Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Street Food

Vendy Awards to return to Los Angeles

Grilled cheese truck
The Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center is gearing up for the second annual L.A. Vendy Awards to take place this June. Nominations for Top Street Chef are currently being accepted. The top eight chefs will compete for the title in an event and fundraiser at Pan Pacific Park.

The Street Vendor Project aims to provide education about vendors’ legal rights and help vendors grow with small business training and loans. They have been organizing the Vendy Awards in New York for eight years and have spread to other cities, including Los Angeles and Philadelphia. This year, the event will raise money for L.A. City Farm, a nonprofit whose mission is to make locally farmed foods more readily available in Southern California.

The event will provide ticketholders with an all-you-can-eat vendor selection. Attendees can then vote for their favorite street chef. The winner will receive “The People’s Taste Award” while judges will decide on the Top Street Chef.

The event will be held June 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pan Pacific Park. Tickets are available for purchase online.

For more information and to submit nominations, visit the Street Vendor Project's website.  


Ghost chile pepper comes to L.A.

First Impression: Beachwood Cafe

Meet Fuku Burger's new Sumo burger

-- Rachel Sherman

Photo: The Grilled Cheese Truck, a finalist at the Vendy Awards last year, is shown. Credit: Christina House / For the Los Angeles Times

'Bought, Borrowed & Stolen': 20 years of Allegra McEvedy's secrets

Allegra McEvedy Book CoverAllegra McEvedy has been cooking professionally for more than 20 years, working her way through a batch of restaurants in London, most notably the River Café and the Cow, in addition to stints at American eateries Rubicon (now closed) and Jardinière in San Francisco, and New York's Tribeca Grill. The Cordon Bleu alumnus was chef-in-residence at the Guardian for three years, has had a column in the Evening Standard and a seasonal food slot on Robert Elms' show for BBC London.

McEvedy's fifth book "Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Travelling Chef" comes out this month. The cookbook traces 20 years of recipes, not to mention knives, from food diaries recorded during her travels. The English chef discusses her favorite fall food, her recently released cookbook and the time she spent on the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Times:

Q: What knife, of your collection, is your current favorite or most used?

A: Well, as you probably can tell I have a bit of an emotional attachment to all of my knives, so although it's hard to choose a favorite I am finding myself reaching for a beautiful example of the craft that I bought in New York about five years ago. It's the younger sibling of one I picked up when I was working at Tribeca Grill in '96; both are made by Michael Moses Lishinsky [of Wildfire Cutlery]. All his knives are full tang meaning the metal extends all the way to the base of the handle. And being someone who embraces difference, I love that he uses heat-treated steel, as opposed to the more fashionable stainless. I also like the fact that it's one of only two knives in my 70 strong collection that I can trace back to the maker. My favorite job for this beauty, where it really excels, is smashing cloves of garlic; Mr. Lishinsky may have created the perfect shape of the flat of the blade with this one purpose in mind!

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The next big thing in street food? The wearable grill

WURST GRILL (1 of 1) In Berlin, I found this wurst vendor staked out on the pedestrian bridge leading to Museum Island. While Berliners sunned themselves in canvas beach chairs sprinkled on the grassy banks of the Spree, this fellow sweated under his umbrella grilling wursts. For 1.5 euros, or about $2.25 at the current exchange rate, you get a freshly grilled sausage in a bun.  

This guy's wearable grill is pretty ingenious: The rectangular grill is worn in front , cigarette girl-style, counterbalanced by a brace and supply box at the back. An umbrella is part of the outfit too, shading  him (barely) from the  sun. He looks strong and fit, but even so, what a hard job. I wonder how he got there. Did he wear this getup on the subway or the bus? Or does it come apart and stow in a canvas carryall? Another day, I saw a sturdy blond woman in a similar getup working the crowd.

The wearable grill may be new, but the idea of street food vendors hanging their goods on their bodies isn’t. Somewhere I have a collection of images of street food vendors from, I think,  the 18th century. (My books and papers are all boxed up right now so I can’t find it.) Instead of a big umbrella, though, they usually wore a hat with a wide brim for shade. 

-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo:  S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

My L.A. Street Food Fest regret

Kimchi I think I am still in a food coma.

But I am pretty sure I could makesome room for an order of Frysmith's kimchi fries....

My stomach was extremely honored to be asked to judge the L.A. Street Food Festival, held Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. More than 50 restaurants, food trucks and carts were well represented, and thousands turned out to sample the offerings. Founded and organized by fellow foodies and entrepreneurs Shawna Dawson and Sonja Rasula, the event was a fund-raiser for St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and the Woolly School Garden.

Fellow judges included L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- arm visibly swollen and still in a sling -- as well as chefs Susan Feniger and Walter Manzke (yes, I asked; no, he wouldn't say), Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA and actor Jesse Williams ("Grey's Anatomy").

