Day in the Life of…a Coffee Cart Vendor


Welcome to Day in the Life of, a new feature that’ll appear every so often on Fork in the Road in which we look at different culinary professions in New York City and the people behind them. How do the pros actually spend their days?

Up first: Mohammed Eladl, 57, who operates a coffee cart at the corner of West 4th Street and Mercer. Here’s how he spends his day:

4:30 a.m. — I get up and watch the news to make sure everything is OK. Then I’ll warm up the cart and make sure that the cart is running, and I’ll check my stock to make sure I have stuff for the day.

5:30 a.m. — I drive to the city from Jersey City. I’ll pick up my food supplies from Brooklyn.

6:30 a.m. — I get to my corner, and make sure that the water’s hot and that everything’s ready. Usually I’ll leave the cart closed while I get ready. Then the first customers come and I’ll start cooking and serving. Rush hour is around 10 a.m. During the school months my clientele is mostly NYU students. Some customers come every day. Most people order coffee and a doughnut or bagel. If they have time, they’ll get a sandwich. My special is the turkey, egg, bacon, and cheese, which I make on the griddle.

1 p.m. — The time I leaves depends on the weather. If it’s rainy and business isn’t that good, I’ll start to leave around 1. Otherwise I’ll leave around 3 or 4 o’clock. I used to be located on the other side of the street, but then they had construction so I moved. I’ve been operating this cart for four and a half years. There’s a lot of competition [between cart vendors], but you need to stay close to your customers. I was in the restaurant business before. It was an Italian pizza and pasta restaurant that did pizza, but I couldn’t survive doing that after 9/11.

4 p.m. — From 4 to 5, I have to take my cart to be cleaned at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, and after that I drive home.

6 p.m. — I’ll have dinner with my wife, who does the cooking, but if I get really hungry before I get home, I’ll eat some leftover food from the cart. And then I go to bed and prepare for the following day. I only work weekdays, and only on days with good weather. I can’t operate the cart in the snow. And then on the weekends, I relax and just enjoy being outside.