Updated June 2021
What Does Smorgasburg Mean?
An urban take on the concept of a smorgasbord ( a buffet of a variety of foods and dishes), Smorgasburg is a popup festival each weekend with an array of unique food vendors serving their delicious, gourmet spin on global cuisines.
Sundays, 11 am – 6 pm.
Yes, Smorgasburg NYC reopened for the summer 2021 season in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park at Breeze Hill on June 13 with 35 vendors, a full bar, and plenty of shaded areas to spread out and share with friends.
Saturdays, 11 am – 6 pm.
July 26, the Williamsburg location will reopen at Marsha P. Johnson State Park at 90 Kent Avenue. There’s new seating, beautiful East River views, and grassy places for the little ones to run and play.
Fridays, 11 am – 7 pm.
Downtown at the World Trade Center (Fulton & Church St), a petit version of Smorgasburg will make every Friday special with summer-friendly menus.
What’s it Like at a Smorgasburg?
On a lazy summer Saturday, my sister Lisa and I subwayed our way to Brooklyn’s East River State Park in Williamsburg to check out Smorgasburg, a popular hipster-ish food market (there were a helluva lot of man buns walking around) I’d read about but never explored. It was part gourmet, open-air food market, part culinary crystal ball, and utterly delicious.
Smorgasburg boasts dozens of vendors selling their scrumptious dishes.
We arrived at noon and the parking lot the event occupied by the waterfront was already buzzing. Within an hour it would be wall-to-wall people and slightly difficult to navigate but it was the weekend and we were in no particular rush.
Looking across the asphalt, 60 small pop-up food tents beckoned to the hungry. We decided to do a little reconnaissance, to take an inventory of our options. Our heads spun from all the interesting choices. No run-of-the-mill hotdogs from this bunch.
Almost everything was homemade or created on-site. Half the fun was watching the food being prepared. Aesthetics were clearly a priority and each order was painstakingly presented as if chef Gordon Ramsey were looming over their shoulders.
As the crowd grew, lines formed quickly. Waiting times lasted as long as 15 minutes but, surprisingly, patrons just grinned and nodded their heads in acceptance. When does that ever happen?
Sunday: Smorgasburg in Breeze Hill, Prospect Park
Two weeks later I returned to Smorgasburg, this time on Sunday and a different location: Breeze Hill in Prospect Park. Most of the vendors were the same (vendors can do one location or both at their discretion) and the natural setting was more serene than the frenetic energy of the scene in Williamsburg.
A few new dishes caught my eye. There was mofongo: a popular Puerto Rican dish made with mashed green plantains and garlic topped with chicken and a spicy sauce. I admit I didn’t try it. There was a long line (which says something positive) and I didn’t have time to wait.
There was South Philly Cheesesteaks (the real deal with melted cheese whiz) that looked delish. At Jianbing (pronounced Jen-bing) they served a Shanghai-inspired breakfast food by the same name. Reuben, one of the co-founders told me to think of it as a Chinese crepe. It’s made with a whole egg, sweet & savory sauce, scallions, cilantro, a homemade chili sauce and a thin piece of fried dough, (“the cracker”) to give it a crunch, wrapped together and cut into two mouth-watering pieces. If you wanted a little protein you could add chicken, bacon or tofu to the mix.
For anyone with a sweet tooth, the options were just as plenty. The donuts from Dough were the size of my head in tantalizing flavors such as Hibiscus, Passion Fruit and Salted Chocolate Carmel. Bite-sized gooey butter cakes at Gooey & Co (just love that name) drew a crowd. Customers could eat the nugget plain (sinful) or add a variety of toppings (sinful + 10).
Famous Foodies of the Future?
Walking around, I realized that many of the *kids* I saw working the booths were not just hired hands but the owners.
Everyone I spoke to was in their mid-twenties, or at the most an early thirty-something. All of them had big ideas, guts, and ambition. Aside from the fact that they were slinging ingredients instead of code, their confidence and savvy reminded me of the techie whiz kids I know who build apps and launch platforms.
Yiming Hiu, one of three partners at Wowfulls, grinned from ear to ear when he spoke of their plans to open a store in lower Manhattan before the year’s out. I assumed that meant they’d graduate from Smorgasburg but the team intends to stay. He said the intimate setting provides an invaluable connection to a range of customers to try new ideas and get instant feedback. That’s above and beyond the benefits they get from the exposure, social media and word of mouth.
All I knew is I would be back.