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Red Hook vendor has best street food in the city

In the end, Brooklyn’s huaraches stomped on the competition.

A husband-and-wife team from Bushwick took home first place at the fifth annual Vendy Awards, which recognize the best of the city’s street grub. “I was very shocked and amazed and speechless,” Fernado Martinez said through his translator and daughter, Pamela.“I’m glad that all my customers support me.”

Those in the know have long been visiting Fernando and Yolanda Martinez’s Country Boys cart at the Red Hook ballfields at Clinton and Bay streets. The stand has been a staple in the neighborhood for over a decade.Their top selling item is the huarache (Spanish for sandal), footwear-shaped corn tortillas filled with refried beans and topped with a choice of meat or vegetables.

The awards were held at the Queens Museum of Modern Art in Corona, and attracted over 660 people able to snag $80 tickets for the tasty event. The Vendy awards have been coined as ‘The Oscars’ of the street vending scene in NYC. Judges included celebrity chefs Jacques Torres, Pichet Ong, and Denisse Oller.

Martinez, 48, is originally from Puebla, Mexico, a region known for its rich food culture. His next project, he said, is to try and open a restaurant of his own.

“This brings confirmation to what is already known to our community and to our fans,”said Cesar Fuentes, executive director of the Food Vendors Committee of Red Hook Park. The win — and ravenous customer demand —could prompt the vendors to find an indoor location to serve their Latin American fare year-round. “Something may be in the works — especially after this humongous win,” Fuentes revealed. The challenge, he said, will be keeping the setting “traditional and authentic.”

The win is a vindication of sorts for the Red Hook vendors, whose livelihood was threatened in 2007 when the Department of Parks and Recreation told them that if they wanted to remainat their current location, they would be forced to submit a bid for the right — just like vendors across the city. With help from loyal customers and elected officials the vendors applied for a permanent license which was granted in 2008. After retrofitting their carts to meet stringent health requirements, the vendors’ focused shifted from politics and back to poblanos.

The Martinezes’ Red Hook stand will be open through Oct. 31.The delicious duo also have a satellite stand at Brooklyn Flea, at Bishop Loughlin High School in Fort Greene, where they will be serving food through November or December. Information about the vendors can be found on the Web at redhookfoodvendors.com.

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