The Vendy Awards Kept the Threatening Weather At Bay
All those attending the 11th annual Vendy Awards this past weekend were praying for good weather. The forecasters told us our prayers would be ignored and threatened thunderstorms all day. Miraculously, street food won out and the day ended up being full of food, celebration, and pleasant weather.
The festivities returned to Governor’s Island and ran very smoothly. Despite some long lines and a few vendors running out of food before the event was over, there were some great discoveries and awards given out. Plus the Street Vendor Project raised money for their advocacy work fighting for rights of street vendors. Their current campaign is to lift the caps on permits to enable more vendors to operate on the street and prevent closures like the recent fate of Cinnamon Snail.
Vendy Cup and People’s Choice – Snowday
Adam Sobel from the aforementioned Vendy winning vegan truck was on hand to pass on the trophy. The big winner of the afternoon was last year’s Rookie of the Year Snowday, who won both People’s Choice and the judge-selected Vendy Cup award. The dual win has only happened once before in 2010 when King of Falafel took home both People’s Choice and Vendy Cup.
Snowday offered the crowd maple syrup-spiked dishes like grilled cheese, fried pork ribs, pickles, and cucumber mint slushies. They also educated eaters about their important social mission: they employ previously incarcerated youth.
Other nominees for the Vendy Cup were on hand, bringing some of the best food from all five boroughs. Brooklyn’s Hard Times Sundaes had bite-size portions of their acclaimed burgers, while Souvlaki Lady from Astoria grilled up pork, chicken, and beef pitas.
Biryani House, who has a fleet of carts in the Financial District didn’t hold back with biryani and delicious kati rolls. My favorite discovery was Sunset Park’s Guandong Cheong Fun who impressed with tender and flavorful rice noodle rolls.
Rookie of the Year – Coney Shack
The Rookie of the Year nominees garnered the longest lines of the day, all representing Midtown well. Coney Shack, who gave out three of their popular tacos (fish, squid, and short rib) took home the big prize.
I loved Old Traditional Polish Cuisine’s smoky kielbasa and their cheese/potato pierogi was a huge hit.
And the guys at Shuka Truck charmed the crowds as they dished up their spiced egg and tomato platters.
Market Vendor – Home Frite
The Market vendors probably have the most experience with this kind of service. Home Frite took home the award for their array of dipping sauces and exceptionally crisp handcut potatoes.
YourPanadas, who currently vend at Vendy Plaza, made an excellent showing with chicken/chorizo empanadas and an irresistible cheesecake empanada.
Burmese Bites introduced many to their unique food with their roti-like palatas. And those lucky enough to try Carnitas El Atoradero before they ran out, would have tasted homemade tortillas with albondigas (meatballs stuffed with egg).
Rounding out the category, Bros. put out their Cajun spiced stews, which are also available just out of bounds at Madison Square Eats through October 1.
Dessert of the Year – Doughnuttery
Dessert is always a tough category to choose a favorite and this year was no exception. There were bite-sized bars from Butter & Scotch, marshmallow kabobs from Squish Marshmallows, corn-pop ice cream cones from Play J’scream, and two types of fried to order dough.
Doughtnuttery edged out Booqoo Beignets and took home the award for their warm mini-donuts tossed with flavored sugars.
Best Street Drinks – Renegade Lemonade
And nobody left thirsty this year. In addition to all-you-can-drink Brooklyn Brewery beer and Santa Cristina wine, five finalists competed for this year’s special category, Best Street Drinks.
Renegade Lemonade, who showed up in Midtown this summer at the Bryant Park Film Series, won over the crowd with a beautiful display and unique flavors.
Other thirst quenchers included Tea and Milk’s array of freshly brewed teas and textured mix-ins like fresh cream and tapioca pearls. Best Juice Uptown sweetened things up with morir soñando (or “to die dreaming”) while Catalina’s Champurrado served hot Mexican drinks like arroz con leche and champurrado.
The party really came to life at the CoCo & Co tiki bike where drummers from Stomp kept the summer island vibe alive and paired well with the vendors’ coconut smoothies.
For those that couldn’t make it, the Street Vendor Project is still hosting Vendy Plaza every Sunday up in East Harlem through November. It’s like a mini-Vendy Awards, but entry is free and there is food for purchase from about a dozen different vendors, including many of this year’s nominees.
In the end, it was another great afternoon of eating and celebrating the hard work these vendors put in every day to support their families and to keep us well fed. Thank you vendors and thank you, weather gods!
To see a short video from the event, click the link below.