There aren’t too many ways to better spend a sunny June Saturday afternoon in Philly than outside at a park overlooking the Delaware River while sampling dishes from the best food trucks in town. Such was the case this past Saturday at Penn Treaty Park at the third annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards.
The Vendy Awards are the “Oscars of Street Food.” They were originated in New York City by the Street Vendor Project and expanded to Philly in 2011. The Vendys allow the best of food trucks to be recognized, all while raising money for The Food Trust. Attendees buy one ticket for the event and have all-you-can-eat access to all the food trucks as well as good beer and water. Fifteen trucks competed for the coveted Vendy Cup, the Best Dessert, the People’s Choice and the Tide Stain Eraser’s Messy yet Tasty Awards.
Folks who arrived by the 2 p.m. start had their choice of trucks to hit up before the lines started forming. It wasn’t long before the Vendys were a sea of people snapping photos of their food, devouring them and going back for more samples.
At the start, I focused on trying trucks I haven’t previously visited such as The Cow and the Curd and The Tot Cart. Both offered fried food goodness. The battered fried cheese curds, dipped in sriracha mayo, were especially tasty while they were hot. Tots, whether plain or tossed with “New Bay” seasoning and topped with a cheese sauce, are always fantastic.
Some trucks offered scaled-down versions of their staples, such as the Chewy’s fried chicken and waffles and the Poi Dog pork belly adobo taco. Somehow, I’ve made it over thirty-eight years without realizing how good maple syrup on fried chicken can taste. The crispy pork belly adobo taco, while small, packed quite an array of flavors with the adobo and pineapple salsa.
Other trucks offered close to full, regular servings. Chez Yasmine served a hot Tunisian cousous that, while healthy and delicious, required some time and effort to eat up. And while just about every truck had lines that still moved relatively quickly, the longest line, by far, was for Christo’s Falafel, the famed “Falafel Nazi” cart that, periodically, sets up at 20th and Market. At times, the line was over 60 deep, as “Gus,” who is notorious for getting into involved conversations with his customers, was making full platters from his charcoal grill.
The trucks serving sweets had it much easier. Most of the cupcake trucks made miniature versions of their cupcakes, which was perfect for this type of event. From Jimmies, I had the Jimmy Carter, a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter filling and caramel icing. It was excellent. Sweet Box had too many good choices, and I tried a snickerdoodle, which did not disappoint. Cupcake Carnivale did its best to promote its servings by offering up a six pack of its cupcakes to everyone (I politely declined and sampled just the “oink oink” (bacon-topped) and margarita). The Lil’ Pop Shop, of course, served its popsicles (I had a chocolate brownie one), which were very much appreciated on the hot day.
While roaming the Vendys was quite fun, I lamented having only two hands (limiting the amount of food I could grab at one time while somehow balancing my Brooklyn Brewing beers). Eventually, I got quite full and was somehow turning down food.
In the end, the Vendy Cup champion was the King of Falafel, the terrific cart at 16th and JFK. Lil’ Pop Shop took home best dessert honors, while The Cow and the Curd garnered both the People’s Choice and Tide Messy yet Tasty awards. The true winners were, of course, everyone who got to taste the great street food in Philadelphia.