Street food is a hot topic around New Orleans these days, though its history goes far back and its forms are much more diverse than the gourmet food trucks now getting so much attention. That's why organizers of the national Vendy Awards street food competition are asking the public to nominate vendors for their inaugural event in New Orleans next month.

  "We want it to be this democratic opportunity," says Helena Tubis, managing director of the Vendy Awards with the New York-based Street Vendor Project ( "We want to curate a group of vendors who represent the street vendor culture of the cities where we do these."

  The New Orleans edition of the Vendy Awards is March 13 at the French Market (1008 N. Peters St., 504-522-2621; It joins a group of similar events now held in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Chicago also will host its first Vendy Awards this year. Between eight and 12 vendors will be selected to serve their signature items at the New Orleans event. A panel of judges will name a winner, and attendees can vote for a People's Choice Award.

  The criteria for nominees is wide open and can include food truck operators, vendors on the second-line or festival circuit or farmers market vendors who sell prepared foods.

  "Really, it's anyone who sells food outside of a brick-and-mortar location," Tubis says. "New Orleans has had people selling food on the streets forever. The history of it ... will be fun to explore."

  Tickets range from $36 (food and beer included) to $6 for basic admission (pay as you go for food and drinks). Admission is free for kids under 6 years old. Find tickets and a form to nominate vendors at

  The Street Vendor Project is a nonprofit that conducts advocacy work and organizes for street vendors. Proceeds from Vendy Awards events support its work. The New Orleans edition also will serve as a fundraiser for the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition and Slow Food New Orleans.