■ 2015 winners■ 2015 FINALISTS■ 2015 Judges
Thank you to the vendors, judges, sponsors and guests that made our 11th Annual Vendy Awards a success! Stay tuned for details on 2016...
"The Oscars of street food for real New Yorkers" - Mario Batali
The Vendy Awards is an intense cook-off between the most popular sidewalks chefs in the city and a fundraiser to support The Street Vendor Project.
Finalists were selected from public nominations and compete in 5 different categories: Vendy Cup/People's Choice, Rookie of the Year, Best of Market, A Special 2015 Category, and Best Dessert. These vendors bring their best dishes to the event and ticket holders sample delicious offerings from each vendor before voting for their favorites!
- Vendy Cup / People's Choice- SNOWDAY FOOD TRUCK
- Rookie of the Year - CONEY SHACK
- Best of Market - HOME FRITE
- Best of Dessert - DOUGHNUTTERY
- Best of Street Drinks - RENEGADE LEMONADE
Vendy Awards 2015
25 finalists competed in 5 different categories at the 2015 Vendys!
- Vendy Cup / People's Choice - the grand prize!
- Rookie of the Year - The best of 2015 new food carts and trucks
- Best of Market - The best from all the delicious markets around the city
- Best of Dessert - The best sweet tastes from NYC's street vendors
- Best of Street Drinks - a new category just for 2015 celebrating something we've never celebrated before - everyone's favorite drink vendor!
vendy cup FINALIST VIDEOS
HARD TIMES SUNDAES
GUANGDONG CHEONG FUN
VENDY CUP FINALIST BIOS
Shaheen Malik Akhtaruzzaman emigrated to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2004. Whereas he had owned a restaurant in his native village, in New York he got a job as a busboy at Planet Hollywood, in Times Square. On his breaks, he would go visit the two famous (and Vendy-nominated) Bangladeshi carts nearby – Kwik Meal and Biryani Cart. Shaheen began working at Biryani cart, and then, several years later, opened the first Bangladeshi cart in Lower Manhattan, where he runs 3 carts, most famously at Liberty Street and Broadway. He, his wife, and three kids recently bought their first home, in Jamaica Estates, Queens.
Hard Times Sundaes food truck was opened by chef-owner Andrew Zurica after his brick and mortar restaurant, Luncheonette, was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. Despite being away from the Manhattan crowds in Mill Basin, Andrew’s burger truck has earned Zurica numerous write ups (NY Times, Thrillist, BK Mag) for being one of the city’s best burgers, and the truck was recently featured on Esquire’s The Next Great Burger. The signature burger, “the hard times burger” is a single, double or triple burger with American cheese, caramelized onions and thick cut hardwood smoked bacon, on a buttered and grilled potato roll that soaks up the right amount of flavors from the grill. Think you’ve tried the best burger ever? Andrew would claim you haven’t tried Hard Times Sundaes.
Guandong Cheong Fun is a neighborhood legend cooking up Cantonese steamed rice noodles known as “cheong fun” from a pushcart in the heart of South Brooklyn’s Chinatown (61st Street & 8th Ave). Traditionally eaten for breakfast, cheong fun are made using a thin rice batter topped with meat or vegetables, and then steamed, rolled, and cut into noodles. Husband and Wife team Ri Xin Kuang and Xiao Juan Yu decided to bring the flavors of southern China, where Kuang honed his skills making cheong fun in restaurants, to New York City when they started in 2012. They pride themselves on using fresh ingredients to make each rice noodle roll to order topped off with a selection of homemade sauces.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year Winner is back to compete for the big one. Snowday describes their food as “Gourmet Lumberjack,” and is the city’s first farm-to-truck food truck. Their menu features a maple grilled cheese, local beef neck, maple smoked spare ribs and a seasonal selection of pickles, salads and vegetables. Snowday Food Truck is as inspiring as it is delicious. The truck is run by Drive Change - a New York based organization that uses the food truck industry to train, employ and empower young people who are coming home from jail and prison so they can access new opportunities and live bright futures.
Known to all of Astoria as the Souvlaki Lady, Elpida Vasiliadis’ greek food cart is nothing short of an institution. For twenty-five years the Souvlaki Lady has served on the corner of 33rd Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens. Vasiliadis celebrated recipes are those she learned from her grandmother. Vasiliadis was part of the emergence of Greek food in New York City — when she started serving souvlaki the only people who knew what she was serving were Greek immigrants. Now she serves to everyone in the neighborhood, who can't stop coming back for the taste of Greece.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Lawrence Mach’s Coney Shack cooks up Southeast Asian inspired tacos, hot dogs, grilled cheeses and quesadillas on Coney Island. The beach goer’s favorite is known for their Vietnamese beef short rib taco, their beer battered crunchy fish taco, and their Chikka Dog - an Asian inspired riff on the Coney Island classic. Open since 2013, Mach has garnered a name for himself and Coney Shack’s beach front offerings.
