A Look at the 2009 Vendy Awards
Over 1,000 people showed up yesterday to the fifth annual Vendy Awards outside the Queens Museum of Art. Each of the eleven vendors nominated served a plate piled with specialties like schnitzel, huaraches, falafel, choinkwiches (a non-vegetarian ice cream sandwich), jerk chicken, waffles, and more. It was an afternoon of waiting in line for something delicious, chatting in line about how bad you want that delicious thing, finally inhaling it, and repeating the same process over. Talk about a beautiful way to spend a day.
At the end of the afternoon, the winner of the Vendy Cup was awarded to the Red Hook ballfields' Country Boys taco truck run by husband-and-wife team Fernando and Yolanda Martinez. They served huaraches, tacos, and quesadillas filled with your choice of beef, chicken, pork, or veggies. More photos, after the jump.
Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck
Country Boys also won for the Longest Wait in Line (a good 45 minutes at least) but to be fair, they were sizzling up fresh food to order unlike many of the other prepped stations. And those still-steamy tortillas that wrapped up all the goodness? Just wow.
The King of Falafel
What did we love most about Freddy Zeidaies and the King of Falafel crew? Was it their matching ensemble of pepper pants and hats?
Or the shimmy-ready belly dancers?
Or the egg-shaped falafel fritters?
Jamaican Dutchy served all kinds of chicken (mustard, curry, escovitch, and jerk) as well as minced beef with cabbage and rice and beans. For dessert, cubes of carrot and squash bread. Like the King of Falafel, there was more than just food going on here. In this case, the truck's flashy sign with that moving words stunt and a big-screen TV.
Rickshaw Dumplings served, oh whaddya know, dumplings! Both chicken and the edamame pictured.
Second-time Vendys nominee Meru Sikder of the Biryani Cart had trays of his signature kati rolls (India's answer to a soft taco).
Moving onto the "Best Rookie Vendor" category, or those with less than a year of experience, the NYC Cravings Truck had Taiwanese-style fried chicken, pork chops, fried tianbula (fish cake), tea-smoked egg halves, steamed dumplings, and their "secret pork sauce" (aka life-changing meat goo) with greens over white rice. While the dumplings weren't worth a second bite, the chicken and meat goo were so good, you forgot how uncomfortably full you were and ate through the pain.
Schnitzel & Things
Jared Greenhouse and Oleg Voss (whose mom was even in the truck on schnitz duty!) served chicken, pork, and eggplant schnitzel, along with a salad of beets and feta cubes, braised sauerkraut, and Austrian potato salad. Sadly, no schnitz burgers.
Will Goldfarb's barbecue truck Picnick Smoked, a spin-off of the Picnick kiosk at the Battery, served wedges of pulled pork sandwiches along with chocolate-chip cookies (bleugh, stick with the meat) and refreshing Arnold Palmers (iced tea and lemonade) on the rocks. More liquids were served inside the Queens Museum, including beer from Brooklyn Brewery, GUS soda, and wine.
Wafels & Dinges
For the "Best Dessert Vendor" category, Wafels & Dinges ironed out their signature two types of waffles: Brussels (fluffier and crispier-edged) and Liege (denser, chewier). For toppings: strawberry and banana slices, Nutella, speculoos spread (made of crushed-up speculoos, aka those wrapped cookies usually on airplanes), whipped cream, maple syrup, or butter. Though butter seems pretty skippable with all the other pizazzy toppings, one woman ordered four of the Brussels waffles with just butter, asserting this was the only thing she wanted to eat.
What flavors did Cupcake Stop serve? What flavors did they not serve is the question. Peanut butter, red velvet, chocolate and vanilla of course, PB&J, key lime, banana pudding, something with bacon, and new for fall, pumpkin.
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
Tying with Country Boys, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck also had a slow-moving snake of a line, but who doesn't want to wait for that face? I'm looking at you, Doug Quint (and co-BGICTruckeur Bryan Petroff).
Even when the chocolate soft-serve nozzle busted for about fifteen minutes, people looked so darn jolly waiting for Choinkwiches, the fun-to-say ("yeah, I'll take one of those choinkwiches please") concoction of chocolate Mister Softee and caramelized bacon smashed between two chocolate cookies.
And in the stuff-in-cups category: the Affogayto Mexicano (Mexican hot chocolate brewed by Petroff with cinnamon sticks, honey, and other spices, poured over vanilla soft-serve with whipped cream and Scharffen-Berger cocoa nibs on top) and The Gobbler (vanilla soft serve with pumpkin butter, graham cracker dust, dried cranberries, and whipped cream).
Or you could go the normal soft-serve route with their usual smattering of awesome toppings (like ground wasabi peas, olive oil with Maldon sea salt, Trix cereal, fresh berries with saba syrup).
And the Winner Is...
Everyone at the Vendys was a judge. Normal folks stuffing their faces all afternoon got to submit votes for the People's Taste Award, Best Rookie Vendor, and Best Dessert Vendor. But these guys were the specially selected judges who chose the Best Vendor of the Year, aka the person who gets to go home with the cup.
Sean Basinksy, founder of the Street Vendor Project, introducing the awards and explaining its history.
Best Rookie Vendor: Schnitzel & Things; Oleg Voss (pictured) and Jared Greenhouse.
Best Dessert Vendor: Wafels & Dinges; Thomas DeGeest. Cue Chariots of Fire music.
Grey Poupon People's Taste Award: For a second year in a row, the Biryani Cart won the vote of the people. As part of the Grey Poupon sponsorship, Meru Sikder gets a year's supply of mustard. He has no idea what to do with it. "Mustard isn't really big in Indian cooking, but she likes mustard," he told us after, hugging his daughter.
Best Vendor of the Year: Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck. Fernando and Jolanda Martinez accepted the honor with a speech in Spanish thanking everyone. Brian Vendley, of last year's winning Calexico Cart, handed over the street food goblet of glory. This marks the second year in a row for Mexican food. Conclusion: people like guacamole.
The Vendys is by far one of the most fun and delicious food events in New York. Especially this year when it took place outside the Unisphere (the giant steel globe) with those freaky-looking observatory towers (of alien spacecraft fame in Men in Black) as a backdrop.