The food and beverage market is held at East River State Park in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn Heights on Sundays. Over 120 vendors are featured and it’s a place to sample cuisines from around the world.
The market grew out of the successful vintage-inspired Brooklyn Flea in 2011, which is ran by Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler. Since then, it’s oly gotten bigger.
If you plan to visit Smorgasburg, which runs from April to November, Demby has a few tips for you. He suggested that you prepare in advance for your visit. First time visitors should read up on any press or just visit the Smorgasburg website to gather ideas for a couple foods that are not to be missed. But more importantly, once at Smorgasburg, visitors should go around the long, narrow loop at least once to see if anything else catches their eye.
“Sometimes you’ll go thinking you want one thing and you’ll be surprised that you want to try a Burmese noodle salad because it looks so delicious and interesting,” Demby said. “A lot of people come thinking they want barbecue, lobster rolls, donuts or ramen burgers because those are the most famous things. But what happens once you’re there is that somebody else has a really specific thing that they do really well from an ice cream sandwich to an Indian dosa.
“Everybody’s got their little world onto themselves in their ten by ten tents. So, it’s really going with an empty belly and wide eyes.”
At the market, people queued in line for almost an hour waiting for food. And for the businesses at Smorgasburg, they couldn’t have been more grateful.
A three-year veteran at Smorgasburg, Bombay Sandwiches serves vegan Indian food such as a channa masala sandwich which consists of chick peas and pickled onions. There’s also a sweet potato and kale wrap with ginger. But Bombay Sandwiches’ Ian Slade is proud of one particular item that has driven their success.
“We owe it all to the mango lemonade, which is such a big hit and helped us get to where we are today,” he said. “Our business started at Smorgasburg and then we were able to move to a permanent location.
“We’re really thankful for the market and the waterfront culture in Brooklyn because this is such a good platform for new creative food groups to start up.”
Aaron Saurer and James Zamory of Carnal quit their jobs at fine-dining restaurants, like NoMad, to pursue cooking high-quality food at more accessible rates. The team specializes in slow-cooked meats on the bone over charcoal. On opening day of their second season, they churned out chicken thighs with crispy skin, lamb breasts, short ribs and bone marrow. They sold out with hours to spare.
“We have similar cooking styles and we wanted to take control of our lives and make food that we want to make,” Saurer said. “Maybe this will help us open a restaurant or maybe it won’t, but this is good exposure for us no matter what.”
This year, Debbie Kay opened up Curd’s the Word alongside her husband Derek’s booth Takumi Taco. While Takumi offers Japanese inspired tacos such as the spicy tuna taco or the curry beef taco, Curd’s the Word offers two simply delicious Midwestern options: straight fried or buffalo-style cheese curds. Either way, the cheese curds are fried in beer batter.
“I grew up in Chicago and always traveled to Wisconsin and Minnesota where cheese curds are practically on every street corner, they’re so prevalent,” Debbie said. “I moved here and there weren’t any cheese curds anywhere. People had never even heard of them, so I thought it would be a good thing to show the East Coast.”
Other vendors include the vegetarian Ethiopian Bunna Cafe, San-Diego styled burritos sans rice and beans from Best Buds Burritos, duck legs right off the bone at Duck Season as well as all natural dessert and confectionery from The Baking Bean.
Smorgasburg will hit the road a couple of times this year, returning to the South Street Seaport from Memorial Day Weekend to October and with a special food event at Central Park SummerStage on July 31. And there might be bigger news to come.
“I love Queens, I love the food that I’ve eaten there and I’m curious about the different cuisines,” Demby said. “I know more friends that are starting to move there with families and it’s definitely something that we’ve thought about although it’s hard to know what exactly we’d do there.”
For now, you can enjoy Smorgasburg at 90 Kent Ave. at N. 7th St. on Saturdays and at 305 Furman St., Pier 5 on Sundays.