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Queens Chronicle

Astoria food cart competed in Vendy

King Souvlaki didn’t take cup, but shows off 34 years of Greek cooking

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:19 am, Thu Sep 19, 2013.

The little food cart on the corner of 31st Avenue and 31st Street in Astoria vied for a big award.

On Sunday King Souvlaki competed for the coveted Vendy Cup in the ninth annual Vendy Awards, a cook-off among the best of the best food carts. They didn’t take the award — it went to Brooklyn’s El Olomega, masters of the savory Salvadorian papusa — but to be picked as one of 27 carts invited to the competition in Sunset Park, Brooklyn is a big hats-off on its own.

More than 1,000 people shelled out $95 to sample the competing food carts’ dishes.

And afterwards the food cart went back to its corner not defeated but one of a group of finalists that made it that far.

The Tsampas family cooks souvlaki, tender meat hailing from Greece, like they have for 34 years. Their marinade comes from head-co-griller Kostas Tsampas’s grandfather and the recipe for their tzatziki, a yogurt-based sauce, is his grandmother’s doing.

There are three items on the menu: well six if one considers everything is made both in chicken and beef.

Chicken skewer — $2.50.

Souvlaki skewer — $2.50.

There are pitas in both meat varieties for $5 and platters for $7.50.

Last Friday following the competition George Tsampas was manning the grill for an audience and could only stop for a couple seconds to grab a business card and smile.

About 10 teenagers in school uniforms were feasting on pita sandwiches while another handful of people placed their orders during a 10-minute period — and it was only 11:30 a.m.

Jolanta Tyka from Greenpoint, Brooklyn stood in line at the little metal cart on Friday.

“The meat has great flavor,” she said, also touting the Greek food cart’s home- peeled french fries and special tzatziki sauce.

Tyka often buys the raw meat and brings it back to her home for backyard barbecues and her husband will stop by on his train ride back from work.

In the video posted to the Vendy website Kostas’ son Lampros said, “What they say is if you’re not good, the Greeks aren’t going to come to you and wait in line for you.”

And at King Souvlaki the masses wait.

Other Vendy awards went to carts stationed in Manhattan: the best dessert to Tizzy Ice Cream, rookie of the year to Niches and the people’s choice award to Luke’s Lobster.

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