From the Window of Her Food Cart She’s Watched and Nourished the Neighborhood for Two Decades

Photographs and text by Stephen Harmon

She is a small woman with a big smile and a gift for gab, who has been serving high-quality, delicious coffee and food from “Mama’s” cart on the northeast corner of Broadway and West 67th Street for almost 22 years. She has loyal customers who stop by every day for coffee, breakfast or lunch on their way to work, school or just walking the dog. Her name is Theodora (“like Dora the Explorer,” she said.) When she started the business, she borrowed $40,000 dollars from her father to buy the cart.

It’s a hard life, especially for a woman 65 years old. In the early days her husband worked with her, but illness has kept him at home, so she does it all by herself. She brings the cart into the city from a garage in Queens hitched to the white van she parks on the corner. She gets to her spot about 4:30 to 5:00 am in order to set up, make the coffee and start preparing the day’s food. The young man with skate board (above), who works in a building across the street, said he buys breakfast there every morning, and the chicken and rice lunch (one of many offerings) is the best in the City.

Her day ends at 3:30 pm when she takes the cart back to Queens. She still needs time to shop for the food and beverages she sells, and the entire business is subject to the vagaries of the weather — snow or rain means little, if any, business, and in winter there is no heat and in summer no air conditioning. Yet, Theodora loves being on the street and meeting and talking with people. She and her clean, beautiful cart are part of the heart and soul of the Upper West Side.

FOOD, NEWS | 17 comments | permalink
    1. EGF says:

      She is such a great part of the neighborhood. I like to stop occasionally and get a BEC. She makes a good one!

    2. D-Rex says:

      Nice story, thanks for writing.

      Good to remember all the individuals that give the city its energy and character. It is not just the famous and wealthy that make the city go, but rather everyone.

    3. babrarus says:

      Her coffee is superior to Starbucks coffee
      And her attitude and smile are superior to any you get in all other eateries.
      Thank you for making our days brighter and tastier… Cheers all

    4. Otis says:

      Our neighborhood’s unsung heroes are the folks like this lady who work hard earning an honest living.

    5. Jen says:

      Thank you for the nice article. I will definitely try Mama’s cart now.

    6. wombatNYC says:

      Neighborhood Treasure. You go Mama!

    7. AC says:

      Can always count on Carol for such heart warming stories. Its hard working people like this that I will go out of my way to support.

    8. Paul says:

      I’ve had the pleasure of being a customer since around 2003. She is just so genuine, honest and caring. Kills me to see the toll the pandemic has taken on her and her business.
      This is the type of owner and business which really make up the foundation of this city.
      And great food on top. Her lunch specials have that touch of home cooking you get from our own mother’s.

    9. tempusfugit says:

      Her food is marvelous and she is perhaps even more so.

    10. Susan says:

      Where is she located?

    11. Diana says:

      Can’t believe I just read this- I discovered her forb the first time a few weeks ago as I was walking to work. She’s delightful, the food is great, and- most important of all- she’s like all of us, a true New Yorker doing her thing in a tough town. I have so much respect for her- I’ve waited many minutes till my ham and egg sammie was ready, watching her juggle orders and smile at everyone. I usually tip the equal of the sandwich price- she’s a real NYC treasure.

    12. Golandrina says:

      Love these stories about wonderful New Yorkers. I am on 139 Street but look forward to buying from Mama soon! Thanks for posting this.

    13. Larry K says:

      What a nice story. I’m from 94th and rarely get down there but today I must have walked right past it. Next time I’m near her I will definitely go out of my way to buy a BEC and coffee. Thanks

    14. Katie says:

      Clean and beautiful….wow. Wish more women could go into this business. Maybe the City could start a low cost loan campaign for women willing to work so hard 365 days a year!

    15. Exerceo says:

      Tip her. Tip her big!