Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2010 Vendy Award Winners!

The 2010 Vendy Awards were this weekend, and Little Scarlet was lucky enough to get in for free – as a volunteer, of course. People in-the-know think of the Vendys as one of New York’s great foodie events, where the best street vendors of the city converge on one location for an all day extravaganza of international foods and inventive desserts. But what a lot of people aren’t aware of is that the Vendy Awards are a fundraiser for New York’s nonprofit, Urban Justice Center – more specifically, proceeds benefit Urban Justice’s Street Vendor Project, which helps fight for the rights of over 10,000 food, flower, book, and merchandise vendors that have staked their claim on small pieces of New York’s sidewalks. It’s a great cause, and this year’s Vendy Awards raised over $100,000!

I was working the afternoon shift at the merchandise table (“T-shirt? Apron? Get your Vendys gear!”), so I had all morning to wander around this part of Governors Island, sampling everything. The official winners were picked by a panel of judges including Food Network stars, local restaurateurs, and Epicurious’s own Tanya Steel. Maybe one day we’ll be listed in that line-up! (hint hint…)

Anyway, click “Read More” for the winners – and some of Little Scarlet’s favorites of the day!

Winner: Kelvin Slush!

It was pretty hot on Saturday with not very much breeze and a lot of waiting around in the sun, so it’s no surprise that Kelvin Slush took first place, with their grown-up version of this childhood favorite treat. This is no 7-11 Slurpee, though – we’re talking three different swirling slushie flavors and 11 different mix-ins. With flavor combinations like ginger slush with white peach, half-citrus – half-tea with strawberries, and half-ginger – half-citrus with freshly chopped mint… if only there were a Kelvin Slush on every corner! Although really, that’s the beauty of a slushie truck – it could be on any corner! 7-11 better watch their back…

I’m not really one for desserts, but I was really impressed by every truck in this category:

Even though it felt like a million degrees outside, I still loved eating Dessert Truck’s warm bread pudding – one of the many upscale treats they normally offer!

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck has done some pretty impressive things to plain, ol’ vanilla soft serve, covering it in wasabi peas or rolling it in dulce de leche and crushed nilla wafers, or topping it off with a big pile of curry-toasted coconut flakes.

Guerrilla Ice Cream may be carrying a hefty political message, but their “Velvet Revolution” was all the best elements of lemon poppy-seed bread, ice cream, and cookies, rolled up in one!

Rookie Vendor of the Year
Winner: Souvlaki GR!

This would have been our choice too, hands down! It’s not just that the two guys and girl running this truck are incredibly personable and passionate, or the incredible story of how they got together. And it’s not just that they had Greek music on softly in the background, or that they set out baskets of olives, feta, stuffed grape leaves, and pepperoncini for people to nibble on while waiting for their food… okay, well maybe that helped! But the souvlaki here was killer. Sometimes there’s too much bread or the meat’s too dry, but this was just the right balance of warm pita, tzatziki, cleanly grilled pork – they even slipped a few French fries inside, just like my favorite street guy does!

But I have to tip my cap also to Cinnamon Snail.

It can’t be easy to have great success as a vegetarian street vendor, let alone as a vegan street vendor like these guys! It definitely tasted better than what I was expecting and had really fresh flavors. But there’s just something about the texture of vegetarian proteins that attempt to replicate actual meat (tempeh, tofu, seitan – I’m looking at you!). They all seem to fall so spectacularly short of the goal. But if you’re a vegan living in Hoboken (or Brooklyn) and you’re hungry, you could do a lot worse in an actual restaurant, so definitely seek out Cinnamon Snail and eat well!

People’s Taste Awards and Vendy Cup Winner
Winner: The King of Falafel & Shawarma, Fares “Freddy” Zeidais!!

Each truck competing for People’s Taste and the Vendy Cup had their highlights – Bistro Truck’s lamb tajine was really impressive, as was just about everything from Schnitzel & Things (schnitz burger lollipops? yes please!), and Patacon Pisao’s namesake sandwich is good enough to make me trek up to Washington Heights for seconds. This was definitely a tough decision, but The King of Falafel… well, they don’t call him “The King” for nothing!

Some lucky Philadelphia trucks were invited to attend this year’s Vendy Awards, and The King of Falafel is lucky they weren’t eligible for any awards – Denise’s Soul Food would have easily clinched this one!

Their spicy jerk chicken with red beans and rice, sautéed cabbage, and macaroni and cheese was one of the best things I ate all day. But like I said, they weren’t eligible to compete since they’re not a New York vendor, so you’ll have to haul out to Philly to see for yourself!

Congratulations to all vendors who were nominated – hope to see you all again next year!


  1. reading this right before going to bed was a bad idea... now all i want to do is eat amazing food from vendors just like my favorite food blogger!!!

    maybe i'll dream of the vendy awards...

  2. I'll meet you down at the big yellow joint for a Bluth banana!

  3. PHILLY IN THE HOUSE!! So much diversity - it's like the Elizabeth, NJ IKEA or an international airport.