Rickshaw Nomination Generates Outrage; Vendys Respond


Well, considering all the negative comments the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck has gotten from Midtown Lunchers since opening last year I can’t say I’m completely surprised by the reaction to their Vendy Award nomination.  While some might be upset because Rickshaw is an offshoot of a restaurant, or not really the type of vendor that represents the true spirit of the awards- most are focusing on the fact that they just don’t like the dumplings. There have been cries of foul play, and just general disbelief in the comments, and one guy even asked on Twitter if he could return his ticket for a full refund. Serious Eats grand poo-bah Ed Levine, a former Vendy judge himself, posted a comment to SENY displaying a similar disbelief.

What do I think?

Well, I’m a judge this year so I think its only fair if I remain completely impartial (but feel free to read everything I’ve written about street vendors and the Vendy Awards for the past 3+ years, and I’m sure you could piece together an opinion.) But I will say this… the Vendys are run by the Street Vendor Project, a non profit organization that advocates very hard for street vendors here in New York City. Agree or disagree with the outcome, the Rickshaw Truck has its share of fans (and twitter followers) and the nominations were open to the public. You can be upset about the nominees, or even the eventual winner (lord knows I have expressed similar outrage in the past), but calling the whole event a sham is unfair- and devalues the incredibly hard work that the SVP does to advocate on behalf of some of our favorite vendors. For all my talk of the “Oscars of the street vendor world”, the Vendy Awards is much more about supporting their efforts, than about crowning a true “best vendor in the city”.

A volunteer from the Vendys posted this semi-official response in the comments:

“hi everyone- we’re sorry some of you are upset/confused about the rickshaw truck being selected as a finalist for the vendys…. the rickshaw truck was actually one of the most nominated carts/trucks on the streets, so while you may not believe it’s one of the best out there, MANY people in the city apparently love it. you’re all passionate about food – it’s up to you guys to nominate your favorites and to encourage your friends to do the same.

the vendys are going to be great this year, out at the queens museum – hopefully you’ll all still come out and support street food in the city.”

Don’t agree with the Rickshaw Truck being nominated? More reason to buy tickets and attend the event to vote for one of the other four vendors! After all, I’ve always felt the People’s Choice Vendy was far more prestigious than the one that gets awarded by the official judges.

2009 Vendy Award Finalists Announced


  • The Dane Cook of trucks…

  • “Attend and vote for another vendor”–That’s a total bs soution. I am BOYCOTTING and suggest that others do also.

    At the very least, the RT must have “stuffed the ballot box” with bogus votes and fabricated praise. Neither I nor anyone I know thinks the RT is decent cart food (ovrpriced, weird/sub-par flavors), and we’re all not crazy.

    If the “hard efforts” of the SVP can’t spot a scam like this from a mile away, I refuse to support them until theu get a clue.

    The Rickshaw Truck does NOT have ‘legions of fans’ and is NO WAY one of the top arts in the city. I call SHENANIGANS! (And will stay home for the Vendys.)

  • [Sorry for the typos--posting from my bb]

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    I’ve never had Rickshaw, but I will speculate on how they got a lot of nominations:

    1) Trucks that park in different places have an advantage in getting nominations, because they have a much larger population of prospective customers.

    2) Rickshaw probably gets a lot of customers who don’t eat at traditional street vendors. It’s more like Rickshaw vs Cafe Metro than Rickshaw vs Biryani Cart.

    Translation: Hipster trucks have an advantage, for the reasons above, and because there just aren’t that many of them.

    The wrongs could be righted at the Vendy’s. Or the high ticket price for the Vendy’s might mean that the the event will be heavily populated by Rickshaw types.

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    I have been and will always be too poor to eat at rickshaw. I remember the first time I saw the price and thought I must’ve misunderstood the pricing structure.

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    Oops, forgot:

    3) Undoubtedly they got nominations from fans of the restaurant, who don’t even eat at trucks or carts at all.

    4) Anito Lo was on Top Chef Masters.

  • All I can say is, if we took Kenny and Anita’s dumplings to their parents, and told them that it was made by some white dude, if they would say “omg, great dumplings” or if they would say, “wtf is this shit dumpling?”

    because I’ve been eating dumplings since I was like five-years-old, and whatever Rickshaw has, it’s not good dumplings.

    as for whether they deserve to be on there… it’s obviously a popularity contest. they’re there because people voted. even if the people don’t know what a good dumpling taste like, they’re still voting. whaddaya gonna do?

  • “and one guy even asked on Twitter if he could return his ticket for a full refund”

    I’ve cooled down since that original tweet – no refund needed. Maybe they’ve improved since I tried a dumpling there a year ago, and if they have’t, then the other vendors will wipe the floor with ‘em.

  • My disgust of Rikshaw Dumpling has been well noted all over ML wherever it is mentioned. I could again, write my diatribe, but I will just second every negative opinion here…with an emphasis on Danny’s “wtf is this shit dumpling?”

