — elote, chicken kebab, and beef kebab — but the Mexican street corn is some of the greatest in the city (I know, I've been eating it regularly for a decade). Charred, fresh off the grill, slathered with mayonnaise, sprinkled with cotija cheese, and topped off with chili powder — it costs three dollars and, while they can pack it up to go, I recommend eating it nearby and as soon as possible. The kebabs cost four dollars and are best served with barbecue sauce, if you want to fill out your meal — either way, the whole transaction will take just a few minutes.
“It’s quick,” says Celeste referring to why their customers always return, “the people come after work, they want something to eat fast, so they decide to buy something.”
Celeste and Lucy came to the city from Mexico, and first started selling the elote back in 2009 (their price has only gone up 50 cents since). Now their snacks have become a neighborhood staple.
In the 12 years since the women opened their cart, multiple others have followed and serve similar items, but theirs remains the most consistent of the block — you can find them all year round, even in the winter, grilling their goods.
“We like what we do. We do everything with love,” said Celeste, smiling under her mask.
Celeste says they chose this particular spot back in 2009 because it was a convenient location for them. But the area is also home to many Mexicans, Colombians, and Ecuadorians who value the cart — and it’s why they’ve never relocated or felt the need to do so. Still, despite their location at a busy intersection, just steps from the train, business has slowed down over the past year. And their customer base, mainly residents of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, have been some of the hardest-hit by the pandemic.
In pre-pandemic days, they saw too many customers to count, according to Celeste, but “coronavirus has changed everything... it’s more slow now. Many people are scared about the virus, they don’t have work or money,” she added. Lately, however, Celeste said they’re slowly seeing their customers return as the city has been reopening and vaccinations are on the rise.
Nearby residents aren't the only fans of the cart, people from all over the city hop on the 7 train to try their elote, and new workers to the area are drawn to it.
“I’ve been coming here twice a week during the last month, it’s great,” said Freddie Salmon, who commutes from Flatbush to his construction job in the area.
Celeste and Lucy's cart can be found steps from the 82nd Street-Jackson Heights 7 train station, seven days a week (usually)—they open around noon and close around sunset, though have operated as late as 9 p.m.