Who’ll take the crown from last year’s winner, Snowday?
For the past 12 years, the Vendy Awards have shone a well-deserved spotlight on scrappy, enterprising, street food entrepreneurs. And while there are tremendous bragging rights to be gleaned from being nominated in categories like “Best Rookie,” “Best Dessert,” “Best Market” and even “Best Vegan,” there’s no honor greater than being fingered for the Vendy Cup; a battle between four of the mobile food world’s greatest stars. So here’s who’s up for the grand prize this year — awarded during a gluttonous celebration on Governors Island, on Saturday, September 17th — including a trio of Latin cuisine vendors, and a Chinese hand pulled noodle-slinging cart.
Cachapas on Wheels: Born in Venezuela, brother and sister team, Ivette and Jesus Villalobos, are committed to sharing the dishes they grew up with. Having taken over their father’s food truck (a branch of the restaurant he still runs in Inwood), the pair peddles specialties like yoyo’s (sweet plantain sandwiches) as well as arepas (griddled corn cakes), tacuchos (a type of burrito) and of course, cachapas (sweet corn crepes) from their reliable post at Hanover Square, and regular SoHo route.
Gladis’ Empanadas: A nine-year street vending veteran, Ecuador native Gladis Cocha got her start selling fruit on the sidewalks of Brooklyn. Now, she’s a mainstay in her own East Williamsburg neighborhood, offering up chicken, beef and cheese pastelitos (diminutive empanadas) topped with her secret recipe salsa, from the corner of Debevoise Street and Grand Avenue.
Tacos El Rancho: While working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Chelsea, Felix Soriano was fortunate enough to be mentored by the chef, who taught him the tenets of French and Italian cuisine. And while it indeed sparked a passion for cooking, Soriano ended up gravitating towards the fare of his hometown, Oaxaca. He launched a taco truck in Sunset Park — utilizing handmade tortillas, homemade salsa and fresh produce — which has become popular enough to turn into a family business; now co-run by his two adult sons.
Traditional Chinese Cuisine: Formerly a chef in China, Flushing-based Yuanzhen Wang crafts the specialties of his native region, Henan, from the back of his Washington Square Park-located truck. And goodness knows, hungry NYU students have come to depend on his spicy lamb burgers, tender fried chicken and zhajiangmian; meat sauce-topped, hand-pulled noodles.
For more information, visit www.vendyawards.streetvendor.org