Video by Jessica Leibowitz

It's strangely difficult to describe what a dosa is. The "NYDosas" street cart, operated by Thiru Kumar, tries to get ahead of this with a sign that reads: "A crepe made of rice and lentils." Yes, that is technically true, but dosas are so much more than that: South Indian in origin, vegan, crunchy, sizable, cylindrical, cinematic, made from a fermented batter... whatever they are, they're insanely delicious, and Kumar, aka "The Dosa Man," makes the finest in the city.

Kumar sidestepped the usual bureaucratic hurdles of getting a street cart in NYC by accepting a then-undesirable location on the south side of Washington Square Park. He opened for business in December of 2001, when the park was known as a hotbed of criminal activity and the ruins of the Twin Towers still smoldered nearby. Even for a man who once faced down snakes while exploring remote caves in Sri Lanka, having to conduct business amidst "drug dealers, and even some hustlers" could get "really scary" at times.

But Kumar's fortunes, like those of the park, changed over time. In 2007 he won a Vendy Award, and from there business started to boom. Eventually, a vegan food vendor specializing in exotic offerings became par for the course in New York—still, on a daily basis, Kumar contends with a constant barrage of pickup orders via texts and phone calls as well as an unending line of customers, all while serving up hundreds of dosas each day. Despite an intense workday reminiscent of a Wall Street stock trader, Kumar seems remarkably at peace. For this he credits his veganism, but also adds: "Make other people happy, then you'll be fine."