Spotlight on the Finalists for the 2017 Vendy Awards

While it used to be that street vendors earned significantly less respect for restaurant chefs, that’s hardly the case nowadays.  Considering the prohibitive cost of real estate, entrepreneurs with talent to burn have turned to trucks, carts and food markets, serving truly innovative food with international flair.  And as a fun challenge to the James Beard Awards, the Vendy ceremony — now in its 13th year — is dedicated to honoring the very best in the field.  So here’s who’s in the running during the September 16th event at Governors Island!  From an artisanal twinkie baker to an upstart french toast sandwich maker, to a Chinese meat skewer purveyor, whose been tapped for the Vendy Cup.

Vendy Cup

Big Brother’s Delicious Food: A former fixture in Kaifeng China’s famous night market, chef Ji Chen Wang currently operates a Flushing restaurant and duo of carts, specializing in skewered, barbecued meats like lamb (and lamb kidneys), and chicken (breast, hearts and gizzards), as well as pork skin, fish tofu, squid coils and corn.

DF Nigerian: Ghana native turned Brooklyn caterer, Godshelter Oluwalogbon transitioned into the street food world by peddling meals packed in his car trunk, outside of the Nigerian embassy.   (Yes, really.)  And his mince pies, jollof rice with goat meat and efo elegusi (vegetable soup) with pounded yam and fried manioc proved so popular, he eventually invested in a restaurant and truck.

Yolanda’s Tamales: Maria Palacio depends on recipes sourced from her Mexican grandmother Yolanda, for her beloved Harlem truck.  Needless to say, corn husk-wrapped tamales are where it’s at, injected with all manner of fillings, such as spicy chicken, pork, beans, potato and cheese, and even arroz con leche.

Anton’s Dumplings: Born in Belarus and raised in Bensonhurst, Anton Yelyashkevich has staked out a prime Manhattan location for his Russian pelmeni dumplings.  It’s hard to miss his truck at the entrance to the W. 4th Street station, affording commuters, basketball players, NYU students and late night revelers instant access to thin-skinned dough pockets, stuffed with chicken or potato, and laked with smoked gouda fondue, sour cream and dill, or even soy sauce and sriracha.

Adel’s No. 1: Originally from Egypt, Adel El Nagar stands head and shoulders above New York’s score of so-so halal vendors, with a FiDi cart that satiates bankers with falafel sandwiches and chicken and lamb over rice.

Best Rookie Vendor

Stuf’d: French toast is formed into sandwiches at this Dumbo Food Truck Lot destination, tucked around turkey meatballs and mozz, pulled pork crusted with panko and parmesan, and chicken, blue cheese and maple buffalo sauce.

Momo Bros: Not only does this Queens cart serve the tricky to find Nepalese dumplings known as momos, they’re one of the precious few places in NYC offering jhol momo; a highly traditional Himalayan soup.

Kelvin’s Truck: Born in Germany and now residing in NYC, Kelvin’s husband-and-wife owners named their food truck after their son.  And it deliciously mirrors their son’s European/American upbringing, via a menu of bratwurst on pretzel buns, and Pat LaFrieda burgers, piled with bacon and cheddar cheese.

Harajuki Sushi & Crepe: Harajuki’s eye-catching rolls are made exclusively with black “forbidden” rice, and rice flour is the base of gluten free pancakes too, folded around eggs and pork, yogurt and fruit, and avocado and shrimp.

Warung Roadside: Inspired by the Indonesian roadside stalls known as warung, this roving pop-up cart delights bar-hoppers and party-goers with steamed bao buns, chicken satay, and pad thai in a cone.