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Old-school vendor edges out gourmet trucks at L.A.'s food vendor awards

May 17, 2010 |  4:19 pm


It was a battle of the old school versus the new — a cook-off that pitted some of the city's veteran vendors of tacos and bacon-wrapped hot dogs against a new guard of gourmet food trucks known for fashionable menus and for sharing their locations via Twitter.

But after the last bite was swallowed at the first L.A. Vendy Awards this weekend, tradition triumphed when judges crowned Nina Garcia the queen of L.A.'s street food scene.

Garcia, who has served up supple Mexico City-style quesadillas and pambazos on street corners in Boyle Heights for two decades, beat out street vendor newcomers like the Grilled Cheese Truck along with old favorites, like East L.A.'s Tacos el Galuzo.

Hours before she was cheered and handed a shiny golden trophy, Garcia had quietly predicted her win. "Will it be me?" she asked slyly as she kneaded masa and pressed it onto a simmering grill. "I think so."

More than a hundred people paid $50 to attend the Vendys and eat their fill of food from the six street vendors who were chosen as finalists.

The event was held Saturday on the western edge of MacArthur Park, where families lounged in the sun and vendors not invited to the event hawked fruit, ice cream and pork rinds.

Smells of the competition — and the sounds of a cumbia band that played for hours — drew a crowd of curious spectators. A handful of those who had paid for the event shared free food and drinks over a thin wire fence to those looking in.

Read the full story here.

--Kate Linthicum in MacArthur Park

Photo: Patrons paid $50 to attend the Vendys and taste foods from street vendors, including India Jones Chow Truck, at MacArthur Park. (Ann Johansson / For The Times / May 14, 2010)