Kaya NYC is the latest food cart to serve gua baos, popcorn chicken and other Taiwanese street food goodies in downtown Manhattan and in Dumbo. Inside the tiny steel cart chef-owner David Li master authentic Taiwanese food with a modern twist, with the goal of bringing the flavors of Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park to office dwellers. Their specialty baos menu include pork belly, shredded chicken, peking duck and fried tofu.
Lil Zeus Lunch Box earns its name from the small blue cart serving Greek food daily in Midtown West on 49th Street and 6th avenue. Chef-owner Jerry Maravelakis and his business partner hail from Queens and are proud to serve the Greek food they grew up eating from their parents generation. Despite being new on the scene, this little cart packs a mean punch with notoriously long lines producing generously portioned charcoal grilled souvlaki.
Grzegorz Gryzlak and Przemyslaw Motyka's Old Traditional Polish Cuisine Food Truck is a sleek new truck that offers traditional and authentic pierogi in varieties such as potato & cheese, and kraut & mushroom + the signature Grilled Kielbasa sausage. Gryzlak and Przemyslaw have been featured on CBS and in Zagat for their menu that offers throw-back homestyle comfort food. The Old Traditional Polish Cuisine Food Truck has became a destination for eaters looking for food reminiscent of their Polish grandmothers, and eaters who are new to Polish fare alike.
Shuka truck is a delicious creation that sprouted from the passion of Chef Gabriel Israel and the sharp business minds of his two partners, Josh Sharon and Solomon Tarabouli. Shuka Truck slings chef Israel’s take on shakshuka - a multitude of varieties including the traditional (the red), the green - made with asparagus and zucchini, and the white - made with smoked eggplant and seasonal mushrooms. Shuka’s offerings are available as a platter or as sandwiches. The 100% Kosher truck hovers around midtown and the financial district.
BEST OF MARKET
Chef owner Myo Lin Thway’s Burmese Bites has been drawing crowds for his Burmese food at Queens Night Market and other markets around the city. Burmese Bites is known for their palatas - a hand stretched thin pancake - as well as Shwe Taung Kaukswe (noodles salad), vegetable fritters and shaved ice. Thway was convinced by a fan to open his business after making palatas for a church fundraiser where they were a crowd pleaser, and has been serving his burmese food, something that’s surprisingly hard to come by in this large city, since!
Shortly after the New York Times awarded Carnitas El Atoradero a “Critic’s Pick,” Denisse Lina Chavez’s landlord hiked her rent, putting her South Bronx restaurant out of business. The Times praised her authentic, homestyle Mexican cooking, as have numerous other outlets. Serious Eats called Chavez’s cooking, “the Mexican Home Cooking We've Been Waiting For.” Chavez’s offerings include a rotation of specials, such as mole poblano, oaxaca cheese stuffed pig trotters, and albondigas. Carnitas El Atoradero has now found a home Sundays at our own Vendy Plaza.
Home Frite is well known for their never ending line at Smorgasburg, their hand-cut french fries and inventive dipping sauces. This crowd favorite was started by Ian Vernon in his apartment test kitchen in 2013 before being joined by chef Crystal Lingle and entrepreneur Maxwell Hawk. The stand boasts an impressive array of sauces from avocado, tomatillo, arugula and greens sauce to a home-made malt vinegar aioli.
Upon moving to New York City, native Southerners Adam & Clay couldn’t help but notice the lack of authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine in the Big Apple. After a few years of working in and exploring the culinary scene of New York, it became clear that something had to be done! The Gumbo Bros was founded in 2014, and the Bros first began serving at the popular Madison Square Eats food festival in Madison Square Park. After a successful run, they then expanded to the Broadway Bites Food Festival at Greeley Square in Midtown and the Columbus Circle Holiday Festival in Central Park along with pop up events at music festivals and street fairs.
For Jonathan Batista, Your Panadas is all about love. A native New Yorker, Jonathan quit his pharmacy job to start something special - a unique take on empanadas that reflects his family’s Caribbean roots. Jonathan learned to cook by watching his Panamanian grandfather and carries on that legacy today. Among his offerings are a savory curry chicken, spicy mac-n-cheese with chorizo, and the one that has everyone screaming - an ice cream empanada drizzled with dulce de leche. Your Panadas can be found every Sunday at our very own Vendy Plaza.
