For years, I’ve said that I would treat myself to tickets to the Vendy’s. If you’re not familiar with the Vendy’s, it’s basically street food event and competition. To me, it’s always been a missed opportunity to try out street food in parts of the city I don’t get to frequent as often and therefore, have never had the opportunity to try. It usually falls on or around my birthday weekend, so it seems as if the universe is telling me to treat myself. However, this year I actually won my way in for eating, what else, dessert. Several months back, I found myself onstage at the Bell House during Pat Kiernan’s Trivia Food Fight trying to eat as much blueberry pie as possible as Van Halen’s “Right Now” blared overhead. Tying led me to spinning the wheel o’ prizes, which led me to snagging what had been missed on the wheel – two tickets to the Vendy’s! I’m so grateful to the wonderful TrivWorks team for hooking me up with such an awesome prize.
I’d read up on the best time to head over, knowing there had to be a strategy. We caught the 11am ferry, ensuring we would be there with plenty of time to spare before the 12pm start time. This worked out to be wise. This allowed plenty of time for us to maneuver the multiple lines at check-in and obtain our admission bracelet before joining the main line.
What no one mentioned is that although the event does begin with a VIP hour (during which general admission attendees have to wait in line outside of the event), that doesn’t mean there’s no food or beverage to be had. As we waited, several vendors made their way around through the crowd. Nuchas had our caffeination covered, bringing around coffee and tea, in addition to croissants. Bolivian Llama Party and Calexico took it to the next level – actually bringing out items they were serving inside the event. Spoiler alert: interesting to see that the vendor who won audience choice (Nuchas) was one of these vendors sending out samples. What can you say – New Yorkers love their caffeine. All kidding aside, I have to say I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t factor into the voting!
One of the first things we tried were vegan doughnuts from Cinnamon Snail. We were both craving doughnuts with it being our form of brunch this particular Saturday. They were tasty, though I must admit not my absolute favorite. The odds were ever in their favor though, as they took home the 2014 Vendy Cup.
My absolute favorite new find of the day has to be El Rey Del Taco, a food truck usually set up in Astoria, Queens. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name, because king they are indeed! I was impressed that they were not only serving up some super fresh hot tacos, but they were serving their entire menu (with the exception of some of their beverage line-up). We went with some spicy options, and were pleased to see that
I was finally able to try a ramen burger from the Ramen Burger crew. I have to say, the tasting portion was just about perfect. I’m not sure I could handle the full-sized burger! The ramen actually was pretty fascinating serving as a faux bun. I’m sure it would be warmer if served up in restaurant, but I felt like it was somehow a less dense option than a typical bun would be. And of course the meat here was top notch.
I started with vendors we don’t have easy access to on a regular basis, but had a hard time passing up one of my all-time favorites – DOUGH. I felt so badly for them, as the yellow jackets seemed to love them the most. This didn’t seem to cause their team too much issue though, as they found a way to work around the swarm. I finally got to try the passion fruit doughnut, which was top notch as I had expected. The team actually just opened a Manhattan location, for those of you who think Brooklyn is way too far.
I made a trip by the Nuchas team, making sure to try their limited edition squid ink empanada. Pretty tasty, and I’ll admit the color added a bit of novelty. Their gazpacho was amazing as well.
I was so glad to have the opportunity to try Lechonera La Pirana. Usually you have to head up to the Bronx to try this fabulous chopped meat. I unfortunately just missed the picture of the chopping in process, but here you can see the knife he uses by hand to chop this up. Amazing.
I knew once I read the summary for newcomer Snow Day that I was going to love them. Their food is maple syrup and French Canadian inspired. They were serving two items – a maple grilled cheese and gazpacho finished with maple and Japanese ginger. It was every bit as delightful as it sounds – and led to them winning 2014 Rookie of the Year.
For more on the finalists and winners, please visit the Vendy’s Awards site here. Perhaps I will be lucky to make it out again for the Vendy’s again sometime in the future!