Red Hook’s El Olomega Wins Top Vendy


This weekend the 2013 Vendy Awards, known as “the Oscars of street food,” corralled 28 trucks and tables into Sunset Park’s Industry City for a marathon of gormandizing before naming New York City’s best mobile cuisine purveyor.

Proceeds, as custom, went toward the Street Vendor Project for vendor’s rights, but this year the ceremony also honored the 55 “Hero” trucks that came to the aid of Sandy victims by supplying and delivering hot meals. And what better way to celebrate the end of a food shortage than with sprawling super-abundance?

The cook-off featured start-ups from four boroughs and New Jersey, and the vendors served extra-large portions that it seems disingenuous to call “samples.” One thousand-plus guests and six judges, including Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and the Food Network’s Justin Warner, chowed down throughout the day before voting on winners.

Janet and Marcos Lainez of El Olomega drove off with top honors; the non-flashy contenders have been doling their signature Salvadoran papusas–a pork and cheese-filled griddlecake with fuscia pickled cabbage and sour cream on the side–to Red Hook residents for 25 years, becoming a weekend standard for hungry spectators at their station next to the soccer fields. “I’m still digesting it,” said Marcos Lainez after an emotional win.

Luke’s Lobster, which maintained the longest and most perpetual line of the day, was bestowed the People’s Taste award. Itizy Ice Cream took Best Dessert, and the lively Nuchas crew snagged Rookie of the Year with their fresh-baked Argentine empanadas.

This was the first year The Vendys were held at the gritty-but-charming Industry City, a historic warehouse conglomerate now hawked as studio space to Brooklyn artists. It was an easier hike than the previous location on Governor’s Island but still off the beaten path, providing a luxurious amount of space, as well as ample seating in which to enjoy a beer between extended gorge-sessions.