BEST OF DESSERT
Matt Pace, a NOLA native now residing in Brooklyn, has been eating and making beignets his entire life and developed his Booqoo Beignets recipe that woos the crowds with fluffy butteriness. For those who want the extra twist, Booqoo also serves unique caramel dipping sauces in classic NOLA flavors such as praline and chicory coffee. Matt is proud to bring one of the sweetest parts of New Orleans' deep culinary history and culture to the rich food landscape of NYC.
Maple bacon cupcakes and boozy pastries are just a small sampling of the offerings at Butter & Scotch, the creation of Keavy Blueher of Kumquat Cupcakery and Allison Kave of First Place Pies. The duo’s confections have been a hit at Smorgasburg and have garnered the attention of the New York Times to Bon Appetit and Refinery 29. The team has recently opened a bakery and bar in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights.
Evan Feldman knows that people love doughnuts - a quintessential American snack that makes every customer smile - and has put a spin on his specialty by making it snacksized and impossible to resist. Doughnuttery produces small-sized cake doughnuts that pack an incredible amount of flavor in their sugary toppings - from international inspirations (try the “Paris Time” sugared with lavender, pistachio, and vanilla) to more traditional tastes (the classic cinnamon sugared doughnut). Doughnuttery can be found at markets around the city, including Chelsea Market and Broadway Bites!
Started earlier this summer by friends CK, Rich and Jinwon, Play J’s Ice Cream has exploded onto the food blogging world and into the hands of happy-go-lucky New Yorkers. Play J serves soft serve chocolate and vanilla ice cream in a special J shaped puffed corn cone that has taken over the South Korea ice cream scene and has a Cap’n Crunch throwback flavor. The duo’s colorful truck drives around SoHo with a side banner proclaiming that it’s “time for J’scream.” Try walking down the street with this in hand without a ton of curious looks!
Katherine Sprung, the chef-owner of Squish Marshmallows is a former DJ, tech startup entrepreneur and currently works as a voice over artist. But her passion is creating marshmallows that bring a smile to her customers’ faces. Her marshmallows celebrate unique flavors, fulfilling every palate from childhood favorite combinations, to sophisticated, grown-up confections. Squish can be found at HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, Artist & Flea Markets, Hester Street Fair, the New Museum, and the Vendy’s own Vendy Plaza in Spanish Harlem.
BEST STREET DRINK
Hector Palaguachi has worked as a vendor for 6 years in Washington Heights. Originally from Ecuador, he has an interest in language and speaks a little Arabic, French, Chinese, and Korean. Hector decided to be a vendor because he wanted to be his own boss, and support his four children. The juice he will be serving is called "Morir soñando" or "to die dreaming." Hector’s secret recipe for the traditional Dominican drink, whose name is based on a song which goes "if I have to die, I'd like to die dreaming", includes orange juice, milk, cane sugar, and a little secret touch.
Catalina came to NYC from Oaxaca, Mexico 16 years ago, and has spent the past year working as a tamale and drink vendor in Washington Heights, outside the 191st Street Train Station.. She enjoys cooking, which she learned from her mom back in Oaxaca, and vends to support her 5 children. Her specialty beverages are Champurrado (a chocolate-based warm and thick Mexican drink, prepared with masa de maíz) and arroz con leche (a warm milky rice drink, typically had for breakfast).
The super cute tiki bike & coconut cart company CoCo & Co was started by two friends from across the globe who met in New York City. Luke McKenna, a journalist from Melbourne, Australia, and Yair Tygiel, an entrepreneur from Northern California were inspired to team up to start CoCo & Co after the success of their individual coconut carts. Luke had operated one in Toronto, and Yair had been operating one in Brooklyn. The duo’s combined operation includes an online storefront for their original spiced coconut oil and tiki carts operating around the city, such as at Vendy Plaza!, and catering private events. Coco & Co will be bringing their unique coconut meat and coconut oil smoothies to the Vendys.
Megan Bailey started as a drink vendor initially as Smorgasburg food stand Frittering Away. One weekend Bailey began to serve a strawberry basil lemonade alongside the food and knew she was doing something right when she sold out in five minutes. In 2012, Megan Bailey branched out to her own business, renamed Renegade Lemonade, and began to focus solely on beverages. Renegade Lemonade serves inventive flavors of lemonade such as peach mint, and watermelon jalapeno. Renegade Lemonade also recently collaborated with 2014 Best Dessert winner Ice & Vice to serve ice cream floats at events such as Gay Pride and Bryant Park Movie nights.
