Tomorrow, August 1, is the last day to nominate a street vendor for the Vendy Awards, the annual Oscars of street food on September 26 at the Queens Museum of Art. Voting this year is a little more interesting (and overwhelming) with so many new vendors cropping up. Here are five tidbits to consider when submitting that electronic ballot.
Is the Food Good or Just Not Terrible?
It's easy to get swept up in the romance of line-waiting, street fumes, and plastic cutlery, but is it good? Would you eat there multiple times a week? Do you fight stomach indigestion after? Do you think the vendor would eat the stuff?
It's cool to live in an age where you can get sidewalk dumplings with a side of puns (e.g., "Who's Your Edamame"), but can you do better in Chinatown? Be honest with yourself: Does it just seem cooler because it's from a truck?
Are They Tweeting More Than Cooking?
Some of the newest vendors were on Twitter yapping about their future trucks before ever hitting the streets. While it's good to stay in touch with the mobile device–wielding world, it's also good to keep an eye on that chicken grilling or waffle sizzling.
Would You Send Him/Her a Holiday Card?
So much of street food is the person on the other side, juggling the food, the white sauce (or chocolate) squirtage, your change. Last year one of my friends gave Meru Sikder of the Biryani Cart a Kenny Rogers CD, inspired by the audio on his website. Sikder, the winner of the 2008 Vendys People's Choice Award (and, cough, a hopeful contender this year) rocks out to The Gambler—can you blame him? While you don't need to know how many cats your vendor has, it's nice to know the human details.
Is It Good for the World of Street Food?
Pancakes made from scratch at Eggs Travaganza: good. Bacon sprinkles and pumpkin butter as topping options at The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck: great. The pork sauce on the side of the fried chicken at NYC Cravings: bring it on. Mediocre cookies that are overbaked and underflavored but cost as much as those from actual bakeries (with air conditioning): no thanks.
Don't Forget the Outer Boroughs
They may not be in the rush hour vortex of tall buildings, suits, or hip T-shirts, but they are still waking up before the crack of dawn and schlepping that cart to the streets.
Farez "Freddy" Zeideia of The King of Falafel in Astoria is going on eight years feeding families shawarma and rice. And we can't forget the Arepa Lady in Jackson Heights, who has been double nicknamed (the "Sainted Arepa Lady") for a reason.
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