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Street food vendors to square off at MacArthur Park

May 14, 2010 |  7:26 pm

This weekend is a big one for food-truck fanatics in Los Angeles.

At MacArthur Park on Saturday, six of the city’s favorite street vendors will face off at the L.A. Vendy Awards. The winner of the cook-off will walk away with bragging rights as LA’s top street food chef. Attendees, who will pay $60 to get into the all-you-can-eat event, probably will walk away with their belts loosened.

Battling it out will be the India Jones Chow Truck, Hot Dog Kings, Big Mista's BBQ, Nina's Food, Grilled Cheese Truck and Tacos el Galuzo.

The first Vendy Awards were held six years ago in New York City as a way to raise money for the Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that supports food vendor rights.

Sean Basinski, the organization's founder, decided to hold the Vendy Awards in L.A. this year after he saw an explosion of interest in street food in the city.

“It’s taking off,” Basinski said, "and we wanted to be a part of this.”

Although taco trucks have long been a staple of L.A.’s culinary landscape, in recent years an array of trucks offering everything from architectural ice cream sandwiches to eco-friendly hamburgers have hit to the streets.

Spurred in large part by the success of the now-legendary Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck, many of the truck owners share their nightly geographic coordinates with customers via Twitter

A UCLA conference Friday and Saturday examines the phenomenon in a talk titled "A Moveable Feast -- Extending the Street through a Tweet."

The conference also considers the political, economic and legal aspects of other types of food vending the globe, including "loncheras" in Los Angeles and women who sell water in Ghana.

It is a narrow field of research, to be sure, but it is not a dispassionate one. At a discussion about vendor-based social movements Friday afternoon, University of Alabama historian Sandra Mendiola Garcia was practically giddy.

“This is like my dream conference,” she said before launching into a talk about an uprising of street vendors in Puebla, Mexico.

--Kate Linthicum

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