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  • Writer's pictureKaren Seiger

Meet the Vendy Awards Rookies, Food Market Favorites, and Sweet Treat Purveyors

Press Release: I am so excited to be a Citizen Judge at this year’s Vendy Awards! It’s going to be extremely difficult to choose among all these amazing food purveyors, but someone has to do it, right? If you need me, I’ll be out running every day till September 12th! Here is the full press release:

2015 Vendy Awards are on September 12th on Governor's Island (Photo courtesy of

2015 Vendy Awards are on September 12th on Governor’s Island (Photo courtesy of

New York, NY  ­ The votes are in! The 11th Annual Vendy Awards, New York City’s premier street food competition, has announced the finalists who will compete in the Rookie of the Year, Best Market Vendor, and Best Dessert categories at this year’s event. Chosen from thousands of vendors nominated by everyday customers, the finalists will face off in an intense grill-to-grill cook-off on Saturday, September 12th on Governors Island. Only one vendor will come out on top in each category.

Five finalists will compete for the title of Rookie of the Year, which honors the best new vendor of 2015. The five finalists are: Old Traditional Polish, Coney Shack Tacos, Lil Zeus Lunch Box, Kaya NYC and Shuka Truck.

Coney Shack Tacos cooks up Southeast Asian inspired tacos, hot dogs, grilled cheeses and quesadillas on Coney Island. Their signature dishes include the Vietnamese beef short rib taco, their beer battered crunchy fish taco, and their Chikka Dog ­ an Asian inspired riff on the Coney Island classic.

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. Their specialty baos menu includes 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. While new on the scene, this little cart packs a mean punch with notoriously long lines, producing generously portioned charcoal grilled souvlaki that is rapidly becoming a New York City staple.

Old Traditional Polish is a sleek new truck that offers traditional and authentic pierogies in varieties such as potato & cheese, kraut & mushroom, and its signature Grilled Kielbasa sausage. Known for their throw-back home-style comfort food, the Old Traditional Polish Cuisine food truck has become 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 100% Kosher truck that hovers around Midtown and the Financial District and sprouted from a passion for shakshuka. Shuka Truck serves 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). Shuka¹s offerings are available as platters or sandwiches.

The Best Market Vendor category honors vendors at street fairs and outdoor markets who are re-imagining traditional street food by utilizing locally sourced ingredients and innovative techniques to create exciting dishes. The five finalists are: Gumbo Bros, Home Frites, Burmese Bites, Carnitas El Atorodera, and Karl¹s Balls.

Burmese Bites has been drawing crowds for their Burmese food at Queens International 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 (noodle salad), vegetable fritters and shaved ice.

Carnitas El Atorodera was chosen as a New York Times’ “Critic¹s Pick” for their authentic, homestyle Mexican cooking, but when their landlord hiked their rent, it put the South Bronx restaurant out of business.  The business will soon move to a new home on Washington Ave. in Prospect Heights, but currently, it¹s found on Sundays at the Vendy Awards¹ own Vendy Plaza in East Harlem, where they are free to offer a rotation of specials, such as mole poblano, oaxaca cheese stuffed pig trotters, and albondigas.

Gumbo Bros offer authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine ­ a rarity in the Big Apple. Serving downhome, Southern comfort food, the Gumbo Bros have been featured at popular food festivals, fairs and markets throughout the city, like the Madison Square Eats food festival, Broadway Bites and the Columbus Circle Holiday Festival in Central Park.

Home Frites is well known in NYC for their never-ending line at Smorgasburg, their hand-cut french fries and inventive dipping sauces. The stand boasts an impressive array of sauces that include avocado, tomatillo, arugula and a home-made malt vinegar aioli.

Karl¹s Balls, a new school takoyaki stand, has been making quite a stir since its recent debut at the Queens International Night Market and LIC Flea. After being featured in a food film documentary about takoyaki called Tako NY, Karl¹s Balls has taken pride in putting their unique spin on this internationally known dish.

Vendors in the Best Dessert category are satisfying every New Yorker¹s sweet tooth craving. The five finalists are: Butter & Scotch, Squish Marshmallows, Booqoo Beinets, Doughnuttery, and Play J Ice Cream.

Booqoo Beignets brings the famous NOLA staple to sweet-toothed New Yorkers from across the city. With a recipe that woos the crowds with fluffy butteriness and unique caramel dipping sauces in classic NOLA flavors such as praline and chicory coffee, Booqoo Beignets is proud to bring one of the sweetest parts of New Orleans’ deep culinary history and culture to the rich food landscape of NYC.

Butter & Scotch offers New Yorkers creations like maple bacon cupcakes and boozy, but sweet pastries. The confections have been a hit at Smorgasburg, and have garnered the attention of the New York Times, Bon Appetit and Refinery 29. The team has recently opened a bakery and bar in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights

Doughnuttery produces small-sized cake donuts that pack an incredible amount of flavor in their sugary toppings ­ from international inspirations like the “Paris Time” sugared with lavender, pistachio, and vanilla, to more traditional tastes. Doughnuttery can be found at markets around the city, including Chelsea Market and Broadway Bites.

Play J Ice Cream has become an NYC phenomenon in a matter of weeks. The new ice cream truck 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. The colorful truck drives around SoHo with a side banner proclaiming that it¹s ³time for J¹scream.²

Squish Marshmallows put a twist on the classic white marshmallow flavor.  These pillow-like sweets 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 Vendy Plaza in Spanish Harlem.

Finalists in the remaining two categories will be announced in the coming weeks, including the coveted Vendy Cup, the top prize awarded by a panel of esteemed judges, and a surprise new category. More information on finalists can be found at .

A limited number of Early Entry VIP tickets ($145) to the event are available. For street food lovers who want to access the Vendy Awards an hour early, VIP tickets ensure the ultimate street eating experience, with shorter lines goodie bags, and other exclusive perks. Tickets are available HERE.

The Vendy Awards are an annual event to benefit the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a membership-based organization that provides advocacy and legal services for nearly 2,000 vendor members. The Vendys’ modest beginnings took place in 2005 in an East Village garage; today, the nation’s first street food event has expanded across the country to include events in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The Vendy Awards also recently launched Vendy Plaza, a lively outdoor marketplace located in East Harlem’s La Marqueta on Sundays.

Follow the Vendy Awards on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest announcements at @VendyAwards and use #vendys and #vendyawards.

ABOUT THE STREET VENDOR PROJECT AT THE URBAN JUSTICE CENTER The Vendy Awards, the first and largest street food event series in the country, are an annual event organized by the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, a membership-based organization of more than 1,800 active vendors who are working together to create a vendor movement for permanent change. SVP¹s famed Vendy Awards have determined New York City¹s top street chef for eleven years, and have become one of the most beloved and widely-anticipated food events in New York and across the country. The money raised by the events supports the non-profit Street Vendor Project in its advocacy work to promote street food and the people who sell it.

The Street Vendor Project is part of the Urban Justice Center, a non-profit organization that provides legal representation and advocacy to various marginalized groups of New Yorkers. To join their list of supporters, please click here. Follow the Street Vendor Project on Twitter at @VendorPower.


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