KATE BRENNER/Herald photo

Following a review of potential downtown food vendors, the Vending Oversight Committee finalized the ranking order Wednesday of the 34 carts for next year.

Variety is one thing that will not be in short supply next year, as 11 of the 34 vendors reviewed are new vendors and among them are Indian, Southwestern and Asian food.

“I am very pleased with the variety this year; there are more ethnic varieties across the board compared to other years,” committee member Tori Pettaway said. “The food has always been good, but I am very excited to see the diversity.”

Each cart, which will be on either State Street, Library Mall or Capitol Square, was reviewed by 15 different judges, including both committee and noncommittee members, over the span of a week.

Each cart was judged on the same set of criteria, and this score was taken into account along with the seniority score of the vendor and any possible deductions it could have received.

“We had three major categories to judge each vendor on. We looked at their originality, the taste of the food and the overall display of the cart,” Pettaway said. “We also looked for consistency. If we asked to see a menu, they should have had it in the cart, and we took into account whether or not they had everything on the menu prepared for that day.”

Ranking at the top were Johnson Brothers Coffee and Buraka, both returning for another year as State Street vendors.

However, last year, two food stands, I’m Here and Tropical Drinks, were shut down for a period of 30 days by the Health Department based on an evaluation of their kitchens.

As a result, the committee implemented new restrictions on the judging of the food vendors for next year, to make the current deduction scale more representative of the reason for points being deducted.

“Instead of giving each (of the two vendors shut down last year) only one demerit point, the new rule would be that they would receive five demerit points, which would move them into last place, I’m sure,” said committee member and City Council President Mike Verveer, District 4.

According to Street-Vending Coordinator Warren Hansen, many of the returning carts have had a chance to perfect their products, earning them higher-ranking scores than the newer carts. However, the highest-ranking new vendor, The Santa Fe Trailer, ranked 8th place and scored 93.36 out of 100. The stand earned the highest score out of all the food stands but was moved down on the list by the seniority taken into account for all of the other vendors.

“The Santa Fe Trailer did a good job trying to make sure they had a variety of different Southwestern foods. They wanted to make sure they had something for vegetarians and vegans, too,” Pettaway said. “And their food tastes fabulous.”

The location of each cart for next year was determined based on the vendor’s scoring. On Library Mall alone, starting April 15 of 2008, there will be 17 vendors — including top scoring stands such as the Santa Fe Trailer, the fruit stand and Buraka.

“The [assignments] are made, but they will be changed sometime next April,” Hansen said. “Every year people drop out for one reason or another: they have a baby, they move to Colorado, they sell their cart.”