New York has a lot of good food but they are scattered all over Manhattan and another popular borough, Brooklyn. Unless you have a lot of time to hunt down the food in these two boroughs, there is a high chance you are going to miss out on the amazing variety New York has to offer. Enter Smorgasburg. A glorious Brooklyn flea food market featuring some of New York’s best and brightest chefs. In one convenient location overlooking Downtown Manhattan, they bring you a taste of The City. What surprised me most about Smorgasburg was that unlike food festivals/ flea markets in Singapore, this regular food market contains stalls set up by reputable restaurants. Actually some of the restaurants were set up due to their popularity in Smorgasburg. I thoroughly enjoyed Smorgasburg. In one afternoon, a few places on my epic food bucket list were ticked off.
Smorgasburg is held every weekend in different parts of Brooklyn. Two Saturdays ago when I visited Smorgasburg, it was held in Williamsburg (Kent Ave and N 7th St.) This location was extremely convenient and accessible via the L-train from Manhattan (Bedford Ave stop.) Plus at the Park where it was held, there was free Wi-Fi thanks to the City Council. Arriving early, I managed to get in touch with my friends meeting me there.
There are a lot of vendors in Smorgasburg. A lot. If you came alone, it will be difficult to choose what to eat. Despite being spoilt for choice, I overheard an American telling a friend over the phone that the market that day was crap as there were very little vendors. It was the second last weekend at the Williamsburg location and I guess vendors were just not keen on showing up. Having said that, thank goodness I didn’t visit in the Summer where there are reputably rows and rows of glorious food stalls. My waistline will never forgive me and I will be rolling into Changi Airport.
The highlights from my afternoon at Smorgasburg were: Red Hook Lobster Rolls, Home Frite’s handcut fries, and Mighty Quinn’s Brisket. However there were disappointments. Let me tell you what was seriously overrated: Ramen burger. It was all over Instagram and long queues from the start at the market. But it was so underwhelming. So go forth and have the burger if you are desperate for calories (we need to have a chat, my friend.) Another disappointment: Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s Ovenly Bakery. Unimpressive sugary bake. Other than that, rest assured most of the offerings at Smorgasburg are marvellous.
At Williamsburg, Smorgasburg was held in an open deserted-looking space next to a childen’s playground. It may be nothing fancy but really, no one is there to take pictures of the space save for me.
However the view of Downtown Manhattan from the park was amazing!
Now on to the food. Here is a rundown of the eats in accordance of my favourites.
Red Hook Lobster Pound Based in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Red Hook Lobster Pound has a simple, solid concept: bring in fresh lobsters from Maine daily and serve up traditional lobster rolls. That means simple non-fancy lobster rolls. The concept totally worked and was easily my best eat of the afternoon.
Choose from three types of preparations:
I got the Connecticut: Warm with Butter. Sadly, in a bid to take this photograph, two huge pieces dropped onto the floor. My heart shattered when I saw the two pieces on the ground because this roll was astounding!!! The unadulterated roll meant one could taste the superior freshness of the lobsters. Subtle sweetness from the butter coupled with the most goddamn fluffy bun – heaven! You can’t come to Smorgasburg and not get one.
My only regret: discovering the joy of lobster rolls on my second last day in the city. I could have spent the preceding week getting my weight’s worth if I hunted this down earlier.
Home Frite You can’t miss this stall even if you tried. With a 50-person line for a reason: the “crispy fresh” fries kicked ass!
The fries were hand-cut and Frenched. The menu:
When you receive your cone containing dark brown freshly-fried piping hot fries, get prepared for irregularity. There was an assortment of texturally fabulous fat potato-y ones and skinny crispy ones. Totally exciting! When paired them with the inventive dipping sauces – so good.
I was a huge fan of the packaging too. The cones held the hand-cut potatoes and homemade sauces with mobile ease. Others found ways to make full use of the compact cones too. Look how creative Americans are…
Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque A perennial queue at this stall, Mighty Quinn specializes in barbequed meat – Texas and Carolina style. Their stall at Smorgasburg has been so successful, it now has a brick and mortar at the East Village where one can find a greater selection. Plus I heard their baked beans are awesome. No time for this Singaporean to visit their East Village branch.
At Smorgasburg, the stall was only offering two items: slow smoked brisket and pulled pork buns. Choose between large or small, I got the small portion of each, naked. With no marathon in sight, carb-loading on buns was unnecessary. The rich tender meat was served alongside refreshing pickles and sliced red chilli. Boy did the sides help to offset the heaviness of the meat. The pulled pork was nothing to shout about but the brisket with its caramelized crust was good.
Now we move on to disappointments…
Elated I didn’t have to venture into Greenpoint to visit its bakery, I got the Salted Peanut Butter Cookie upon recommendation. The soft underbaked cookie could do with more sea salt for sugar was all I could taste.
Ramen Burger According to their website, this unique burger was “voted one of “The 17 Most Influential Burgers of All Time” by Time Magazine.” I am never relying on Time Magazine for food recommendations. Ever. Consisting of a fresh USDA Prime ground beef chuck patty sandwiched between two craftily formed buns made from freshly cut ramen noodles, it is accompanied by a special shoyu glaze. The glaze was concocted by Keizo Shimamoto himself, with choice market fresh vegetables. “The Ramen Burger™ is said to be the biggest thing in Ramen and Burgers.” Well if that’s the case then ramen and burgers have got to be the most unsuccessful Fusion creation to-date.
Sure the beef pattie was great albeit too thin when sandwiched in between two densed carbs. It contained good fat content, moderately seasoned, intense glaze. However, the ramen… Since this is a ramen burger, one would expect the most climactic act to be the ramen buns. The lacklustre consistency was its greatest downfall. It had the firmer consistency of a potato roll, but did not have the elasticity of fully cooked ramen noodles. Plus it cried out for seasoning. I wished the ramen buns could have been engulfed with the glaze. Without it: densed wasted carbohydrates.
I wonder how much calories this was…
Other notable stalls that day that could have happened if not for a lone diner…
Note: About Dough, skip this altogether. My doughnut analysis coming right up!
Note: Vendors accept cash only, so if you’re arriving on an empty stomach and expect to be satiated at the end of your culinary expedition, then bring at least $40 per person. From the menus posted above, food is not cheap. Actually, good decent food in NYC is not cheap so be prepared. Still Smorgasburg was one of the highlights from my trip! Definitely worth the trek.