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Solber Pupusas Sizzle at Vendy Awards

By DNAinfo Staff on September 24, 2011 8:57pm  | Updated on September 24, 2011 8:59pm

Souvlaki GR took home the People's Taste Award at the 2011 Vendy Awards on Sept. 24.
Souvlaki GR took home the People's Taste Award at the 2011 Vendy Awards on Sept. 24.
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M. Freedman-Schnapp

By Amy Zimmer and Tom Liddy

DNAinfo Staff

GOVERNORS ISLAND — Eat your hearts out, vendors.

There's a new king of street cuisine in town and the name is Solber Pupusas, crowned this year's Vendy Cup winner on Governors Island Saturday.

“I feel excited, super, super, happy," Rafael Soler, who owns the Central American and Caribbean treat truck with his wife Reina Bermudez-Soler.  "It was a lot of hard work — a lot of fighting.”

Solber Pupusas, which serves up pupusas — traditional Salvadoran corn patties — got its start on the Red Hook ball fields in Brooklyn 12 years ago and now has locations at Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg as well.

In 2007, Solber and other vendors at the site went through a protracted battle with the Parks Department about health licensing.

"It was really hard," said Soler's son, Cesar Fuentes. "Every single one that’s here today is a winner.

“It’s a team and it’s a family — so many hard working New Yorkers that didn’t have the money to start a brick and mortar.”

While Solber was nominated in 2007 for the Vendy Cup, this is the first time that the team has won, besting veterans including Midtown East's Eggstravaganza, Inwood's Chimichury el Malecon, Midtown's Trini-Paki Boys Halal Food and Brooklyn's Tamales Guadalupe as well as Downtown newcomers Souvlaki GR.

“It’s history," Fuentes said. "This is the end of a goal and the beginning of a new era.”

But the Vendy's, judged by comedian Colin Quinn, talk show star Gayle King and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, weren't just for the cream of the crop of the established trucks. 

Hot on their tails are the new kids on the block, Korilla BBQ, which serve up Korean barbecue specialties with quirky names such as Ribeye of the Tiger, the Porkinator, Wonderbird and Tofuture.

"We feel like a billion bucks," said Eddie Song, one of the cart's four chef/owners. "This is a great honor. We never take anything for granted.

“We put our heart and soul in it.”

Song started Korilla along with a group of 20 pals who grew up together on Long Island and in Queens.

Now, they operate three trucks, but you can only find them by logging onto the truck's Twitter account.

“We all grew up together," said Song, who operates three trucks whose locations can be found on Twitter. "For us, it’s not like working and that translates into the customer experience. We treat them like friends. We are all very passionate about this.”

Korilla's victory, in fact, drew a raucous celebration among the pals, including blasting music.

Scooping up desert honors was Woolys, a Taiwanese and Hawaiian shaved ice cart that's based in front of 79 Elizabeth St. in Chinatown.

The nod for the People's Choice award went to Souvlaki GR, based on Old Slip and Front Street, which serves up traditional Greek Street food including pork pita souvlaki with tyro kefteri and Greek fries.

The cart, owned by Pavlos Sierros, Abby Sierros & Kostas Plagos, also picked up the Rookie award last year.

This year's Most Heroic Vendor award, a new category, went to Paty's Taco Truck, which fought a long battle against the city to operate in metered spaces.

Paty's was towed three times from the Upper East Side earlier this year during a ticketing blitz that sparked a battle for food vendor rights, including a lawsuit that they ultimately lost.

"It's a lot of hard work but it's worth every moment of the fight," said Alberto Loera, the son of owner Patricia Monroy. "It's a family business. We fight every day."

The Vendy Awards, now in their seventh year, raise money for the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit group that stands up for vendor rights.