Forget hot dogs: Two of the five finalists in the street-food-honoring Vendy Awards “Rookies” category are vegetarian (or as one is called, “99% Vegetarian”); while another counts barbecue beet tacos among its best sellers. Many of the newbie vendors credit the proliferation of food blogs with helping them develop loyal fans fast.
“One person writes you up and suddenly you’re in the eye of every other food blogger,” said Thomas Kelly, 33, of Mexicue, which serves up the beet tacos and other combinations of smoky barbecue and Mexican spiciness.
Kelly was surprised how quickly business grew in just three months. Nearly 2,500 people follow his truck’s whereabouts on Twitter. “It ties in really well with social media,” he said. “I think food carts take advantage of that two-way dialogue.” When diners complained online about Mexicue’s use of flour tortillas, he switched to corn.
It sounds easier than it is. Vendors face serious bureaucratic hurdles (not to mention traffic jams), and the Vendy Awards are a fundraiser supporting the advocacy work of the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project.
Finalist Adam Sobel, 28, who cooks jalapeno quinoa fritters and other vegan fare at his Cinnamon Snail truck, hasn’t been able to get a city license, so New Yorkers have trekked to his spots in Hoboken and Red Bank, N.J.
“It’s an adventure for sure; the police harassment and other things,” Sobel said.