Outside The Times, A Food Cart With Attention to Detail

Food & Drinks /

With a steady presence, genial manner and good food, Mr. Campis has fed journalists, security guards, construction workers and tourists from his spot since 2012. It’s a fine location, but more important than that: “You have to know how to treat people,” he said. His way to treat people is defined by the details. An egg sandwich should contain two eggs, not one. Iced coffee, when served correctly, can be sweetened with granulated sugar like this: Spoon the desired amount of sugar into a separate cup, hit it with a splash of hot coffee, swirl and pour it in with the rest of the coffee.

Juanita Powell-Brunson, a senior operations manager at The Times, said that after the news organization moved to its current headquarters in 2007, she still got her coffee from a cart on 43rd Street, near The Times’s former offices. The first winter ended that arrangement, and Ms. Powell-Brunson shopped around for a few years. Eventually, Mr. Campis showed up.

“Somebody said, ‘The guy’s coffee downstairs is really good. We should try it.’ The rest is history,” Ms. Powell-Brunson said. “Then we started getting breakfast. Then someone told me his breakfast tacos were really good. Then every day he wanted me to try something.”

One early morning last August, as his rig crawled across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan in the dark, Mr. Campis described his work as one of the thousands of mobile food vendors in the city. He parried a reporter’s reaches for the romance of street grit and only-in-New-York hustle with blunt descriptions of what he calls “the life.” The life means “forget the parties, forget everything,” Mr. Campis said, in order to go to bed at 8 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m. six days a week.

Mr. Campis came to New York from Puebla, Mexico, 28 years ago and worked in restaurants. He took over El Jefecito from its previous owner in 2012, and carefully built up a menu of daily lunch specials like stuffed peppers, fish tacos and tacos al pastor. Mr. Campis said he leaped at the chance to run his own shop, even if it was 6 feet by 10 feet.

Source link