Immediately after accepting an internship offer in Manhattan last April, I started to fantasize about how fabulous my summer would be. The first thing on my mind was not the crazy nightlife, the many free summer concerts, or the various world-renowned art museums – it was Smorgasburg, an outdoor ‘flea’ market that hosts dozens of vendors selling the trendiest and most Instagram-worthy food.
Since getting to NYC, I’ve been to Smorgasburg twice, giving me ample opportunity to sample the spread that this market has to offer, convincing my companions to split dishes with me to maximize the diversity of dishes we could try. Mostly serving as a guide for when HungryPhil visits me in a few weeks, here’s a rundown of my Smorgasburg highlights:
Grilled Summer Corn from Bisska
Seemingly simple, this corn was definitely one of my most favorite things I’ve had since getting to city. Cooked to order on a charcoal grill in front of you, this charred corn is topped with a mayo and paprika based sauce and served in a paper boat. The sweetness of the corn, the smokiness of the paprika complimented by the charcoal, and the creamy mayo tying it all together made this an unforgettable summery eat.
Chamoyada from La Newyorkina
This beverage had a lot going on, and I was incredibly intrigued with how this sweet/spicy/salty combination would turn out. Somehow, it all blended together perfectly, and served as a refreshing, cold respite from the 90 degree weather. So many of these flavors were familiar to me individually in a South Asian context, but this Mexican slush combined these to create a whole new, unique experience.
Shaved Ice from People’s Pops
Although my first thought, when seeing them chisel ice on-the-spot, was that they were trying too hard, this hand-shaved ice definitely added a layer of complexity to a usually mundane summer treat. Each flake was shaped differently, and melted differently on your tongue, allowing the Arnold Palmer flavoring to absorb at different rates. It served as a good, refreshing palate cleanser.
Mozzarella Sticks from Big Mozz
Again, another seemingly mundane food has a ‘foodie’ makeover, and comes out beautifully. Lactose-intolerance be damned. These mozzarella sticks had nothing fancy going on, just quality, hand-pulled mozzarella deep-fried to order with some fresh marinara sauce on the side. Simplicity won in this round.
The Ramen Burger
This was my second foray into the famous Ramen Burger territory. The burger consists of a small beef patty, sandwiched in between two disks of compressed, spongy ramen, and covered with a soy-sauce based dressing, arugula, and scallions.
As with many things that are hyped up, the burger (on both occasions) failed to live up to my expectations. There’s no denying that it was delicious, with the bun melting in your mouth as you bit into it. It was, however, very one-noted – there didn’t seem to be the complexity of flavors that I usually expect in a burger, something to balance the super-savory meatiness of the patty. Something like a spicy kimchi slaw would really elevate this burger – perhaps I just need to make my own DIY version at home.
Spicy Mayo Salmon Poke from East Coast Poke
This quite possibly was my favorite dish out of everything I’ve tried at Smorgasburg. Kind of like deconstructed sushi, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish. This version was served on a bed of seaweed salad and soft, sticky sushi rice. A creamy Sriracha mayo pulled everything together. Although semi-skeptical of eating raw fish that was being served outside in the summer weather, I really enjoyed how simultaneously refreshing and substantial the poke was.
Hopefully with throughout the rest of the summer, I’ll be able to expand this list, but for now, I think I’ve done some decent damage to exploring the 75+ vendors at Smorgasburg.