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A Look at the 2010 Vendy Awards: Who Won the Street Food Oscars?

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: A Look at the 2010 Vendy Awards: Who Won the Street Food Oscars?

[Photographs: Maggie Hoffman]

It was a beautiful day to feast on street food at Governors Island on Saturday. You may have spotted the 18 nominated vendors (and their trucks, propane, and enough ingredients to feed the expected 1,200 attendees) on the ferries heading over to the island for the sixth annual Vendy Awards. Started as a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit that provides legal representation and advocacy to immigrant vendors, the Vendys have become the Oscars/Grammys/Tonys of street food—not to mention one of the most finger-licking and fun food events of the year in New York.

This year there were four categories, as well as a special one for three Philly-hailing vendors who drove up on a flatbed that morning. The other four awards, for NYC-based vendors, included the big Vendy Cup, which was chosen by an all-star judge squad: president of The Trust for Governors Island Leslie Koch, cookbook author Molly O'Neill, Food Network personality Aarón Sanchez, restaurateur Stephen Starr, Epicurious editor Tanya Wenman Steele, and citizen judge Alyson Waller. The other three—Mastercard People's Taste Award, the Rookie Vendor of the Year, and Dessert Vendor of the Year—were based on tallied-up votes from Vendys attendees.

So here's the drill. You take a delightful 10-minute ferry ride over, follow the falafel-scented fumes, pass historic forts and cannons on the island, then arrive at the Vendys (joy!), wait in 17 lines, make new friends (Vendys-goers are always good eggs), chow down all afternoon, vote by 3:30 p.m., frolic around the grass a bit and enjoy the live band, then await for the big winners to be announced around 4:30 p.m.

Let's meet all the finalists, and drool over what they served:

SPECIAL GUESTS FROM PHILLY

This is the first year the Vendys has included another city—it was kind of a mini Vendys within a Vendys. Three vendors were invited, thanks to a partnership between the Street Vendor Project and Philly Homegrown, an initiative of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. They also announced that Philly will be hosting their own Vendys in 2011!Now that makes NYC, Los Angeles, and Philly—um, where you at, Portland and Austin?

Honest Tom's Taco Shop

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Website
Menu: Breakfast tacos (egg, potato, cheese) and sweet potato tacos.
Location: Check @honesttoms; they make stops at Drexel University's campus and Center City during the week, and the Clark Park farmers' market on Saturdays.

Denise's Soul Food Restaurant

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Location: Monday Fri 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 30th Street Station.
Sold-out! Boo hoo! We actually didn't get to try Denise's because they ran out before we made it there. But many sources confirmed it was delicious: fall-off-the-bone marinated jerk chicken, rice and beans, and collards.

Birchrun On a Roll

Website
Menu: Birchrun Bockwurst (veal) and Franks (veal-pork mix) made from Birchrun Hills Farm's humanely raised cows and piggies, and open-faced flatbread sandwiches topped with NorthStar orchard apples and Birchrun's blue cheese.
Location: The Headhouse Square farmers' market and around Chester county, PA.

ROOKIE VENDOR FINALISTS

Mexicue

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Website
Menu: Tacos (oak smoked short rib or beets) and sliders (brisket or pulled pork), and iced tea.
Location: Roving Monday through Friday; check here
Back story: It was started in July by two guys: Dave Shillace, who used to work in sales, and Thomas Kelly, who worked in marketing but also had part-time jobs in the kitchens of Craft and Hearth. The inspiration? Dave's family moved to Arizona when he was 14, and ever since then, he's needed his Mexican food fix. His buddy Tom was on board. So they got a bright orange truck and hired Ted Distler, an FCI grad, to be the head chef.

99% Vegetarian

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Menu: Soy burger, pinto bean chili, tofu scramble, and faux chicken.
Location: Liberty and Broadway in Manhattan; Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
What's the other 1%? They used to be called Healthy Vegetarian Food, but then started serving some chicken, so it wasn't an 100% veggie zone anymore. Now it's approximately 99%. But, they didn't serve any meat at the Vendys.

A-Pou's Taste

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Website
Menu: Kimchi beef potstickers (we wanted more kimchi kapow!), and mini tubs of Hot and Sour soup and Corn Chowder (whoa, creamy).
Location: East Village and Financial District; check @apouspotsticker
Chinese Spaghetti? He didn't have it at the Vendys, but serves it on the truck.

Cinnamon Snail

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Website
Menu: Grilled tofu over mashed yams with mango salsa, spiced pecans, and fried ginger; Korean barbecue seitan; porcini hempseed crusted tempeh. OH HEY THERE FAKE MEAT.
Location: Hoboken, New Jersey; check @apouspotsticker
Costumes: The team working inside the truck were all clad in blue police uniforms. Founder Adam Sobel went all out—he even sported matching cut-off shorts.

Souvlaki GR

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Website
Menu: Souvlaki Stix (pork and chicken skewers) and Souvlaki Pita (the same charcoal-grilled meat in a fluffy, warm pita) or Horiatiki Pita (Greek salad with tomatoes, imported feta, and olives wrapped in the same pita), Patates (potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano) and Greek fries (golden, crisp, salty fries with feta crumbles and oregano).
Location: Roving; check @souvlakitruck
Dance Party: Founders Kostas Plagos, Abby and Pavlos Sierros were blasting traditional Greek music and set up umbrella-shaded tables with oil-marinated feta cubes for people waiting in line (and it was one of the longest snakes all day).

