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A different deserted lot in Brooklyn stole Smorgasburg’s thunder this week when the Vendy Awards pulled into Sunset Park on Saturday. The annual food truck awards took over an abandoned industrial warehouse park, but the nearly 2,000 attendees seemed to care little about the surroundings.
They were there for the deep fried anchovies dipped in smoked paprika mayo at the hard rock-themed table called Bon Chovie, the braised beef, jalapeño slaw and cheddar sandwiches served at Home by the Range, and the ice pops from Pop It Baby that tasted like cocktails on a stick with flavors like mojito or hibiscus and lime.
“This tastes better than Christmas,” said volunteer Joe Pinckney.
Vendors from all five boroughs and New Jersey came to the ninth annual awards in hopes of being awarded a trophy from one of six categories. There were lines at each station from admission until after the awards ceremony hours later.
All proceeds for the event went to support the city’s Street Vendor Project and Urban Justice Center, and all 27 trucks donated their time and food with no cut of the sales from 1,700 tickets. Instead, trucks were in it for the chance at winning one of the coveted awards- like “Vendy Hero” or the “Messy But Tasty” title- and publicity for their ventures.
Liddabit Sweets, Brooklyn-based handmade candy company, offered samples of their butterscotch pudding topped with bourbon coffee and bacon caramel corn. While they have been on the streetcar scene for four years now, they just opened a permanent space in Chelsea Market that will offer the pudding as a regular menu item.
One newcomer that came out as a big winner was Khao Man Gai NY. The husband-wife team of Eric and Emorn Henshaw launched their business in April after they spent years trying to find a suitable substitute for the Thai food that they were used to from their years together in Thailand.
“When she moved over here, we couldn’t find the kind of Khao dish that we liked, so she spent months trying different recipes and we finally found the right one,” Eric said.
Emorn found a light and flavorful blend of ginger and garlic that they now use to poach chicken before they serve it over jasmine rice. The simple dish packs a punch. Khao Man Gai was my first and favorite dish of the day, and it was awarded the “Best Market” award, beating out the five other vendors who have stands at markets as opposed to traveling by truck.
Other stands benefitted from their brick-and-mortar counterparts, including Porchetta who has an East Village outpost and Luke’s Lobster that now has five locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. (They also had by-far the longest line throughout Saturday’s event, and they have spread into Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.)
Another talked-about truck was the Cinnamon Snail. Rachael Fauss, who was selected at random to be the citizen judge helping hand out the awards, said that she had heard about the Manhattan-based vegan truck from friends before the event. The psychedelic snail truck is popular with vegetarians, and they increased their adorable factor by having the owner’s daughter Idil taking orders and handing out the hefty portions to salivating attendees.
A lineup of appropriately quirky drinks helped the food go down, including unfiltered fresh ginger ale with little pieces of real ginger in every sip. In addition to bringing a selection of their beer, Brooklyn Brewery also provided one of the event’s judges. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver spent his time appreciating the surroundings, admitting that he was “a real geek for industrial spaces” before he tucked in at the judge’s table.
Though he was a first-time judge, he said that he took the necessary steps to make sure he was ready for the big day. “I came hungry! I only ate a little bit of yogurt and a handful of granola and that was hours ago, so I’m really looking forward to this,” he said.