Street vendors in Boston come with the sun
NO JOKE: Daddy's Fried Dough is one of the best.
Farmers markets are starting to sell their beets and leeks and cherry tomatoes. Tourists are flocking to Fanueil Hall. And Downtown Crossing is getting crowded. But we're looking for street vendors, carts on the sidewalk to sell us stuff, fast and cheap. I wonder, pedaling my bike past Park Street on an overcast Saturday, where they are. Turns out the weather is the secret. Step into the bustle of Copley Square when the sun is shining and they’ll be there. Or walk up to Quincy market where you can pet furry lobsters (seriously) or head north for healthy treats in the shade of the Harvard Square T-stop. Now that summer stretches before us, here’s where to find a few pushcarts that’ll make braving the heat worth your while.
Daddy’s Fried Dough: Rob McIntyre tosses his dough like pizza into the air — before dropping it into a sizzling vat of oil that looks and smells like maple syrup. Each $3.50 serving is made on the spot and glazed with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. For an extra dollar, top your dough with cherries, blueberries, apples, or Bavarian cream and chocolate (a/k/a “Boston Cream Fried Dough”) — best eaten fresh on the street, with dressings dripping down your chin.
But outside of Park Street Station, you’ll hear the rhymes before you smell the hot dough. “Diet coke, that’s no joke!” quips McIntyre, grabbing an icy bottle for a customer. And he spouts a verse about fried dough á la cherry to a baffled little girl. McIntyre's been in the business for eighteen years. But he’s as much performer as dedicated foodie — rhyming and serving Daddy’s Fried Dough at Park Street daily (unless there is an event, downpour, or mid-summer hail). He fries the first piece of dough as early as 10 am. And after the crowd dies down, “I go home to take a bath,” McIntyre tells us — standing covered in powdered sugar from his bald head to his cut-off black shorts.
Big Daddy's Hot Dogs: Unlike the countless other vendors forking boiled franks out of steaming vats, Copley Square’s Big Daddy's dogs are all beef and they’re custom-sized. When I ask a salesgirl clad in red how the pushcart got its name, she musters "Because they're Big Daddys!" Manager Doug Burrell, who created frankfurters scaled for kids and grown-ups, was a little more specific: "I pulled a hot dog out and went, 'look at this big daddy!'” Burrell now sells Big Dogs ($4), Junior Dogs ($3) — nicknamed “Little Daddies” by his daughter — and Small Dogs ($2), along with spicy Sweet Sausages ($5). And, since ten percent of the proceeds from a Big Daddy’s dog go to Eliot Church — a local landmark, and education center and food pantry — you can munch on nitrates for a good cause.
Spray Art: Antonio Maycott is the guy in Harvard Square with spray paint all over his pants and shoes. Colorful aerosol containers circle his splashed feet, as he dusts canvases with cartoons of seals leaping over city skylines. He shows me and a wide-eyed kid how he does it, spraying stencils of planets, and sprinkling them with glitter — while Christie’s “Yellow River” plays in his tape deck. Maycott learned the graffiti tricks twenty years ago in his native country Mexico. His paintings sell for as cheap as $10 —but his large pictures of butterflies in pine forests are a steal at $30.
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