New York City’s annual Vendy Awards took place this weekend, which means we at MainStreet finally have an excuse to write about the cheap food we actually eat all week long.
For those who don’t know, the Vendys celebrate the best street food in the city. Just because they don’t own a restaurant doesn’t mean their food isn’t top notch. This year’s finalists were judged by industry bigwigs like Bobby Flay and their cuisine covers a range of ethnicities. There’s Schnitzel & Things, which won best newcomer, Rickshaw Dumpling and Jamaican Dutchy, to name a few… not to mention sweeter fare like Wafels & Dinges, which won best desert. The overall winner was Country Boys, a Brooklyn-based taco cart run by Fernando and Yolanda Martinez.
If you want to know what a day in the life of a successful street vender is like, just check out the Twitter page of one of the finalists. Schnitzel & Things’ feed is filled with postings about relocating their food truck daily, closing early because of gas shortages, and even occasional run-ins with the law. “Today we got a ticket from a meter maid for $115, and then this cop came and told us he's getting it dismissed!! This officer eats for free!”
While these venders may just be a quick eats destination for some, they are also a desirable job option for the growing number of unemployed. You get to be your own boss, serve whatever dish you love most, and spend time outdoors. The question is whether or not this is a viable job option for most of us.
The short answer is it depends on where you live. In New York City, street vending opportunities are limited by the number of permits available. There are currently 850 general vending permits and 3000 food specific permits allotted for the entire city (these limits are meant to prevent the streets from being too cluttered). As the New York Times reports, this has led to a quasi black market where venders with permits sell them at a premium for as much as $12,000. The average daily take for a food cart in New York is only $250-$300, though a successful cart can pull in many times that.