Monday, October 17, 2011

Little Green Cyclo Is the 2011 Eaters' Choice Winner

Lemongrass Grilled Pork Banh Mi. Niman Ranch Shaken Beef Garlic Noodles. Air-chilled Fried Chicken Bites. This is just a sampling of dishes that helped Vietnamese street food truck Little Green Cyclo win the first annual Eaters' Choice Awards, announced Saturday during an event held at the Fort Mason Center.

The Eaters' Choice Awards, sponsored by Chase Sapphire and Visa Signature, was a competition to name San Francisco's favorite food truck, as well as raise awareness and money for the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. For every vote cast online, Chase pledged to donate $1 to the Food Banks, and the winner received a $5000 truck makeover. The voting took place from September 21 through October 5, and all ten finalists were there at Fort Mason, showing off the cooking that made them finalists.

"We are very happy," said Monica Wong, co-founder of Little Green Cyclo. "It's been a year of a lot of hard work, and this is a nice pat on the back."

Wong, alongside her two partners, Susie Pham and Chef Quynh Nguyen, accepted the prize from Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem, the emcee of the event. It was all smiles and hugs during the ceremony which took place, maybe not-so-coincidentally, next to the big green truck. The crew then proudly displayed their $5000 check in the front window of their truck as they served the long line of people that quickly formed after they were announced as the winner.

Fans of the trio shouldn't expect to see a complete truck overhaul but instead can look forward to few touches that will make the already snazzy truck a little more fancy.

"We don't need to do anything with the wrap, but there's lots of other things that we have been wanting to get done," Wong said. "We have been wanting to get some better interior lights, exterior lights...maybe a sound system, a speaker system or a number display system, something to jazz it up a little."

In addition to the prize awarded to Little Green Cyclo, Chase also handed out a check to Susan Morenstein, Senor Corporate Development Director from the San Francisco and Marin Food Banks. Though the competition received slightly under 10,000 votes, Chase rounded up the number anyway for an even $10,000. However, to the Food Banks, that figure is worth much more. They can purchase $6 worth of food for every $1 donated, so the donation in fact earned them $60,000. It was a hefty sum that will go a long way in helping the 225,000 people they feed each year.

"It's really important that donations come into the San Francisco and Marin County Food Banks," Morenstein said. "Every dollar buys three meals... We distribute 46 million pounds of food a year," which get distributed to needy individuals in farmers' market-style events.

"We're one of the models of people getting farm to family," Morenstein noted regarding the availability of much more than canned goods at the food pantry events that the Food Banks fund. "We're able to get fresh produce to all the people that come to our pantries."

The Eaters' Choice finalists were chosen from an initial pool of 29 trucks and represented all types of cuisines. In addition to the winner, the participants included Bacon BaconDoc's of the Bay, Ebbett's Good to Go, fivetenburger, Pacific Puffs, Senor Sisig, Seoul on Wheels, The Rib Whip and Toasty Melts. For this event each truck offered a special menu item that was only available to Chase Sapphire card holders. Little Green Cyclo debuted a new creation for their special, one that represented not only their roots but also their appreciation for eating local.

"We did sticky rice with Sonoma Valley foie gras, Mary's free range chicken, chinese sausage, topped with shallots, green onions, and carrots," Wong described. "This is the first time we have ever featured it. Once in a while we will keep changing the menu, and it's also more of a seasonal menu."

Having just celebrated their first anniversary, winning this award was a great recognition for all of Little Green Cyclo's hard work over their first year. While Wong said that there were no plans for starting a second truck in the upcoming year, she did say that they are tossing around the idea of bottling up their signature tater tot dipping sauces. But for now, they can just enjoy their victory.

"We just definately wanted to thank everybody who voted for us," Wong said with a smile. "Obviously for us to win this award we had to get everyone to vote, and we have got great followers on Facebook and Twitter. [We] love all of our customers, and thanks for making this happen for us!"

Eaters' Choice Awards (@eaterschoicesf)
Little Green Cyclo (@lilgreencyclo)

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