Freddie The Falafel King of Astoria Sweeps the 2010 Vendy Awards

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The third time was a charm for Freddie the Falafel King of Astoria, who took home the Vendy Cup and the People’s Choice Award at the Vendy Awards on Saturday at Governor’s Island.  Freddie left empty handed in 2007 and 2009, but made up for it on Saturday by taking both of the two top awards, a first for any Vendy nominee.  What made this year different than the other two years Freddie was nominated?  Simple… he brought his A-Game, especially for the judges- who were served a plate of food that left no doubt The Falafel King was in it to win it.

The judges’ plates, the dessert and rookie winners, plus tons more Vendy porn is after the jump…

The esteemed panel of judges had a tough job this year, and unlike past years it really seemed as if any of the five finalists could have taken home the coveted Vendy Cup.

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There’s obviously a special place in our heart for El Rey del Sabor, who park all three of their carts right here in Midtown.  They served up quesadillas, tamales, empanadas, and enchiladas, topped with salsa verde, crema, and veggies.  Their food was easily the spiciest of the day… but, sadly, the heat wasn’t enough to bring home the gold and give Mexican food a Vendy three-peat (in 2009 the Martinez Country Boys won for their huaraches, and in 2008 the Vendley Bros won with their Calexico Cart.)

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Going in I was most excited to try Patacon Pisao, the only one of the five vendors I’ve never visited.  They certainly caught my eye when Dave Cook wrote about them for the New York Times last year (a sandwich that uses fried plantains as bread!?!) and I really thought their unique brand of Venezuelan food had a great chance of winning the top prize.  Their patacon came as advertised, but their arepas and cachapas son muy delicioso tambien. (Did I say that right?)

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And their tres leches cake could have competed head to head with any of the dessert nominees!

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The Bistro Truck also came with their A game, serving up a taste of their most popular items… the Marrakech Lamb over couscous topped with stewed prunes, super delicious dijon chicken, and a bit of their merguez over french bread.  I was really impressed by how good their plate of food was, and thought they could easily pull off an upset.

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Schnitzel & Things had to be pretty confident coming into this year’s Vendys after taking the Rookie prize last year- and nobody would have blamed them for resting on their laurels and serving up the same food.  Instead, they completely upped their game… topping off an already superb veal/chicken schnitzel platter + all the sides with a bite sized version of their hugely popular Schnitzel Burger.  Who’s going to top that!?!

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Freddie, that’s who.  Last year all the judges agreed that Freddie’s football shaped falafel is some of the best there is, but his chicken over rice was just ok (leaving the door open for Biriyani Cart and Martinez Country Boys to slip through.)  This year?  No such luck for the competition.  Freddie brought the shawarma and chicken over rice pain, on a plate that looked nothing like the streetmeatpalooza he served last year. And the all star falafel?  It came served as a appetizer, where it had the chance to shine separate from the street meat.

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On the rookie side of things we wanted to back the 99 Vegetarian Truck (who began their career here in Midtown) but in the battle of the vegetarian trucks, Cinnamon Snail from Jersey was the clear winner. Their well seasoned Korean BBQ seitan and super tasty ginger island grilled tofu almost made me forget I was eating meatless food. Almost.

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A Pou’s taste, the Downtown based dumpling truck, had long lines all day and their homey dumplings were much better than they looked (especially once you topped them with A-Pou’s dumpling sauce and hot sauce).

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In contrast to A Pou, Mexicue kept their line moving super fast… a marked improvement on their first week in Midtown when the super popular truck was sporting some monster lines.

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I didn’t love their beet taco as much as I thought I would, but their pulled pork and brisket sliders were awesome.

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But not awesome enough to beat out The Souvlaki Truck, whose warm pita sandwiches were the talk of the day.

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Last Year’s Winner Oleg (from Schnitzel & Things) Presents the Rookie Award

Can you tell which guy on the stage works for the Souvlaki Truck? All the critics who thought this one month old truck didn’t deserve their Rookie nomination were silenced by that juicy pork souvlaki.

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Oh, and if you couldn’t tell… that’s a french fry. In the sandwich! So good. Which reminds us… WHY THE HELL HAVEN’T YOU BEEN TO MIDTOWN FOR LUNCH YET!?! We kid the Souvlaki Truck… they’re smart to want to get their act together before attacking the Midtown hordes. (Although they did manage to serve- and win over- 1000 starving Vendy attendees… that counts for something, right? Maybe it’s time.)

One of my favorite parts of the Vendys is that once your done stuffing your face with all that great savory street food, it’s time for dessert!

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Dessert Truck returned to the streets this year, just in time to score their second Vendy Award nomination. Their chocolate bread pudding never disappoints. And neither does the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, who also made their second Vendy Award appearance.

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The dragon beard candy cart (which you can find in Chinatown) put on a great show, and their nut filled cocoons of sugar were super fun.

