The Vendys & FAQs

The Soriano family from Tacos El Rancho celebrates winning the Vendy Cup in 2016

The Soriano family from Tacos El Rancho celebrates winning the Vendy Cup in 2016

The Vendy Awards is an annual street food competition that determines the best street food vendors in New York City. We celebrate the excellent food available on our city's streets and the hard-working people who bring it to us each day - and who are usually (otherwise) given little acclaim or even respect. We celebrate vendors and their delicious contribution to our city.

Each year thousands of guests eagerly purchase tickets to sample food from publicly nominated vendors in various categories. The winners are chosen by attendees as well as a panel of celebrity judges that includes chefs, television personalities and city officials.

Since 2005, the Vendy Awards has spread from a small garage in the East Village to some of New York City’s largest open spaces as well as other destinations across the United States, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The Vendy Awards serves as a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, a membership-based non-profit organization that stands up for vendors’ rights while providing legal and small-business services. SVP is currently campaigning to get the city to remove the cap on food vending permits that has created huge barriers for vendors since it was put in place, at the urging of big businesses, in 1983.

How are the finalists chosen? 

We take public nominations to determine the very best vendors to compete against each other for street food glory. The nomination process is now closed, but it opens every year in April or May.  Sergey our computer intern makes sure there is funny business going on with the nominations.

What are the categories this year?

In 2017 there will be five categories -- Best Rookie, Best Market Vendor, Best Dessert Vendor, Bad Hombres, and the Vendy Cup. There will also be a People's Choice Award awarded from among the Vendy Cup category. Past year's categories have included Best Vegan vendor, Best Drink vendor, and the Best-of-the-Best competition that took place to mark the Vendys ten-year anniversary in 2014.

What is up with the Bad Hombres category?

Donald Trump has long been an enemy of street vendors and what they represent. In 1985, using racist and xenophobic language, he complained to Mayor Koch that vendors and their "filthy" food carts created "blight" that was harming property values at Trump Tower.  Years later he lobbied against disabled veteran vendors along Fifth Avenue, claiming they were "downgrading" the area and not paying taxes.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, vendors were placed at the center of the national debate over immigration when a Trump surrogate warned there would be "taco trucks on every corner" if he was not elected. Trump himself later railed against "bad hombres" who he said needed to be removed from the country.

NYC street vendors – almost all of whom are immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, many of whom are Latino, and many of whom are undocumented – have paid a steep price since Trump’s election. Policies enacted by the administration have affected vendors’ lives. Given the strict enforcement they face daily from police, many vendors are afraid to go to work. Crimes against vendors appear to have increased in this climate of hatred.

We will not be disheartened. We created the Bad Hombres category, celebrating Latino food vendors, to acknowledge the difficulty our community – among many others -- is now facing. By using his own words, we seek to mock Donald Trump and subvert the culture of fear he would like to create. We wholeheartedly embrace the same aspects of street food – its diversity, its accessibility, its inclusiveness– that he would condemn. We honor the same people that Trump would disparage. We hope you will join us.

What do I get for my price of admission?

For your admission to the Vendys, you will get to eat unlimited food from all 25 vendors in attendance, as well as unlimited beer, wine, soda and water from our sponsors. You'll get to enjoy a fabulous day on Governor's Island. Finally, your admission price will count as a tax-deductible contribution to the Street Vendor Project, which is part of the Urban Justice Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The event is rain or shine. We cannot provide refunds.

My company would like to sponsor the Vendy Awards. What should I do?

Now in its 13th year, the Vendy Awards has established itself as a classic event that brings out thousands of food-savvy guests and attracts local, national, and international media attention. We are actively looking for corporate sponsors, big and small, to partner with us to make this event a success. Please contact us at vendyawards@gmail.com.

Why do vendors need an organization?

Because the city makes it very hard for these entrepreneurs, usually immigrants and people of color, to survive and thrive! The Street Vendor Project acts is a member-led advocacy organization that works every day to defend vendors' rights and expand their opportunity to make an honest living. To learn more about our work, please visit www.streetvendor.org.

What's the hashtag?

The hashtag for this year's Vendys is #Vendys2017, please use it widely.