Back in 2009, when the Vendy Awards were held in the shadow of the Unisphere, there was only one food market game in town: Smorgasburg. LIC Flea & Food came along in 2012 and a few years later Queens got its very own night market. Well these days it does and so does the Bronx. The finalists for this years Vendy Awards are a lineup of vendors from the street and from the markets that is almost as diverse as Queens itself. Puerto Rico, the Domican Republic,Trinidad, Italy, China, Indonesia, Japan, El Salvador, India, and Romania are all represented. What’s more, six of the nine finalists have a connection to Queens.This year’s Vendy Awards will be held on Governors Island on September 22. Click here to get tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2018 Vendy Awards Finalists for Best Market Vendor and Best Dessert Vendor.
These Bronx Night Market stalwarts take their name from a blend of Caribbean and Spanish cuisines as reflected in a menu that features straight up Dominican fare like mangu—a trifecta of salami fried cheese, and eggs—and fusion specialties like jerk chicken empanadas. Husband and wife duo Keith and Judy were in the middle of planning their wedding in 2015 when they could not find a caterer that offered the varied menu they were looking for. Keith is Trinidadian-American and Judy is Puerto Rican and Dominican. They wanted a reception spread that included each of their favorite foods reflecting their Caribbean-American backgrounds. Unhappy with what they found they decided to cater their own wedding reception, and thus was born CaSpanish.
Tommaso Conte started D’Abruzzo NYC in August 2017, and now sells his arrosticini, succulent roasted lamb skewers, at Smorgasburg and other markets. While growing up on Long Island, Tommaso’s family, in particular his nonno, or grandfather, instilled in him the values, traditions, and work ethic that he learned in Abruzzo a rugged mountainous region is southern Italy. Early on Tommaso grew tomatoes, helped make wine in his Cantina, and turned the soil in his nonno’s garden. This connection to the land at an early age has inspired Tommaso to pay homage to his roots with D’Abruzzo NYC.
Hometown Spring Pancakes
Founder Annie Ye hails from Wenzhou, China and got started in the food market game with CBao Asian Buns, which can still be found at Queens Night Market, beside her new venture, Hometown Spring Pancake, which showcases a lesser known Northern Chinese snack. Each flaky pancake is made fresh to order and then filled with such meats as stewed beef or roast pork.
For partners Manila and Kristen¨ IEatLaoFood started off in 2015 as intimate backyard gatherings to share Lao food with their friends and family where they sat on the ground and ate with their hands as they do in Laos. To this day the duo use the slogan, “Food Tastes Better When You Eat With Your Hands.” Manila, who was born in a Laotian refugee camp in the Philippines, and Kristen, a native Brooklynite, were inspired by the ability to bring together so many people of different backgrounds. They are now using their platform to connect more people to Laotian culture and other marginalized communities. Look for them at Queens Night Market.
Taste of Surabaya
Fefe Anggono pays tribute to her homeland of Surabaya, Indonesia, with this popular stand at the monthly NY Indonesian Food Bazaar held at St. James Parish House in Elmhurst. Specialties include nasi kuning, yellow jasmine rices with fried chicken and sambal. Angonno founded the popular market—one of the best places in New York City to experience a diverse range of Indonesian delicacies—five years ago and continues to curate it.
This popular Smorgasburg banana pudding stand started when partners Trish and Lloyd had a car accident in March 2014. After a gathering with friends over their infamous banana pudding, a close friend insisted on paying for their share of the pudding and started a “Repair Fund” for the car. News of the fundraiser spread among friends, family, and strangers. Soon enough, they were inundated with orders and raised enough money in two months to fix the car and thus was born Baonanas.
Gaston Becherano and Theo Friedman started Bonsai Kakigōri after a trip to Japan left them craving the shaved ice dessert but couldn’t find anything like it back in New York City. Other shaved ice and snow variations couldn’t compare. Frustrated and determined, they set out to make their own. They ordered an original hand-cranked kakigōri machine from Japan, nicknamed it “humi” after their favorite kakigōri shop in Tokyo, began testing flavors, sharing with friends and Bonsai Kakigōri was born. Since launching their stall in Canal Street Market in 2018, they have sought to honor the Japanese roots of the dessert but also meld it with a unique blend of flavors and their identities as New Yorkers.
Obleas, a traditional street food throughout South and Central America, are thin round wafers used to create sweet sandwiches, usually with caramel and other fillings in-between. Delmy Zelaya, originally from El Salvador, has been making obleas since 2013 after she saw them being sold at a local church. She recruited a friend to teach her how to make them, and has since been selling these sweet treats throughout Corona, Queens. Before she became a street vendor, Delmy had a diverse career, working in an auto mechanic shop, owning a clothing factory in Astoria, and even working as a “Canner,” helping to recycle cans and bottles found on street corners. Delmy’s obleas are homemade, not factory bought, where she creates each one with her own presser. Delmy’s specialty flavors include dulce de leche, cajeta with coconut sprinkles, blackberry, and caramel.
Malai Ice Cream
Pooja Bavishi’s love for dessert started at a young age and never faded even as she pursued a career in public policy. She had always dreamed of starting her own business and upon completing her MBA, decided to take her baking/cooking hobby into a business. Malai, which means “cream of the crop” in a North Indian language, was born in 2015 and is inspired by the spices and ingredients of Pooja’s South Asian heritage while putting modern twists on old classics. With flavors like masala chai, orange fennel seed, and lemon cardamom, Pooja continues to craft all of Malai’s ice cream by hand at Pilotworks Brooklyn, and is continually energized by introducing her passions to more people. Bavishi’s ice cream can be found at a wide range of shops including Foster Sundry and Kalustyan’s and is also sold at pop-ups in Brooklyn.
Twister Cake, owned by Radu Sirbu, is a family owned and operated mobile bakery which sells their namesake dessert at such venues as Queens Night Market. Also known as Chimney Cakes, they originated over 400 years ago from Romania and consist of hand-rolled dough, shaped into a cone and then baked over a fire pit and sprinkled with sweet toppings. Radu’s Transylvanian grandmother taught him how to make the spiral cakes, but he couldn’t find them when he moved to the U.S. in 2002, so he sought to recreate these childhood treats on his own. Radu continues to use his grandmother’s original recipe made fresh with only 7 ingredients.