Ray’s Famous BBQ made itself known to me by the aroma. Actually that’s not quite true. When I first spotted the cart across from Elmhurst Hospital I thought it was a Colombian outfit. As I approached it the unmistakable scent of grilling Filipino pork BBQ filled the air. As far as I know Ray’s is the only Filipino street food vendor in all of New York City.
Named for Ray Escoto who hails from Manila the month-old cart slings some seriously good skewers of chicken and pork BBQ ($3). Marinated in a mixture of soy, garlic, and brown sugar among other things the burnished skewers are succulent and aromatic. Dip them in the accompanying sweet chili and fish sauces for an added blast of flavor.
Chinese BBQ skewers—lamb, beef, chicken, quail, tendon, etc.—grilled over hardwood charcoal are as common on the streets of Queens as Filipino street food is rare. The latest entrant into the smoky fray is the simply named BBQ Lamb Sticks across from New World Mall.
The menu of a dozen or so items includes all the usual suspects plus one I’d never seen before: lockets for $1.25. I had no idea what the oddly named delicacy could be, but I knew I was going to have one along with two lamb skewers. After I placed my order I inquired about the lockets. “Chicken hearts,” the grill man’s assistant said. No doubt a heart-shaped locket is to blame for the mistranslation. Engrish aside the skewers were quite good. As I munched happily I asked the grill man what part of China he was from. “I’m from Malaysia,” he said. I’m working up the nerve to ask my new friend if he’ll make me some night market food to go with those lockets.
Ray’s Famous BBQ, 41st Ave. and Baxter Ave., 917-838-9099
BBQ Lamb Sticks, 136-61 Roosevelt Ave.