With so many appetites, and so many choices, I wondered how we'd ever come to a consensus at the end of the food orgy. In fact, it was pretty easy. In almost every category, we were nearly unanimous on one or two choices. Too full to fight, we just decided to use the powers invested in us to name runners-up. In doing so, we were able to give a shout-out to nearly every standout.

There was a spirited debate about what constituted nouveau street food -- as opposed to classic "old school" street food. I'll spare you the details, but it's a sign of L.A.'s diversity -- and sophisticated tastes -- that "old school" honors went to both the explosive Thai bites served up by chef Robert Danhi of Southeast Asian Flavors and the tamales from Tamales Elena. Nouveau honors went to both Sedthee Thai's pork spareribs and the pork belly adobo served up by the Manila Machine.

Best sweet tooth honors went to Scoops Westside for its Thai Iced Tea Coconut flavor and Munchie Machine's PB&J S'More Sandwich. (It's just what it sounds like, a S'more tucked inside a PB&J. If a dessert could get a key to the city, this would be it: Villaraigosa went nuts for it, as we all did.)

Turn the page to see more winners....  

Continue reading »

April 15 is tax day -- and the deadline to submit nominations for the Vendy Awards


The Street Vendor Project's Vendy Awards, the annual cook-off that started five years ago in New York (before Kogi BBQ was a kimchi-quesadilla gleam in Roy Choi's eye), is coming to Los Angeles next month. The deadline to nominate your favorite street food vendor is Thursday. Nominations will determine the six to eight who will compete for "street food glory" and the Vendy Cup. Click here to submit yours. Competitors will be announced May 1.

The Vendys will take place May 15 in MacArthur Park. Judges will decide which street vendors deserve the Vendy Cup. Tickets for the event are $50 each; there will be food, wine, beer and other festivities (it's MacArthur Park, after all). Click here for tickets. The event helps raise money for host organizations such as Los Lancheros Assn., UCLA Downtown Labor Center and CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles).

The Vendys are May 15, 4 to 7 p.m., at MacArthur Park, along South Park View Street between West 7th Street and Wilshire Boulevard. The site is accessible by Metro Rail’s Purple or Red lines to the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times

The waiting game: In line at the L.A. Street Food Fest

It was midday at the first-ever L.A. Street Food Fest, and the line for free bottles of water grew so long its starting point couldn't even be seen, lost in a serpentine formation that snaked its way all through the most outer patches of grass. Nearly as many event-goers were waiting for a drink as were queued up for foie gras fries from the Frysmith truck.

The festival, held Saturday on the grounds of downtown's L.A. Center Studios, was a celebration of the street vendors and gourmet trucks that have been Tweeting their way into Los Angeles' collective heart. If the likes of Kogi BBQ reignited Angelenos' interest in street food, the festival was that fascination at its zenith. Buzz among employees and festival volunteers predicted a crowd of over 10,000 attendees.

There were traditional street foods like Sabor da Bahia’s acarajé, Brazilian black-eyed pea fritters, and Antojitos de la Abuelita’s pambazos, potato-filled, chile-soaked Mexican sandwiches. There were also those vendors who took a chance at twisting conventional classics, like the Flying Pig’s duck tacos and chef Ludo Lefebvre’s event-only fried chicken.

But for some, the food was overshadowed by the sheer crush of people. This being the age of instant Internet judgment, online anecdotes of hungry festival-goers waiting as long as two hours at some trucks and enterprising eaters selling their spots in line took almost no time to pop up on blogs and Twitter feeds.

The festival wasn’t without its mistakes, but whether they were forgivable seems to be up for debate. What’s your take?

-- Miles Clements

Photo: Thousands of food lovers attend the LA Street Food Fest in downtown L.A., an event featuring 30 of the city's most popular food trucks. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

Sampler Platter: L.A. street food festival, giant lobsters, Bar Keeper wants liquor license and more

Vintage bar signs on the wall at Bar Keeper

Gargantuan lobsters rising from the seas and enslaving the human race... It sounds preposterous, but it's a potential and very real downside of global warming, which is building bigger lobsters without increasing the world's butter reserves. Perhaps someday, when the age of peak butter has passed, we'll look back at bread baskets and flaky, golden tarts as the harbingers of doom for a society on the brink of collapse. Until then, I salute our crustacean overlords.
-- Giant lobsters from rising greenhouse gases? NPR
-- Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is looking to get a liquor license by June. Food GPS
-- Palm oil production devastating Sumatran forests. CNN
-- Salami and Parmesan cheese used as weapons in supermarket battle. Telegraph
-- The search for the world's perfect stove. New Yorker
-- Arrowhead water bottles reduced by 21% (from 1 gallon to 3 liters). LiveCheap
-- Learning to appreciate cognac in Cognac. Los Angeles Times
-- L.A. Street Food Festival scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend. LAist
-- Vertical Wine Bistro changes it up with new chef Doug Weston. Eat LA
-- Roaming Hunger food truck tracking site goes live.
-- Tootsie Roll goes kosher. Palm Beach Post
-- Greek, Indian, Chinese and more: Vancouver's many cuisines. Los Angeles Times
-- Spicy kettle corn and more recipes from bigLITTLe. Goop
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Vintage bar signs on the wall at Bar Keeper. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Better than a food truck: the Kogi BBQ Scion xD Mobile at the L.A. Auto Show

Kogi truck

If you’ve always dreamed of having the Kogi Korean BBQ truck permanently parked outside of your house, soon you can. With Scion's help, you will be able to put Kogi in your driveway and, even better, in your garage.

