FEATURES : FOOD / DRINK

The Vendley Brothers

Calexico - Gourmet Mexican Street Food
By Tom Ran

Published October 16, 2008

25th and Park Avenue Location

Photo: Taka Anai

25th and Park Avenue Location

25th and Park Avenue Location

Photo: Taka Anai

25th and Park Avenue Location

25th and Park Avenue Location

Photo: Taka Anai

25th and Park Avenue Location

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For the past several years the Vendley brothers have been setting up their Mexican food cart on the corner of Prince and Wooster Street in SoHo. Their specialty mix of fresh Californian / Mexican food prompted many taco and burrito deprived New Yorkers to make daily treks to the Calexico cart. Their success eventually led the brothers to open up a second cart on 25th and Park Avenue two months ago. But the expansion continues, the end of this year will see Calexico’s first restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood, Carroll Gardens. Brian Vendley takes a little bit of time aside to answer a few of our questions on the eve of the Vendy Awards.

The Scout: Ok, let’s start from the beginning, what were you guys doing before Calexico?
Calexico: The partners behind Calexico started as just the Vendley brothers. That is, Jesse, David and me, Brian. However, after about six months we realized that we needed someone with more culinary expertise than us so we hired Peter Oleyer the former sous-chef from Roxanne’s, a vegan/raw fine dining restaurant in Marin County CA and more recently a chef de partis at Cru in Manhattan. With The addition of Peter, the three Vendley brothers were ready to take on the streets.

There’s always music pumping from the cart, what are you guys listening to these days?
We listen to music almost constantly throughout the day so it inevitably varies greatly. You never know what you’re going to hear on line at either stand. Everything from Hank Williams to Metallica, Lil’ Wayne to the Pixies and everything in between plays throughout the week. We’re also open to suggestions and requests.

So Calexico has been nominated for the Vendy awards again this year, what happened last year and what will you be doing differently this year? Will a new burrito be unveiled?
Calexico didn’t receive enough votes last year to get nominated for the Vendy awards. However we were nominated the year before. Our first experience in the Vendy’s came at the end of our first summer of business, so we were still rookies and unfortunately got overwhelmed at the Vendy’s. Lines were long and the pressure got to us. This time, we know what we’re doing and we have a great staff to back us up. No new burrito, but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves.

So lets talk more about the new restaurant that will be opening soon. When will it open, where will it be and will the menu expand?
The restaurant is currently under renovation. We are about two months from finished at the moment. The space is located on Union St in the Columbia Waterfront section of Brooklyn. The menu will be larger than our cart’s menu however it’s difficult to give specifics at the moment. We will serve breakfast items and offer a variety of salads and appetizers.

Are you guys sponsored by Adidas? I noticed that the guys working down at the SoHo cart are frequently wearing their shoes.
Addidas has been great to us since becoming neighbors with us over two years ago. We are not technically sponsored by Addidas, but they do help us stay fresh and clean. They scratch our back and we feed them burritos.

Calexico has been nominated again this year for the Vendy Awards, a fundraising event for the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit organization that supports New York City street vendors. The event will take place Saturday, October 18th, 2008 from 3pm to 7pm. Thank you Brian for taking the time, and good luck to the rest of the Calexico team.

Update: Congratulations Calexico for taking home the grand prize to this year’s Vendy Awards.

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