WSJ: Philly Food Fight

From the Wall Street Journal:

The best street food trucks do everything their bricks-and-mortar counterparts do, only on wheels and in a kitchen not much bigger than a phone booth.

Eight of those food carts and trucks, serving up gustatory delights from cupcakes to Caribbean cuisine, compete Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia’s first-ever Vendy Awards, an offshoot of the popular New York City cook-off that started in 2005. The winners get bragging rights, a trophy called the Vendy Cup and the street cred aimed at attracting more customers and potentially funding to expand.

“About six or seven vendors from previous (New York) Vendy Awards have ultimately been able to segue into a bricks-and-mortar establishment,” said Helena Tubis, managing director of the Vendys. “It’s not the path all vendors want to take but it’s a trajectory we see a lot.”

The finalists were the top vote-getters among dozens of Philadelphia vendors nominated through online ballots for the award. A panel of seven local foodies — including Mayor Michael Nutter, food critics and bloggers, and James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov — will gobble up offerings from the showdown finalists to choose the winner.

If you think of Philadelphia street food as nothing but greasy spoons serving up cheesesteaks and soft pretzels, the Vendys will come as a delicious surprise.

The culinary competitors have been in the street vendor business anywhere from a few months to more than two decades and offer epicurean experiences in soul food, gourmet desserts, vegetarian cuisine, Middle Eastern specialties, home-style brunches, even tacos from restaurateur and “Iron Chef” winner Jose Garces. Additional honors will be presented for best dessert, rookie of the year and the “people’s taste” award.

Vendy organizers decided to create a Philadelphia branch of the contest after three local food trucks made the trip to New York last year and impressed the judges, Tubis said.

“What we found was phenomenal. Philly’s had a strong street food culture for a very long time and many people don’t recognize that,” she said. “There’s a food revolution that’s going on in the restaurant scene and the food truck scene.”

The full story is here.

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