It seems like every street in New York City has a food vendor. But how can the hungry determine the best spot to spend their hard-earned dollars?
Five finalists will compete to determine the city’s best street food vendor in the 14th annual Vendy Awards on Saturday at Governor’s Island.
“I’m in awe of these competitors,” said Mohamed Attia, new co-director of the Street Vendor Project. “Their food is delicious, but let’s also think about their many years of service to the community.”
Each vendor must prepare a menu and compete in a cook-off, where food fanatics and judges will sample foods from each.
The Vendy Cup winner will then be awarded by a cadre of food experts.
These are the finalists:
Myo Lin Thway introduced what’s believed to be the first Burmese food cart in New York City four years ago. One of his most popular dishes is palata, a flaky flatbread either served plain with chicken curry, or filled with ground meat.
“I wanted to introduce palata to the public,” said Thway. “That’s how I started.”
Burmese Bites became one of the most popular vendors at the Queens Night Market, and was nominated for Best of Market vendor in 2015. The cart operates five days a week in Long Island City.
The Astoria-based family street food business began operating almost 50 years ago, and still stands strong on the same corner at 31st and Steinway avenues.
“I was born into the business and continue the legacy,” said Franky Englezos. “My father started selling hot dogs in 1970 and became popular in the ’80s when we began serving the community souvlaki.”
Aside from souvlaki, the cart also serves gyros and other Greek favorites. Customers have commented that “flavor is there, the tenderness is there — it’s real Greek souvlaki.”
Native Staten Islander Joe Jiannetto grew up working in and out of pizzerias before opening his own pizza and catering truck in 1998. The truck is known for its Sicilian-style grandma slices, where cheese is melted into the crust before going into the oven. Customers have raved about the sauce being “unbelievable,” as well as the way the pizza is made, with sauce on top.
“We have one of the best pizza trucks in New York,” said Jiannetto. “Not many can compete with us and none do a Sicilian pie like us.”
New Yorkers can find the pizza and catering truck on 47th Street, between Park and Madison avenues, where they also serve a variety of rolls, pasta and calzones.
The push cart owned by Colombian immigrant Luis Alfonso Marin Valencia has been running for nearly 30 years in the Jackson Heights community. Its most notable item on the menu is arepas con queso.
“People like the arepas with cheese and chocolo (sweet corn), but especially like the cheese,” said Valencia.
The cart is located on Roosevelt Avenue and 80th Street, which only runs Friday to Sunday, beginning at 10 p.m.
Royal Grill Halal Food is a husband and wife food cart, that has been operating for more than 10 years, seven days a week. The truck is known for its specialties such as chicken tikka masala and biryani, with a unique blend of spices, which MD Alam, owner of the cart, says is “prepared with love.”
The cart is set up at 44th Street and Sixth Avenue, and often is seen with lines that stretch down Fifth Avenue, filled with new and longtime customers.
Other categories in the Vendy Awards include Best Rookie Vendor for the best new cart or truck, Best Market Vendor, which recognizes the best from the city’s eclectic food markets, and Best Dessert Vendor. Best Breakfast Vendor is a new category this year.