Imagine a customized Scion xD Mobile with an aluminum grill in the pop-out trunk, cooking utensils and sauces in the pop-out taillights, and a sink to clean up in one of the rear-passenger doors, all retractable by remote control. Arm yourself with good meat and good company and you’re ready for a tailgate, a fantastic outdoor party or a family dinner of Korean BBQ tacos on the front lawn. Awesome.

The auto company teamed up with Mike Vu and his MV Designz shop in Santa Ana to create the customized Scion xD officially for the Korean BBQ truck (whose dedicated foodies follow the truck around by its Twitter updates), but also to spark the imagination of car buyers about ways they can customize their own xD. It debuted at an auto show in Las Vegas last month and is now at the L.A. Auto Show; after its tour, the customizable xD will be available for sale (and is planned to be adopted by Kogi and used just like its trucks).

See more photos of the mean, lean Korean BBQ machine and read the full story at our Money & Company blog here.

L.A. Auto Show: Kogi BBQ Scion, with working grill, to hit the L.A. streets after auto show tour

Food truck profile: Little Spoon dessert truck rolls across Los Angeles

-- Kelsey Ramos

Photo: Scion Kogi xD Mobile, customized by MV Designz, on display at the L.A. Auto Show. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times

Sampler Platter: Cupcake car, Godfather vodka, KISS M&M'S, Kanye West on chicken

Ground lamb skewers the Anatolian Culture and Cuisine Festival held in April 2009 in Costa Mesa.

Ridiculous branded products (from vodka to candy), risky foods and fast food chains that are trying new tricks and treats... All this and more in today's food news roundup.
-- Squabbles between street vendors are becoming more frequent at the corner of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Soto Street. The Eastsider LA
-- Five of the Top 10 riskiest FDA-regulated foods are vegetables and fruits. Booster Shots
-- Despite the down economy, food festivals are booming. Wall Street Journal
-- Chef Robert Danhi (brother of Grilled Cheese Truck founder Dave Danhi) leads tasting tours through Little Saigon, a.k.a. Westminster. Brand X
-- Burger King to overhaul all its restaurants in an attempt to compete with more upscale fast casual eateries. AdAge
-- Taco Bell tests cupcakes and smoothies. Fast Food Maven
-- Neiman Marcus' newest item: a $25,000 cupcake car. Slashgear
-- Godfather Vodka opens door to Oscar-winning branded booze. Movieline
-- Kanye West on chicken: I eat it because I'm black. The Boombox
-- KISS band members to be immortalized as M&M'S. KISS Army News
-- No more free cookies at Harvard faculty meetings. Oh, the humanity! New York Times
-- Elina Shatkin

Photo: Ground lamb skewers at the Anatolian Culture and Cuisine Festival held in April in Costa Mesa. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Sampler Platter: Babycakes cupcake recipe revealed, Pink's Hot Dogs opens in Las Vegas, sushi robots on the rise

Sue Moore's Let's Be Frank food trailer serves hot dogs made from grass-fed cows and humanely raised pigs.

You want the recipe for Babycakes' much-loved vegan chocolate cupcakes? You got it! This and more in today's food news roundup.
--Eight great street-food vendors in Los Angeles. Gourmet
--Will investors show an appetite for local food? An exploration of the venture capitalism behind the slow food movement featuring the Let's Be Frank hot dog truck. Los Angeles Times
--I, for one, salute our sushi robot overlords. YouTube
--Playboy bunnies, B-grade reality starlets and former Spice Girls show up for grand opening of Pink's Hot Dogs in Las Vegas. Monsters and Critics
--A postmortem on the failure of the iconic Tavern on the Green. New York Times
--Gwyneth Paltrow sits down with Erin McKenna, the founder of Babycakes NYC (slated to open its first LA location... eventually) and gets her recipes for chocolate cupcakes and vanilla frosting, double chocolate chip cookies and lemon poppy tea cake. Goop
--Fort Smith, Arkansas considers a 3% table tax. Restaurateurs unhappy. KFSM
--Elina Shatkin

Photo: Sue Moore's Let's Be Frank food trailer serves hot dogs made from grass-fed cows and humanely raised pigs. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.