8 vendors face off at the Piazza at Schmidts in Philadelphia for a good cause

Nabil Akkeh and his King of Falafel kitchen will be competing tomorrow at the Piazza.
Nabil Akkeh and his King of Falafel kitchen will be competing tomorrow at the Piazza. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff photographer)
Posted: July 08, 2011

USED TO BE, eating off a food truck meant grabbing a kielbasa or some General Tso's - or, if you were feeling reckless, a gyro. These days, thanks to the recession and the culinary world's teenagerlike eagerness to follow trends, Philly has a growing fleet of gourmet trucks that serve up delicacies like pork bulgagi and buttercream cupcakes. This weekend, old-school carts meet their tweeting newbie counterparts in our city's first-ever Vendy (as in "vendor") Awards, a competitive celebration of sidewalk grub.

The Vendys were born seven years ago in New York City as a fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, a rights organization for street-side sellers. Today, NYC's street-fare smackdown attracts about 1,200 Big-Apple munchers.

This year, L.A. hosted its first Vendy Awards. On Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m., Philly will have its day.

Here's how it'll go: Eight local food carts will park in Northern Liberties' Piazza at Schmidt's, where they'll serve sample-size specialties to 500 to 600 ticket holders. And, just in case you might be interested, there will be a beer truck.

Eaters will eat their hearts out - seconds are permitted, provided you get back in line - and vote for favorites via paper ballots.

There will be judges, too - the mayor, a coupla chefs, a few food writers and healthy-food champion Lindsay Lidge - a/k/a Mrs. Brad Lidge - who will dive in, then weigh in.

The winner in regular-folk voting gets the "People's Choice" award. The judge's pick takes home the coveted Vendy Cup. And the Food Trust, a Philly nonprofit that promotes local food, farmers and purveyors, gets the proceeds.

Vendy Awards, 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Piazza at Schmidt's, 1015 N. 2nd St. Ticket prices range from $55 ($35 kids) to $500 for a "Platinum Sponsorship." Grab a friends- and-family four-pack for $165. Find out more at streetvendor.org/vendys/philly.

See a chart here of the competitors.

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