Cachapas on Wheels — run by the Villalobos family — took home the 2016 People’s Choice award at the Vendys on Sept. 17. Cachapas on Wheels is a food truck that offers delicious Venezuelan cuisine to their customers in Manhattan, Long Island City and most recently Ridgewood.
“My family emigrated from Venezuela many years ago and settled in Maspeth right away because they liked the neighborhood and its people so much,” said Ivette Villalobos. “My brother attended I.S. 73 and we had our play days in Frontera Park. After about 10 years of calling Maspeth home, my family decided to move to Long Island and I moved to Brooklyn.”
Ivette and her brother Jesus Villalobos took over operating the Cachapas on Wheels food truck after they graduated college, while their father runs their restaurant in Inwood, Manhattan. Having spent a part of their childhood in Venezuela, the Villalobos wanted to bring some of their favorite dishes from their native land to their new home.
“The streets of Venezuela are filled with food carts offering some of the best food for locals and we wanted to bring a little piece of that to New York City,” Villalobos said. “Our menu options range from plantain sandwiches filled with slow-roasted pork, to the beloved sweet corn cake (Cachapa) filled with Venezuelan white cheese. We also offer sides of empanadas and tequenos (our version of the mozzarella stick) along with refreshing juices.”
One of the family’s most popular items on the menu is the yoyo, a sandwich that uses sweet plantains as the bun instead of bread, and can be filled with cheese, beef, pork, chicken or a combination of them all. The yoyo sandwich is a specialty in their hometown of Maracaibo.
“Congratulations to this year’s Vendy Awards winners and finalists! We are proud to work with so many street vendors who are expanding the food landscape and making New York City a more exciting and flavorful place,” said Sean Basinski, director of Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, which organized the Vendy Awards. “Every year, our winners and finalists represent the diverse community of street vendors in this city, and we hope to see more opportunities for people who want to start street-based small businesses through our campaign to lift the caps on vending permits.”
This year’s Vendy Awards was judged by an all-star panel of journalists, chefs and writers, including the following:
- Julia Moskin, New York Times dining reporter;
- Helen Hollyman, editor-in-chief of MUNCHIES, VICE’s food website;
- Chitra Agrawal, founder of Brooklyn Delhi, an award-winning Indian condiments company;
- Daniel Holzman, chef and owner of The Meatball Shop; and
- Nicole A. Taylor, host of “Hot Grease,” a food culture podcast, and the author of “The UpSouth Cookbook: Chasing Dixie in a Brooklyn Kitchen.”
There were also two special guest judges for the competition’s vegan categories, Chef Chloe Coscarell, the chef and owner of “By Chloe” restaurants and first vegan winner of the Food Network’s reality competition series “Cupcake Wars,” and Chef Adam Sobel, the chef and owner of the four-time Vendy Award-winning Cinnamon Snail food truck.
“It feels great knowing that people love your food so much,” Villalobos said. “It lets you know that you are doing something right and keeps you fired up to continue offering the best of your food.”