The street cart boils the restaurant experience down to its most intimate dimensions: One person cooks for another, with no waiters, walls, or even kitchen separating them. For this reason, New York's best vendors inspire fierce loyalty. Now, "cartisans" can vote for the vendors they love best. But the polls will soon close: The Street Vendor Project's Vendy Awards are happening October 22 at St. Mark's Church, and voting ends the day before. Which means we only have 13 days to lobby furiously for our candidates. Without further ado …
Update, 1:15 p.m.: Contrary to what we just said, the Street Vendor Project tells us that the polls close today, at midnight. All the more reason to blindly follow our endorsements!
1. Muhammed Rahman's Kwik Meal
Aside from his outstanding biryani and cheesesteaks, you have to love that he's always in full chef regalia and engages the services of two assistants. Sixth Ave. at 45th St.
2. Marie's Kebab Wagon
You can't miss her: Look for the American-flag kerchief over Maria Kosteanas's bun, and sniff for the smell of Greek oregano, lemon, and chunks of short-loin "flap beef" sizzling over live coals. Sixth Ave. at 14th St.
3. The Mutton Man
Marie's only rival in the kebab department, this emissary from China's northern Xiangcheng region spices his lamb chunks with cumin and chiles; at $2 apiece, they're the best bargain in Flushing and that's saying something. 41st Ave. at Prince St., Flushing.
4. The Arepa Lady
Since Chowhound founder Jim Leff discovered her, Maria Piedad Cano's cult swells yearly, and with good reason: Her corn cakes are fiendishly crisp, rich, and buttery. (Unfortunately, she's only open after 10:30 or 11 on Friday and Saturday nights.) Roosevelt Ave. at 79th St., Jackson Heights.
5. The White-Sauce Guy
No one is exactly sure why the white sauce at this midtown chicken cart is so delicious, and maybe we don't want to know. Sixth Ave. at 53rd St.