Vegetarian food cart NY Dosas drew rave reviews and long lines at this weekend's food truck festival and awards
By Adelle Brodbeck
Nestled into a far corner of Governor's Island on a gray Saturday were close to thirty of the city's finest food vendors, neatly corralled into a triangle of tasty trucks.This year the Vendy Awards celebrated their tenth birthday, with faces old and new.
Categories for this year's competition included "Rookie of the Year," "Best Dessert" and one exclusive to the decade-anniversary celebration, "Masters Cup." Vendors competing for the title of "Masters Cup" were all winners in past years, including King of Falafel, Calexico and NY Dosas.
Winner of the Vendy Award in 2007, Thiru Kumar is the man behind NY Dosas. Known for a big mustache and smile to match, Kumar delivers fast and healthy food to New Yorkers in the Washington Square Park area on a day-to-day basis. Kumar has been in business since 2001, and has gained a sunny reputation around town for his friendliness and his specialty, Indian-style vegetarian crepes called dosas.
Before the general admission ticket holders entered the festival, vendors were serving the press, volunteers and VIP. Even though the grounds were barely half full, NY Dosas was already sporting a strong line that hardly diminished throughout the day.
Sisters Keri and Jodie Goldman said they had both sampled dosas before, but never the ones made by Kumar. "Simply delicious," said Keri. Jodie chimed in to compliment the side of soup that partners with the crepe. "The best part is that it is all vegetarian."
Other festivalgoers were also new to NY Dosas.Suzanne Risman said that she enjoyed Kumar's version of a dosa. The others she tried were extremely greasy, whereas Kumar's were crisp and fresh tasting. She also said that the crepe was more flavorful, and much spicier than expected. "I stayed away from those hot sauces," Risman said with a laugh.
Each potato filled dosa was served with creamy mint sauce, an extra spicy hot sauce for the adventurous, as well as vegetable soup and scoop of hummus. The flavors introduced with each separate side blended perfectly to complement the main dish, even if it did leave your mouth begging for a cool glass of water to diminish the spice.
While waiting in line for the famed crepe, inexperienced eaters received a crash course in the meal from Kumar's right-hand man Stanley Lee. (Kumar himself was fully engrossed in churning out food for the eager line of patrons and couldn't stop to chat with reporters.)
Lee stood tirelessly beside the truck chatting with anyone and everyone, all while sporting a wide grin that was almost as big as Kumar's.
Lee said that he joined forces with NY Dosas completely on a whim when Kumar's line was particularly long. Lee was attending NYU grad school at the time and often frequented the vegetarian cart. He offered to help with the cooking one day and Kumar gladly accepted considering the overwhelming number of customers; the rest is history.
"The first really surprising thing about my experience with NY Dosas is that it was all fresh," Lee said. Lee grew up with two parents in the food-truck market and was always taught the importance of never using artificial substances in cooking. With the lessons he learned from them and their history with the food industry, Lee said he knew right away that Kumar was "legit."
"When you taste his food it has a super clean finish in your mouth," Lee explained, and compared to other cheap and fast foods around town, that usually isn't the case.
Not only does NY Dosas produce fast and fresh meals, this truck is known world-wide for its exceptional service. "Kumar has such an interesting and international client base," said Lee. "I've talked to people from Tokyo, London, France, Germany, Australia and they say that they've read about Kumar in their New York guidebooks and they're like 'we had to come here!'".
Despite losing the Master's Cup title to fellow vendor Calexico, NY Dosas still had a successful day dishing out their veggie-friendly food. Lee said that even before the fest drew to a close, the truck was running out of essential supplies such as potatoes, due to the extreme demand for dosas. Even then Lee and Kumar never stopped smiling and chatting with customers.
"When you're buying food from Kumar, it feels like you're eating with him," said Lee. "He is always talking, always joking. It is an amazing atmosphere to be around and I just try to add to that. At the end of the day, meals are not just about food. The food is a way to get the humanity across."