By Ivan Pereira
The city’s best of the best in street food went head-to-head against each other in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this weekend and nearly 200 visitors ate it all up.
The park hosted the fifth annual Vendy Awards, a massive cook-off competition to find New York’s best street food vendors. Eleven teams vied for four awards, including the Vendy Cup, the Grey Poupon People’s Taste Award, the dessert award and the rookie award.
“It’s like the Oscars for the vendors,” said John Mooney, who was representing the Waffles & Dinges team, which won the dessert award.
The teams, which included Astoria’s self-proclaimed “King of Falafel & Shawarma” Fares Zeidaies, set up their carts and trucks near the Queens Museum of Art and were dishing out their meals to hundreds of ticket-buying visitors who voted for the best cook. The dishes ranged from exotic food choices such as Thai from the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck to barbecue at the Picknick Smoked truck.
The voters took their time judging the food, most of which was offered free, as they explored their choices.
“I think it’s great,” said Francisco Lopez, 24, of Ridgewood. “It collects all of the flavors of the city.”
This year’s Vendy Cup went to the Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck. The vendors, Yolanda and Fernando Martinez, have been selling fresh Mexican food from their truck in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for the last 16 years. Their speciality is huaraches.
For the second year in a row, the people’s taste award was given to the Biryanic Cart, which is manned by Bangladeshi immigrant Meru Sikder in midtown Manhattan. Sikder, who lives in Woodside with his family, said the award was very important to him because it represents the tastes of everyday New Yorkers.
“I don’t care about the judges. I like that people like my food,” he said.
Oleg Voss and Jared Greenhouse won the Rookie award for their cart, Schnitzel and Things, which serves Austrian cuisine across the city.
Waffles & Dinges beat two competitors, Big Gay Ice Cream and Cupcake Stop, to take home the sweet award.
Thomas DeGeest, founder of Waffles & Dinges, said having the competition take place in the heart of the 1964 World’s Fair location was special for him. Belgian waffles were first introduced to American eaters during the fair and have had a resurgence in the New York eating scene.
DeGeest, a former management consultant, said the Vendys give small-time cooks like him a new audience.
“The Vendys elevate the street vendor to the consumers. It tells them there are foods they can trust and enjoy,” he said.
The competition was started four years ago by the nonprofit vendor’s advocacy group the street vendor project. All money from ticket sales of the Vendy’s went to the organization, which fights for vendor’s rights in the city.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.