Tea and Milk got off the ground at the LIC Flea in the summer of 2013, started by a trio of long time friends who wanted to create the perfect bubble tea. The trio tasted many other bubble teas and with making a different concept in mind, started using a unique on the spot brewing technique to make their perfect bubble tea. The ingredients are all natural and does not contain any powdered teas or concentrate. Tea and Milk eventually expanded into a variety of teas and serve over fifteen different tea beverages (including Roasted Oolong, Hibiscus Flower Peach, and Taro Milk Tea).. Through a wide support of fans and customers, the widely celebrated fixture of outdoor markets has recently expanded to a brick and mortar outpost in Astoria in 2015 and can still be found at markets across the city.
Click on the year below to show past winners!
Marco A. Carrión is the Commissioner of New York City’s Community Affairs Unit, which serves as a direct link between the Mayor and our city’s neighborhoods. Through the Community Affairs Unit, Commissioner Carrión is able to bring together community groups, non-profit organizations, civic associations, and concerned citizens to address and rectify the issues facing residents of the five boroughs. The son of a public school teacher and a community activist, Commissioner Carrión has deep roots in New York City, possessing a keen understanding of our city’s diverse communities, and the respective needs of the neighborhoods and constituents he represents.
@foodbabyny was born out of @mikejchau's love of food and his family. As the tag line for the Instagram account states, it's simply the "best food in NY with the cutest baby in NY". It chronicles the eating adventures of Matt, now 2 years old, and his parents Mike and Alexandra, who just recently moved back to Mike's hometown of Forest Hills, Queens, NY, after initially raising Matt in the Financial District of Manhattan. The Chaus eat all over NYC at lots of the newest restaurants, with lots of the posts being heavily influenced by Mike's sweet tooth (i.e. lots of ice cream and doughnuts shots). The best part of the whole Instagram account experience for them has been meeting so many new people, both restaurant/business owners and foodbaby followers, and even more so, the ability to spend so much time together as a family.
Glenn Harris grew up in Coney Island with three brothers and a mother who loved to cook. In 1995, Harris was recruited by Jonathan Waxman, then the corporate executive chef of Ark Restaurants, to take over the company’s popular Museum Café. In April 2001, eager to open his own restaurant, Harris opened Jane, which quickly became a Greenwich Village neighborhood favorite. In 2007, after the success of Jane, Harris opened The Smith, a bi-level American brasserie in the heart of the East Village. Soon after opening the landmark location of The Smith, Harris expanded with two more locations, The Smith Midtown, opened 2011 and The Smith Lincoln Center, opened fall 2012. All locations continue to feature his accessible, seasonal cuisines but have unique features that embrace the neighborhoods in which they reside.
Claus Meyer has been a gastronomic entrepreneur for more than 30 years. Claus Meyer is an affiliated professor at Copenhagen Business School and co-founder of the Melting Pot Foundation. He has inspired a generation to rediscover local Nordic produce through his portfolio of businesses, cookbooks, TV shows, lectures and agenda-setting viewpoints. He continuously strives to push his dream of unfolding the potential of indigenous food cultures worldwide, exemplified by the co-founding of previous Worlds’ Best restaurant Noma, Copenhagen as well as Restaurant GUSTU, La Paz. In August 2015 he moved to New York City with his family to open a food court and a restaurant in the city’s iconic Grand Central Terminal and to establish a charitable culinary school and cafeteria in Brownsville, an underserved, economically challenged neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Hailed as a “Food Guide Maven” and the “Guru of Grub” by New York Times and CNN respectively, KF Seetoh is seen a champion of comfort street food culture, buzz and business. After a decade of professional stints in the media industry, KF Seetoh put a lucrative photography business aside and founded Makansutra in 1998. He has published food guides, curated The World Street Food Congress, develop and manages food courts (currently consulting for the Bourdain Market) , and has done a few shows on TV (his current Food Surprise series airs on TLC). He was accorded and recognized as Singapore’s Food Ambassador by then President Mr SR Nathan.
