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Flay Finds the Best NYC Street Foods

New York street food has gone way beyond your average hot dog. In fact, the food has gotten so good that street food vendors have their own awards ceremony called the Vendys.

"Early Show" resident chef Bobby Flay hit the streets this week for a taste test of some of the city's best street vendor fare, nominated for the illustrious awards.

Flay first met up with Amy Kantrowitz, the managing director of the Vendy Awards. She explained the awards are a competition to name New York City's best street food. She said the public nominates vendors on the Vendy Web site every year.

"It is like the best picture at the Oscars," Kantrowitz said.

Flay tried out O'Neill's Jamaican Duchy, a Vendy finalist, on the corner of 51st street and 7th avenue. His selection? The jerk chicken. Flay tried to figure out what was actually in the famous dish. He guessed right on ginger, black pepper and habanero chilis. However, O'Neill assured Flay there wasn't any nutmeg in his street food.

The cost of this spicy dish? $8.50.

"Man. What a bargain!" Flay said. "Real Jamaican food, and you don't have to go to Jamaica to get it."

Flay also tried out another finalist on 46th Street and 6th Avenue that offers authentic Indian food.

Flay tried out the most popular item on owner Meru's menu: the Kati roll.

"That is so, so good," Flay said. "If you're in the mood today, there's some delicious authentic Indian food right here."

And to finish out the day, Flay tried another Vendy finalist on 47th Street and 3rd Avenue, Wafels & Dinges.

"The great thing about this, is you can smell this cart a half a block away," Flay said.

But what are the dinges?

Thomas DeGeest, owner of Wafels & Dinges, said, "It means stuff. ... Whatever stuff you put on top (of the waffle)."

All Flay could manage as he ate his waffle was, "That's so good."

The Vendy Awards are Saturday, September 26, at the Queens Museum of Art. Famous street vendors from all around New York's five boroughs are awarded the titles of "People's Choice," "Best Overall," "Best Desserts," and "Best Rookie Vendor of the Year."

These are the carts featured on "The Early Show." The information on the finalists below is from the Vendy Awards Web site.

Location: 46th Street and 6th Avenue

Midtown legend and Vendys alum Meru Sikder is back at the big dance with his Biryani Cart, competing for the title 2009 Vendy Award Winner. After taking home the 2008 People's Taste Award for his delicious Indian Kati Rolls, he hopes his second appearance at the Vendys is a charm. Meru was last year's dark horse -- the new kid on the midtown block bravely taking on the establishment concrete elite -- his real-life rival Muhammed Ramen of the famed Kwik Meal cart. Meru learned his way around a kitchen working for Hilton Hotels. He's originally from Bangladesh.

Location: 51st Street and 7th Avenue

O'Neill Reid, also known as the Jamaican Dutchy, knows a thing or two about impressing tough customers -- he prepped Chef Bobby Flay on the finer points of West Indian cuisine before a throw down -- and fed Jamaican Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt. His customers range from executives to students to Olympic Athletes -- but all wait patiently in a line that stretches a full midtown block for his sumptuous Jerk Chicken, Stewed or Curry Chicken, Curry Goat and Oxtails. The time-crunched need not apply -- O'Neill says he's "on island time." Even though his shiny high-tech stand has been referred to as the "Rolls Royce" of vending carts, O'Neill has remained grounded, even serving free food to those in-need. He's unflappable making his Vendys debut, competing for the title 2009 Vendy Award Winner.

Location: Varies, check their Twitter (@waffletruck) and Web site

One customer, who nominated the cart, wrote, "The waffles have an absolutely fantastic flavor, just like the ones in Belgium! Their add-ons -- nutella and pulled pork! -- are great, although I don't always get them because the waffles are delicious by themselves. I'm nominating Wafels & Dinges for SO many reasons -- but, mostly because they're educating Americans one 'wafel' at a time'."
Owner: Thomas DeGeest