Vendy Finalist: Schnitzel and Things
The 2010 Vendy Awards, a celebration of New York street food, will be held on September 25 at Governors Island. All proceeds will benefit the Street Vendor Project, an arm of the Urban Justice Center, advocating for the interests of New York street vendors. This year's five finalists will all be on hand to feed the masses and compete for the city's ultimate title in street food. Each day this week, we'll be profiling one of them. —The Mgmt.
When Oleg Voss wasn't happy at his investment banking job, he thought about schnitzel. He thought about the fried meat blankets so much, he eventually quit his job to pursue them full-time. Last summer, he and his partner Jared Greenhouse (and eventually Oleg's brother Jene Voss jumped into the mix) launched Schnitzel and Things, which scoots around the city, making regular stops in Midtown at lunchtime during the week.
He quickly developed a schnitzel-loving posse of customers and went on to win last year's Vendy Rookie Award, a category just for the noob vendors (which they'll have again this year). Schnitzel and Things has now graduated to the "regular" vendor category, and is prepping all week by pounding veal and chicken in overdrive. "We'll wake up at 3 a.m. on Saturday to start coating them in breadcrumbs," said Oleg. His parents even flew out from Ukraine to help with the schnitzification.
Schnitzel is a pretty basic concept: meat that gets pummeled down real thin, which is then dipped in flour, a simple eggs-and-milk mix, and a coating of Panko breadcrumbs, then into the deep-fryer it goes. Veal is the traditional wiener schnitzel meat, but chicken is also common, and Oleg added cod to the menu for kicks, essentially a fish stick on steroids, but he won't be serving that one at the Vendys—just veal and chicken.
First thing's first: the lemon wedge. You must squirt that all over real good first. We liked the veal better than the chicken, but that's probably because we just like veal over chicken in general. The breading blanket sticks to the meat center as if it's super-glued on there tight, never falling off like other fried coatings can. It's also really thin, so you don't have a big fried pile sitting in your stomach after, which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.
And now, the "things" part of Schnitzel and Things. They'll be serving all of the sides at the Vendys, which are simple but tasty. Beet lovers will appreciate this salad: roasted beet cubettes dressed in oil, mixed with goat cheese crumbles. The Austrian potato salad isn't the creamy kind of potato salad—the Austrian part means the 'tato hunks get a light vinegar bath instead. The cucumber salad is refreshing and they're even de-seeding all the cukes on Saturday (they usually don't have time to on the truck). My favorite is the braised sauerkraut: big cabbage shreds with an herbal caraway seed flavor.
"I don't know what to call it, but we'll also have these deep-fried cheeseburger ball things," explained Oleg. Sort of a meatball lollipop take on his schnitzel burger, they will be served on toothpicks. Vendys-goers, get excited. Oozy cheese-filled balls of meat! Deep-fried! On a stick!
And we can't forget the dip tubs: ginger, scallion, and garlic relish; tartar sauce; spicy Sriracha mayo; and chipotle mayo.
Oleg isn't nervous about Saturday, just excited. "I hope the judges don't wake up and crave tacos." (They have the past two years: Calexico won in 2008, and Country Boys last year.) "I'll just have to show my dimples more."