  • i wonder if RT will change their dumplings (taste and ingredients) specifically for the Vendys b/c of the backlash?

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    I also was quite flabbergasted… I never tried RT… but I heard enough to be kept away. Granted I can’t say they don’t deserve to be there but the field looks odd… It’s a bunch of rag tag looking vendors, a few who have had some light shone upon them in recent years, but still maintain blue collar personality…

    And then I saw the Rickshaw Dumpling truck and thought… this can’t be right… I think they def. did a better job at putting the word out… I’m sure their various locations and hipster personality helped garner a TON of votes from people who are probably terrified of the other types of carts nominated… All in all, they just dont deserve to be there in my opinion… They just dont REPRESENT the typical vendor in my eyes.

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    5) Anita Lo was a judge last year.

    I’m sure everyone running this thing is cackling with the “no press is bad press” outlook. So I’m sure “integrity, whatever, who cares?” is the prevailing view. If it were not, a former judge would NEVER make it the next year as a finalist.

    I think it stinks. Services and advocacy for carts, etc., great. This award also means cold hard cash for winners. Google “Vendy finalist” and “Vendy winner” to see how much this means to some people.

    And HOW is it advocacy, when a cart that sucks, let’s be blunt, makes it and other carts don’t?

    I’m sure those non-nominated carts feel “well-advocated-for.” Thank you Vendy, may I have another?

    One further comment:

    In all the posting and responding, no one from the Vendy’s has outlined what the ‘selection process’ was. Was it strictly by votes received? Was any de-duping done on the voting results? How did this list come to be?

    I don’t doubt they intend to help cart vendors. But in my book dealing straight up is the first requirement to helping. This smells rigged and unfair to non-connected, hard-working cart vendors.

    And no, the final vote at the Vendy’s does not make up for the flaws. It validates a non-transparent, conflicted, potentially grossly unfair process, and hurts people this organization claims to help.

  • If anything, I think NYC Cravings deserves the spot way more so than Rickshaw. Ugh.

    Oh well. Hopefully the other vendors in the popularity contest clobber Rickshaw then.

  • @thebiggeststreetcartfanaticintheworldwiththeimpossibletopronouncename, way too early for nyc cravings.

    random thought about this contest: who else besides food bloggers and cart owners would know about the vendy’s? i haven’t seen any car cards/billboards/digital ads from SVP hawking the Vendy’s 2009, it’s been mostly viral and WoM. streetvendor.org is only worth about 3 digits so it’s not the site’s booming popularity (sorry SVP! if it’s any consolation, mine isn’t worth a dime).

    carts can ask their patrons to vote for them but who really does that without incentive? their ‘other fans’ are all New Yorkers, wayyy too busy to surf the web to perform random acts of kindness. no, there had to have been something else going on that they’re dodging. otherwise they would have posted the ballot results already to shut us up.

    anyway, regardless of foul play or not, we should just give SVP the benefit of the doubt. if we’re right about them sucking (and we ARE), they wouldn’t hold a candle to the other 4 and then when they lose we can rub it even harder in their faces.

    and stop saying stuff like “zach we’re counting on you” because that’s pressuring a judge to skew the votes though he’s supposed to be impartial.

  • way too early? pfffttt. no way. they’re better qualified than “dumping” truck. oh well. what’s done is done. Counting on King of Falafel to come through for Queens and defeat the Rick. KoF because it’s the only legit Halal cart in the contest. Biryani is not really the chicken/lamb with rice icon. Everyone here raves more about their chicken tikka masala.

  • Good gravy, people sure do get riled up. Why do we have to be haters? If you don’t like something, you don’t have to eat it. These comments have turned into an angry mob, determined to see the Rickshaw Truck go down in flames. For what? Serving food you don’t care for? If you don’t like the lima beans, just say “no, thanks” and pass them on. There’s no need to tell your mother she’s an asshole for making them and ruin another Thanksgiving.

  • You’d think these were Iranian election results rather than food cart nominations. Somebody needs to start a chill-pill cart.

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    Do the last two commentors read this blog…dedicated to the food wasteland that is midtown. We have nothing better to do than eat food and yell and scream about it! Why take our fun away? Why don’t you pass the lima beans?

    The Vendy’s are an event celebrating the best of street food in an effort to raise awareness of the difficulty involved in being a street vendor. Rickshaw Dumpling represents neither the best food, nor the difficulty of being a street vendor, and so it does not, at least in the minds of most of the vocal MLers, belong in this competition.

    Personally, I have never tried Rickshaw. The comments on this page have swayed me, as has the price. The only time I ever ordered dumplings as expensive as rickshaws, they were filled with foie gras and came floating in a shiny buttery shallot broth, not in a cardboard box.

  • Flatrock, read it plenty. Will be attending the awards actually. But when Atonement gets nominated for best picture I did’t gnash my teeth and claim conspiracy, I just said “what were they thinking?” and hoped some one else one. Same with dumpling cart.

  • Won. Damn homophones.

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