DESSERT VENDOR FINALISTS

Dessert Truck

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@desserttruck
Location: Broadway and 17th Street; Tuesday to Sunday from 6 to 11p.m.
Bah! Unfortunately we saved this one for last (I mean, it's dessert) but they ran out of sweets. Luckily we've had most of them already, and love them.

Yao's Dragon Beard Candy

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Menu: Long tzi tang (aka "dragon beard candy") which is pulled powdered sugar goodness with peanuts and coconut
Location: Canal Street between Elizabeth and Mott Street; daily, except when raining, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Read more here »

Guerrilla Ice Cream

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Website
Menu: Four flavors, including 8888 Uprising (a mango, lemongrass and palmsugar sorbet topped with shredded coconut and lime zest) and Red Corridor (chai masala ice cream topped with almonds slivers and candied fennel).
Location: Hibernating for the winter, but check their website for updates
We're Proud of You, Ethan! Guerrilla's co-founder Ethan Frisch is our Friday ice cream recipe columnist (with Max Falkowitz, who was actually manning the raffle table at the Vendys).
Read more here »

Kelvin Slush Truck

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Website
Menu: Choose a base first—citrus, iced tea, or ginger—and then any fruit puree mix-ins. We went with a citrus-ginger base and strawberry puree.
Location: Hibernating for this year, but check their website for updates
Grown-up Slurpees: Alex Rein, the truck's owner and former commercial real estate lawyer, grew up downing Slurpees like the rest of us, until he reached that age where you're expected to stop. His solution: a less sweet slushie made with real fruit purees.
Read more here »

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

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Website
Menu: You could get the signature cones in line, such as the Salty Pimp (vanilla soft serve, dulce de leche stripes, sea salt, all chocolate dipped) and nibbles in small cups (soft serve topped with cocoa nibs, saba-dressed strawberries and peppermint syrup, or toasted coconut flakes and ginger syrup) at the nextdoor table manned by co-trucker Bryan Petroff.
Location: Hibernating for this year, but check their website for updates
My Little Ponies: Founder Doug Quint decorated the truck with pink and purple pony art, which won over the eight-year-old girl in all of us.

BEST VENDOR OF THE YEAR

Schnitzel and Things

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Website
Menu: Schnitzel (pork and chicken), side salads, and fried cheeseburger balls on a stick.
Location: Roving; check @schnitzeltruck
Cutest Vendor Parents Award: Oleg and his brother Jene Voss got schnitzelification help from their parents, who flew in all the way from Ukraine.
Read more here »

Patacon Pisao

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Menu: Namesake patacón sandwich made with fried green plantains that are squashed flat and pounded thin and filled with your choice of meat; tres leches cake; and sweet corn queso cachapas.
Location: 431 W 202nd Street; 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Read more here »

El Rey del Sabor Truck

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Menu: Pastelios (beef or chicken), tamales, mixed enchiladas (spicy beef, pork, vegetarian), and mixed quesadillas.
Location: 49th Street and Park Avenue, 60th Street and Third Avenue, 43rd Street and 6th Avenue; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Read more here »

Bistro Truck

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Menu: Chilled mixed berry soup (basically a smoothie), braised lamb tagine over cous cous with big melt-in-your-mouth prunes on top, dijon chicken, and braised lentils with pumpkin chunks.
Location: 5th Avenue between 16th and 17th Street everyday except Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Read more here »

King of Falafel

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Website
Menu: Falafel fritters, chicken and rice, and shawarma.
Location: 31st and Broadway in Astoria; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Monday through Saturday
No Belly Dancers? Both other years he was a Vendys finalist, in 2007 and 2009, Fares "Freddy" Zeidaies brought belly dancers to the event to shimmy-shake their midsections in front of the cart. He planned to have the good luck charms there again this year, but unfortunately one sprained her ankle, and since they only work as a pair, they had to call it off.
Read more here »

Drum Roll Please..

Up first, Street Vendor Project founder Sean Basinski shared some Vendys history and that they had raised close to $100,000 for the SVP organization that day. Next up, NY1 news anchor Pat Kiernan, who was the Vendys emcee, introduced all the categories.

Rookie Vendor of the Year

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The 2009 Rookie Vendor of the Year (and a finalist again this year) Oleg Voss (in the red flannel) did the honors of opening the envelope to announce the winner: Souvlaki GR truck, who's only been in biz for a bit more than a month. Aw, touching words from co-owner Kostas Plagos on stage: "We won just by being invited today. Thank you, and see you on the streets."

Dessert Vendor of the Year

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Kelvin Slush Truck won the sweet-tooth category, and like Souvlaki GR, just launched this summer.

Best Vendor of the Year: Peoples' Taste Award AND Judges' Pick!

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For the first time in Vendys history, the same vendor won the hearts of both judges and the people. A two-time nominee (in both 2007 and 2009—the Susan Lucci of street food vendors?) Fares "Freddy" Zeidaies took both prizes, while holding an adorable small child on stage. "Now I really am the king," he said after. He belted out many of his signature "YAH BABY!s" while posing for pictures after.

Congrats to all the vendors!

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