Celebrating The Best of L.A.'s Street Food @ the Vendy Awards
It was a street food enthusiast's ideal showdown on Saturday, as the 1st Annual L.A. Vendy Awards brought together six vendors who specialize in good eats for customers on their two feet. With a crowd of about 250 attendees who purchased admission for $45-60 (variables due to pre-sale discounts and at-the-door purchase) and five local food experts serving as judges, the event was a rousing success, and honored the many variations of street food Angelenos continue to embrace.
Before arriving at the MacArthur Park location, judge Evan Kleiman was wondering how best to compare the diverse offerings of the day, from the melted gooey-goodness of a crave-worthy grilled cheese sandwich from the Grilled Cheese Truck to the plump, toppings-stacked satisfaction of a bacon-wrapped hot dog from the Hot Dog Kings. "Does it rock your world? There you are. Also: Fat is flavor," advised Jonathan Gold to his friend via Twitter.
Much of the food on hand at the Vendys was rock-your-world good, from the aforementioned melts and dogs to the sweet, smoky pork of Bigmista's BBQ, tacos from the Tacos el Galuzo truck, the Frankies and Parathas of the India Jones Chow Truck, and the quesadillas and pambazos from Nina's Food.
While attendees ate their fill, danced along to the live band, and enjoyed the mild spring afternoon, the serious affair of judging got underway shortly after 5 p.m., about an hour into the event. The panel of judges was comprised of Kleiman, chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal, blogger Javier Cabral, and street food blogger Bill Esparza, and led by emcee Jeff Miller of Thrillist, and they were given what each vendor thought was their showcase item for judging.
It was a tough job, but it had to be done, and by the end of the afternoon, Breed St. vendor Nina's Food took the prize for the favorite for her pambazos and salsa seca. It was great to see the top honor go to a more "old school" vendor, but even better to see the mix of the more traditional street foods and representations of the "new wave" of street food in the form of the more "gourmet" vendors in the food trucks.
Lines and waits were more than manageable, which was likely because there was a good crowd to vendor ratio. Some may balk at the ticket price, but not only did it keep the line length down, it also went to a cause, which is the work of groups like La Asociación de Loncheros L.A., who do advocacy work for Los Angeles' vendors.