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I also really loved Guerrilla Ice Cream, which can be found at various fairs and special events around NYC.

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But Kelvin Slush were the rock stars on this day… their truck was completely mobbed for most of the afternoon. Admittedly their popularity was aided by the hot weather (they told me they considered thanking mother nature in their acceptance speech) but I was really surprised at how much I liked this truck.

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You get your choice of three different slushes as your base (ginger, citrus or tea), and they’ll let you mix two together if you want. I’m a big fan of the Arnold Palmer, so naturally I went with citrus and tea. Then you get to choose from any number of mix ins, which are mostly fruit. Topped off with a peach mix in, this thing was the bomb. Parking in Midtown is dangerous for anybody serving anything cold (beware the ice cream mafia!) but if these guys parked near my office I’d be there afternoon. Just sayin’.

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Finally, NYC got to taste 3 vendors from Philadelphia, and it was announced that next year Philly would be getting it’s own Vendy Awards! (You know Jamie is super excited about this.)

All in all it might have been the best Vendy Awards yet (it certainly was the biggest!) Governor’s Island was a perfect venue, and all the vendors were pretty spectacular. Most importantly though it raised over $100,000 for the Street Vendor Project, a non profit organization that tirelessly fights to protect the vendors who have spent their lives selling delicious food on the streets of New York City! If you went, you can feel really good about contributing to a great cause. If you didn’t… this should make you not want to miss next year!

16 Comments

  • Just some thoughts:
    - Totally agreed with the decision on King of Falafel and Shwarma – it was the only truck (aside from Kelvin Slush) that made our group of eaters swoon and crave more.

    - My group loved Kelvin Slush, though the weather certainly played a factor. However, tasting Yao’s Dragon Beard candy was a revelation for me.

    - Souvlaki truck did an amazing job of quality control and customer service. Their operations were less practiced than the other carts (given they’re new at this game), but they didn’t sacrifice anything despite the rush of customers. If they keep this up, they’ll be a great addition to the food truck scene of New York.

    - I had several Taiwanese food experts in my group, and they all loved A Pou’s potstickers. As a Korean food ‘critic’, I wasn’t a fan of their Korean spin on pot stickers, but everything else was great.

    - Cinnamon Snail’s savory offerings were delicious. The sweet options weren’t.

    - My friends loved the Tres Leche cake from the Patacon Pisao truck more than the savory offerings. Damn my lactose intolerance, I couldn’t try it. :(

    - I loved Guerilla Ice cream’s flavor profiles, though I didn’t love the toppings, such as the shaved coconut and lime zest. My friend made a notable comment, “usually I love it shaved, but not in this icecream”

    Finally, major accolades to the Vendy Award organizers for putting on a very well managed and most importantly, delicious event. The wait for food wasn’t too bad, the venue was appropriate, there was careful detail to logistics (line management, recycling, composting, availability of drinks, etc) and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

  • great writeup!

  • i had such a great time at the vendys! unfortunately, i didn’t get a chance to try the slush when the line was short, it was the ONLY truck i didn’t get to try.

    king of falafel’s shawarma was so good. also, i didn’t get a fry in my souvlaki!! patacon pisao’s plantain sandwich…AHHHH. loved it.

    souvlaki truck, king of falafel, patacon pisao, and big gay ice cream were my favorites of the day.

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    Patacon Pisao was amazing. I’m baffled they didnt win. I thought Freddy’s falafel was just ok, and the Bistro Truck gave a lot of food but it was pretty bland other than the merguez. Schnitzel did a great job as well. Mexicue and Souvlaki were great, but I gave the edge to Souvlaki. I thought Guerrilla Ice Cream’s bruleed banana on top of chocolate ice cream was delicious. I didn’t wait on line for Kelvin as I’ve had it before and didn’t think it was worth the line just for something refreshing that isn’t really dessert.

    Longest lines of the day: Kelvin, Big Gay Ice Cream, Souvlaki GR

  • I have to give the Souvlaki Truck credit for the effort they put into decorating. There were tables set up with dolman, feta, and peperoncini, and they had that whole tomatoes and lemons in baskets thing going on, plus people on the truck all dressed up in Greek costumes, bouzouki music playing, etc. The food was good too.

  • So glad Freddie finally won!

  • 8th photo from the bottom: is that dude wearing a mini skirt?

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    it is part of his cop outfit. He must have figured that being in the truck, he didnt need the whole bottom.

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    Funny I walked by half of these trucks in NY and didn’t even think twice. Will make sure to try (some of) them next time im in town. And patacon next time im at the cloisters

  • Congrats to Freddy. He puts up good chicken on the rice platter!

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    I’d like to add that the guys at Kelvin were encouraging us to put some of the citrus in our beer–like giving us a tasting cup of the citrus base to put in our beer kind of encouragement. We tried going back with IPA for the ginger, but that’s when the line got slammed.

    Side note, I’m the bald guy in the Mexicue picture. Fantastic.

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