The New Street-Food Heroes
© Michael Toolan
Hungry crowds at the first annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards.
Food-truck visionaries, like L.A.’s Roy Choi of Kogi fame and the folks behind NYC's Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, are transforming their cities into street-food meccas. Now, nearly every city in America is undergoing its own street-food revolution. “Philadelphia has a really vibrant street-food culture,” says Helena Tubis, managing director of the New York–based Vendy Awards, “but it doesn’t get recognition.” Inspired by three Philadelphia vendors who visited the 2010 Vendys in New York, the City of Brotherly Love celebrated its own first annual Vendy Awards last weekend, honoring the street vendors who keep Philly well-fed on the go. Finalists included old standbys as well as fresh new faces: Vendy Cup winner Gigi and Big R’s truck has been serving Caribbean-American soul food for 10 years, while People’s Choice Award winner Cucina Zapata, which serves Thai-Mexican fusion tacos, has been open only two months.
Now in its seventh year, the NYC Vendys are scheduled for September 24 (tickets available here). New Yorkers have already submitted more than a thousand nominations for their favorite vendors, including nominees for the new Most Heroic Vendor Award, which recognizes the non-culinary ways street-food vendors contribute to their local communities (such as the vendor who foiled a Times Square car bomb attempt in 2010). As if turning out awesome lunches for thousands of New Yorkers every day weren’t heroic enough.