Now that all of these food trucks are being recognized as legitimate cuisine, the competition has become fierce to attract the throngs of budget-conscious but flavor-hungry customers. And thus in the spirit of competition was born the ultimate tournament in curbside cuisine: The Vendy Awards. This past weekend in Governor’s Island, food truck finalists from all over NYC and New Jersey competed for the Vendy Cup, which is actually a lot more serious than it sounds.
The amazing thing about these trucks and carts is the fact that they have given people who might otherwise not have the opportunity to sell their food a venue to do so. By utilizing carts and trucks, they greatly reduce their overhead (figuratively and literally), while still having adequate space to cook up and dish out their delicious concoctions. Gone are the days when your street food options oscillated glumly between a limp hot dog with a soggy bun or a rock hard pretzel from one of the Sabretts carts littering the city. Now, you can indulge in dosas, cambodian platters and frozen treats from the Big Gay Ice Cream truck on your way from Hayden to Stern alone (my favorite is the Salty Pimp).
Upon arriving, I was escorted into the VIP area. I kissed my press pass. It was extremely shnazzy indeed; a Maker’s Mark open bar and table service meant all lines were bypassed and all food was tried. Although the air was extremely muggy, people showed up in masses. Some of the lines for the more popular trucks (Korilla!!) were unjustifiably long, while the lines for others were completely, unwisely ignored (I am salivating all over my Calc homework while reflecting on the beef tongue tacos from the scarcely patronized Patty’s Tacos truck, for example).
A particularly cool aspect of the day was the opportunity to really communicate with the vendors, and get to hear some of the backstories behind their decision serve food out of automobiles. Although I didn’t get to try everything, I got a solid taste of many different things. I humbly offer my thoughts on some of the offerings:
Korilla BBQ: Pretty disappointing. The truck routinely parks right outside of the front doors of Palladium, where it tempts residents on the rainiest of days days with comforting Korean-Mexican fused specialties. Fresh from being kicked out of the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race for cheating, it looks like a lot of their fame has gone to their heads. After blasting music uncomfortably loudly at the Awards, their line was became the longest of any in the entire venue. But I was extremely underwhelmed. The kimchi was well-flavored, but tended to overpower the rest of the dish completely, defeating the purpose of it as a condiment. They need to be a bit more prudent on the amount of it they stuff into their tacos, as the taste of the meat and rest of the several condiments are completely drowned out.
Souvlaki GR: This was my favorite. Souvlaki was the winner for the People’s Choice Award, and a finalist for The Vendy Cup. In the Chicken Pita Souvlaki the chicken was incredibly moist and the pita was perfectly grilled. The Greek fries, however, stole the show. Perfectly thick, and fried for just the right amount of time, the fries came with a generous helping of Feta, oregano, salt and pepper. The crispiness of the fries was coupled harmoniously with the soft richness of their crumbled feta. Moreover, the starchiness of the potato was cut by the oregano, salt, and pepper, resulting in fries that were perfectly flavorful without being too overwhelming. They have recently opened up shop on the Lower East Side, so it will be interesting to see how that will pan out for them. Well, I think. Greek food, I feel, is unjustifiably expensive, so this is a delicious and economically viable alternative to some of the other Greek options out there.
Miss Softee: They definitely had the most elaborate setup: I see a hot blonde girl serving ice cream out of a truck, so naturally I head on over. As I get closer, a small militia of men approach, dressed in old-school milk man costumes with red bowties. They offer ice cream in “flights,” a gimmicky name for a two-coner in a variety of options. I go for Salty/Savory, as I was feeling pretty drunk already, and was craving something salty to go with the whiskey on the rocks I was holding on the other hand. I am then showered in glitter and sparkles by a busty brunette in a red sequined dress. I made the right choice. At the front of the line the aforementioned blonde hands me two enormous ice cream cones. One is smothered in chocolate sauce and marshmallows and the other is draped in potato chips. Sweet and savory indeed. Lastly, I try their Maker’s Mark-soaked crumb cake ice cream (in case you haven’t figured it out by now, Maker’s Mark was the primary sponsor of the event). I find myself chasing alcohol with alcoholic cake. My mom would be so proud.
The Vendy Cup winner was Solber Pupusas, a truck serving traditional Salvadorian dishes. This Super Bowl of street food was an incredible opportunity for the vendors: recognition at the Vendy’s ensures long lines for the foreseeable future. People will trip over themselves to get a taste of underpriced culinary goodness. I, for one, can’t wait for next year.