Maya Sittisuntorn began learning about the culinary arts as a child growing up in Bangkok, Thailand. There she developed her skills and appreciation for food when she was sent to learn traditional Thai fruit and vegetable carving. In her worldly travels, she was exposed to various cultures and traditions; these experiences have only furthered her interest in the culinary arts. After moving to NYC in 2010, she found herself working for the Michelin-Starred restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, and joined ChikaLicious in 2014, where she was brought under the wing of the renowned Pastry Chef, Chika Tillman. She accepted the exciting challenge of opening the newest ChikaLicious expansion in the West Village of Manhattan and currently serves as the Executive Pastry Chef and was recently named one of this year's Zagat 30 under 30.
A Jersey City native with a curating eye, Steph’s passions for art, good eats, and live music are fueled by having New York City as her playground. After studying Communication Design at Parsons she moved on to a career in children’s publishing. When not bedazzling princesses, Steph’s on her bike in search of the perfect bite to make the journey worthwhile. She is thrilled and honored to be a Citizen Judge at the Vendy Awards this year. Want to tag along on Steph’s urban adventures? Follow her on instagram @stephsumu or seesteph.com.
The 2015 event will be on Saturday, September 12th, 2015 from 12:30pm to 5:00pm at Governors Island. Governors Island is only accessible via ferry.
Getting to Governors Island
Ferries run from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6. Weekend afternoon ferries from Brooklyn and Manhattan are $2 round trip for adults. Morning ferries (10 AM and 11 AM) on Saturdays and Sundays are free for all. Children under 12 ride for free at all times and senior citizens' fares are half price. There is no surcharge for bicycles.
Visitors will be able to purchase ferry tickets at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan or at Pier 6 in Brooklyn. Tickets will also be available for purchase online in advance. A full ferry schedule is available here.
Directions to the Governors Island Manhattan Ferry
The Governors Island ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building located at 10 South Street, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry in Lower Manhattan. The ferry terminal is accessible via:
- Subway: 1 to South Ferry station / 4, 5 to Bowling Green station / R to Whitehall St. station
- Bus: M6, M9, and M15
Directions to the Governors Island Brooklyn Ferry
The Governors Island Brooklyn ferry departs from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, at the foot of Atlantic Avenue. The ferry terminal is accessible via:
- Subway: R to Court Street / 4,5,2,3 to Borough Hall
- Bus: B63
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE AWARDS?
Finalists arrive with their carts/trucks and prepare their best eats for Vendy attendees and judges. Brooklyn Brewery Beer, Santa Cristina wine, and non-alcoholic beverages will be plentiful, with tables and chairs for the food-weary. There will be live music, performances, and a raffle, culminating in a short ceremony naming the award winners!
Please wear comfortable shoes. Each year we work to shorten the lines, but standing in line is part of the Vendy – and street food – experience. We can’t say if any marriages have come out of people waiting in line together, but we do know that many friendships have been born as people wait for their chance to sample the finalists’ food.
WHICH AWARDS WILL BE GIVEN OUT THIS YEAR?
One finalist will be awarded the Vendy Cup and title of Vendy Award winner. Additional awards will be given to the People’s Choice Award winner, the Dessert Category winner, Rookie Vendor of the Year, Market Vendor Award & a special surprise category.
HOW ARE THE FINALISTS SELECTED?
We take public nominations until mid-June to determine the lucky vendors that are invited to compete against each other for street food glory.
HOW IS THE WINNER SELECTED?
At the event, we’ll have a team of distinguished judges score the finalists and decide who get the coveted "Vendy Cup". Attendees choose our People’s Choice Award winner, as well as winners in the other categories.
CAN I BUY MY TICKET AT THE DOOR?
The event is sold out. Tickets will not be available at the door.
IS THE EVENT RAIN OR SHINE?
Street vendors are outdoors all year long working in all sorts of weather - to respect their time, this event will be held rain or shine!
ARE KIDS WELCOME? DO THEY NEED A TICKET?
We love kids and kids love street food. Children 8 and under don’t need a ticket. Otherwise, they do.
I'M A MEMBER OF THE PRESS. HOW DO I GET A PRESS PASS OR ARRANGE TO INTERVIEW THE ORGANIZERS OR INDIVIDUAL VENDORS?
If you would like to request a press pass for the 2015 event, please fill out the Press Pass Request Form.
MY COMPANY WOULD LIKE TO SPONSOR THE VENDY AWARDS. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Last year's event brought out almost 2,000 food-savvy guests and attracted wide media attention. We’re pretty sure this year will be even bigger.
CAN I SIGN UP TO VOLUNTEER AT THE VENDY AWARDS?
The volunteer spots for the Vendy Awards is currently full. You can check back in the near future to see if any spots open up. In the meantime, if you would like to volunteer at Vendy Plaza, please sign up here!